Author: Sandor Marai
Edition: Vintage Books, Nov 2004 (294 pages)
From the Cover:
Another rediscovered masterpiece from the author of the Embers – a sensuous, suspenseful, aphoristic novel about the world’s most notorious seducer and the encounter that changes him forever. In 1756, Giacomo Casanova escapes from a reputedly inescapable Venetian prison. He resurfaces in the Italian village of Bolzano, where he sets about refurbishing his person and finances. Then he receives an unwelcome visitor.
He is the aging but still fearsome Duke of Parma, who years before defeated Casanova in a duel over a ravishing girl named Francesca, sparing his life only on condition that he never see her again. Now he has taken Francesca as his wife – and intercepted a love letter from her to his old rival. He could kill Casanova on the spot. Instead he makes him an offer, one that is logical, perverse and irresistible. Turning a historical episode into a dazzling fictional exploration of the clasp of desire and death, Casanova in Bolzano is further proof that Sandor Marai is one of the most distinctive voices of the twentieth century.
Casanova in Bolzano is a novel written by the Hungarian writer, Sandor Marai. Whilst the main character is based on the infamous Italian womanizer Giacomo Girolamo Casanova de Seingalt (April 2, 1725 – June 4, 1798), the storyline is pure fiction, and is merely Marai’s portrayal of Casanova’s romantic character.
When I first read the blurb I was pretty excited. It made me feel like I was in for an enchanting, historical love affair, full of passion and betrayal. Fortunately, I didn’t need to get past page 40 to realize that the novel was a complete disappointment. The prose was dull and long-winded, with paragraphs that lasted up to 2 whole pages before the next break. The storyline was filled with boring monologues making one believe Casanova to be a pompous character rather than an edgy yet romantic soul. And there was naught of passion or anything resembling that hot romantic desire that you would expect from a situation of forbidden love. It’s not until the final section of the book that Casanova finally encounters the Duke of Parma and the ravishing Francesca – the first ¾ of it was just about Casanova and his tiring monologues.
Easily one of the worst books I’ve read this year, though to be fair, it was translated from Hungarian to English, a factor that may have contributed to the lackluster writing.
p/s: Sandor Marai is more popularly known for his other novel, Embers, which is an international bestseller.