Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Casanova in Bolzano by Sandor Marai (1940, translated by George Szirtes)

Sandor Marai (1900 to 1990, Hungarian) is a great, long neglected writer.  Knopf has recently begun publishing English translations of his works.  There is some background data on him in my post on his powerful novel, Embers.  He is considered by many to be the greatest Hungarian writer.  I see him as in the tradition of great Austro-Hungarian writers like Joseph Roth, Stefan Zweig, and Gregor Von Rezzori. Like them he writers out of deep culture and can be partially seen as an elegist of a dying aristocracy.   

Casanova in Bolzano is Marai's very imaginative portrayal of Giacomo Girolamo Casanova (1725 to 1790) upon his release from an eight month prison sentence.  It reminded me of read long ago works by the Marquis de Sade.  Casanova is a great egoist, a figure of fascination and repulsion.  He moves equally well in the private chamber of a countess or in an alley with a prostitute.  Much of the work focuses Casanova's reflections on how he is seen, on the life he lives.  In a way he is almost a  "professional outcast", living from his reputation as a great seducer, a fabulous  lover.  Much of the story is set in Venice and the city itself is almost a character.  Marai does an excellant job of giving us a feel for Vienna, as seen through the eyes of Casanova.  Part of the narrative focuses on a Duke of Parma and his wife.

This is a very introspective, deeply realized work that I found fascinating.

          "Casanova, you would not last thirty minutes with me"
                 - Carmilla

I will continue reading Sandor Marai.

Mel u

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