Monday 25 February 2013

Reading Casanova: Volume Two.

The bad boy is back. Volume Two and Casanova is more shocking than before. I took my time reading this, finding it harder to pick up as I did to put down, the sheer unstoppable nature of it made it a difficult read. 

It starts in good form, with Casanova falling in love with a castrato called Belino and sleeping with Belino’s twelve year old sister to get to him (much to the girl’s mum who decides Casanova’s money is a gift from God). After some unfortunate bedroom to-ing and fro-ing, Casanova feels he spies a penis but knows that the fact that he still feels horny convinces him that Belino must be a girl. A second try reveals that Belino is in fact a girl with a complicated glue on penis and not a castrato. He helps her set herself up as a singer and she goes to Mantua, which he will not because he still feels fate is leading him to Constantinople.

Along the way he loses his passport, is imprisoned and ‘accidentally’ escapes by deciding to sit on a horse that bolts. I’m not sure I believe that accidentally even a little. Then he goes to a city where the doctor thanks him for giving everyone a venereal disease that has kept him in business. Eventually, he arrives in Constantinople where he declines an offer of gay sex and also a rich marriage which comes at the price of becoming a Muslim. Then he joins the army, hangs around in Crete where he tries to defrost an ice-maiden by being very annoying and clingy and making special sweets out of her ground up hair.

Later he goes back to Venice as a tramp, gets up to some ‘hilarious’ unsavoury escapades and then saves a rich man of nobility from dying, becoming his adopted son and the inheritor of a rich estate in the process. Then he wanders about a bit playing pranks (including giving a girl some fart sweets) before starting some elaborate charade as a magician...

...and so it goes on. Casanova, still not twenty-five, lurches in and out of bed, prison and adventure. He also really has caught the gambling bug and gains and loses money all over the shop. All of this youthful extravagance lovingly captured and recreated by old Casanova who really knows how to tell a story. The last part where he is pretending to be a Magician is slowly built up to a climax when the volume ends with the words.
   ‘It was night...’  and no more, pulling you into the next volume.

Casanova’s very fluid set of morals came into play. At one point he spends a page arguing how it was only morally right to lie as telling the truth would have been impolite and a let down. Another time he recounts that he ‘... told them the whole story exactly as it happened, omitting only what it was not prudent to tell them.’ We wonder whether he is doing us the same disservice.

Again there is the dark side, along with all the humour, the shock and the gasps of disbelief that came out my mouth as a read his adventures, there is something unpleasant lurking. There is the time he beat up a prostitute because she took the money but held back on the goods. Also disturbing is the lengths he goes to for a joke. Digging up a dead body, cutting an arm off and leaving it in a bed to scare a man - all in revenge for making his suit dirty. 

So, again it’s hard to completely like Casanova but at the same time you can’t help fall for his charm and vivaciousness. 

I look forward to volume three, but not yet.

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