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Book Reviews
Review by Dionysos Thriambos

History of My Life
By Giacomo Casanova (Translated by Willard R. Trask)

Johns Hopkins Univ Pr
May 1997
$13.97 each

Buy Vol. I & II
Buy Vol. III & IV
Buy Vol. V & VI
Buy Vol. VII & VIII
Buy Vol. IX & X
Buy Vol. XI & XII

Last night I finally read to the end of the eleventh and penultimate volume of Casanova's History of My Life. This huge memoir is as entertaining as any novel, and certainly a whole lot longer! Each volume in the eminently readable Willard Trask translation is 300 to 350 pages long, plus copious endnotes with literary, historical, geographical, and biographical explications. (Trask also translated other noteworthy books in my library, including Corbin's Avicenna and the Visionary Recital, as well as Mircea Eliade's Yoga.)

I have been reading Casanova in fits and starts, one or two volumes at a go, since I received the set as a Yule gift in 2000. I'm determined to read the last volume before leaving for Europe, so that will have made it a reading project taking 3.66 years. But a mere start-to-finish reading will not be enough for this wonderful text.

Casanova's exploits as a Freemason, faux-Rosicrucian, alchemist and magical confidence-man all rest within a larger context, where the freethinker and libertine seems to have enjoyed a genuine conviction of the reality of his personal daimonic genius. Writing of his first hardships as a prisoner, Casanova reflects, "My Genius diverted himself in this fashion in order to give me the pleasure of making comparisons." The name of this Guardian Angel was