Histoire de ma Vie
The World of Casanova
Last updated 3 years ago
Dux Castle, Bohemia (the present day Czech Republic) where Casanova spent the final years of his life. Effectively in exile from Venice for a second time, aging, homeless, unemployed, not in the best of health and resentful at the failure of the literary world to take this overreaching son of an actress seriously, Casanova was offered the position of librarian by Count Joseph Charles de Waldstein.
The year after the fall of his beloved Venice to Napoleon, Casanova died 4th June, 1798 at the castle of Dux, his autobiography beside him. Carlo Angiolini, Casanova’s nephew-in-law, organised his burial and it was he who now inherited the many volumes of loose manuscript that comprised 'Histoire de ma vie'.
Over the next several generations following the 1821 purchase numerous abridged, censored, ‘improved’, pirated, and poorly translated versions came on to the market. Some were little more than approximations of the original. The successful Laforgue version (1826-1838), based upon the original manuscript, was heavily censored and rewritten by Jean Laforgue, a French teacher employed by Brockhaus to edit the text prior to publishing.
The boundaries between fact and fiction in the public arena can become notoriously ill-defined. Take the example of Sherlock Holmes. A 2011 poll with a sample size of 1,000 uncovered that 21% of people believed he was a real, historical figure. By a similar process but in reverse Casanova has become fictionalised.
'Orlando furioso' - canto34. 'Histoire de ma vie' was as much shaped by Casanova's literary and philosophical interests as it was an attempt to provide an historically accurate account of his life. French literary historian Marie-Francoise Luna has demonstrated that he modelled his autobiography on a sixteenth-century epic poem by the Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto called ‘The Frenzy of Orlando’.