Casanova in Place: The Author Panel

As part of the Sunday June 30 program for the Casanova in Place Symposium, Malina Stefanovska moderated a panel of authors who have written about Casanova. Authors included Michelle Lovric, Barbara Lynn-Davis, Ian Kelly, and myself, Kathleen González. Michelle and Barbara both wrote fiction books, transforming the facts of C’s life or the spirit of his personality into characters and themes with exciting plots. Ian, on the other hand, wrote a biography that also includes “intermezzos” that put C’s life into the context of the 18th century. My book is a guide to C’s Venice, with seven walking routes accompanied by the stories of what happened at each location.

author panel

Here are the books by each featured author:

Casanova by Ian Kelly.

Carnevale and The Wishing Bones (due out this month) by Michelle Lovric.

Casanova’s Secret Wife by Barbara Lynn-Davis.

Seductive Venice: In Casanova’s Footsteps (published in Italy by Supernova Edizioni as Casanova’s Venice: A Walking Guide) by Kathleen Ann Gonzalez.

Malina opened by introducing each of us and our books. Of Barbara’s book, Malina said, “Her writing filled that void in fiction of the female point of view.” Malina next spoke about Michelle’s books and their depiction of Venice, saying, “I felt that it was as opulent as the dresses we see in Venetian paintings…so knowledgeable, so intuitive about Venice, that I know Michelle lived in some past lives in Venice.” When introducing Ian’s biography, Malina recognized how difficult it is to write a biography about a memoir, but that “It is very well researched and deeply in habited.” Finally, she reviewed my Casanova guidebook as well as my book about Venetian women, stating that it’s “a wonderful assessment of so many unknown lives and destinies … each woman is a whole in her own right.”

CIP author panel

We all shared a laugh when Malina almost forgot to introduce me!

After these introductions, we began rounds of questions about why we chose to write about Casanova, what research we did, what difficulties we faced, and what we learned from it all. We were first asked how we came to study Casanova. Barbara, who is an art historian, said that originally “I thought that Casanova was an idea, not a historical man, and I think that most lay people today still think that.” She also echoed the sentiment from Nicola Vinovrski from the previous day: “You can’t really read the memoirs without falling in love with Casanova.” Michelle responded to the question by discussing Tom Vitelli’s idea from Saturday, that C’s memoirs present an “absence of contemplation and the absence of auto-ethnography” which Michelle “suddenly realized created an enormous vacancy for someone to jump in there and write about what was going on. A vacancy for a writer is a vacuum and it sucks you in.” Michelle also added that “I wanted to write about what it felt like as a woman to be loved by him.”

Malina next asked us about the research we each conducted, besides reading C’s memoirs. Ian laughed while pointing out that Casanova “has written almost everything already, so what do I have to add or say?” but that he found rich material in “a series of Grand Tourist memoirs” and also explored more about 18th century food, travel, the Cabbala, and so on to fully understand C’s milieu. I added that besides reading all the biographies on Casanova as well as many of his contemporaries like the Prince de Ligne, I also visited museums and studied paintings, clothing, and maps, such as Ughi’s, from the time period.

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Ian shares his thoughts while Barbara makes notes.

When we discussed what we put in and leave out when writing about Casanova, Michelle revealed that she originally wrote Carnevale as a poem and then converted it to prose. Ian also revealed an interesting snafu when writing his biography–that his publisher dropped from 160,000 words to 120,000 words, requiring Ian to drastically edit his book in a short time frame. Barbara discussed her choice to alter a story about Casanova putting a dead man’s arm in someone’s bed as a prank: “I felt that that anecdote is so dark and so troubling that a reader might at that point just shut down to Casanova and not be able to care about the characters and at some level love them.” Finally, since my book is a walking guide, “I wanted it to feel alive,” I said, “so I worked very hard at finding one or two pertinent quotations … that would bring a human voice to that location, so people could feel connected or have a laugh.”

We went on to explain how we each handled the more controversial aspects of C’s memoirs, such as incest or sexual encounters. Ian spoke about putting C’s actions into context and “where the Grand Tourists were a useful parallel, a gauge, if you will, … who were doing far more nefarious things or are indeed having far more sex than Casanova writes about.” I added that “Reading his work, learning about his life, leads us to discuss areas that might be uncomfortable but that might be very rich in building our resilience, our ability to listen and out empathy with others.” Basically, the controversial issues offer an opportunity to discuss what we believe in and how we should act and thus shouldn’t be shied away from.

Of course, there was much more rich conversation in our hour and a half panel discussion, including the question of what we learned by writing about Casanova. The conversation spilled into lunch time where we enjoyed risotto, spinach, and fish. In my next post, I’ll tell you all about the Casanova ballet, which we viewed after lunch.

 

(All photos by RJ Wofford.)

 

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Venice, My Muse: An Interview with Anna Söderblom

Venice draws people to her from all over the world and for such varied reasons. When I was in Venice last week, I met Anna Söderblom, the subject of this month’s “Venice, My Muse” interview, which I bring to you today as it’s the second Monday of the month. Anna attended the Casanova in Place Symposium in order to deepen her understanding of Casanova and Venice in the 18th century. Enjoy her insights into Venetian life and learn more about the exciting project she and her team are bringing to Venice.

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Masked Anna

How has Venice seduced you?
The entire city is like an epic sprawling story, entirely improbable yet demonstrably real, written over centuries, with a cast of millions of souls, spanning all that is best and worst, poetic and prosaic, magical and mundane, that we as a species can create. Who wouldn’t want to find their small part in one of the greatest stories ever told?

What do you never fail to do in Venice?
Coffee at Gino’s near the Accademia bridge, in the early morning after taking the rubbish out to the recycling boat; prosecco at Cantine del Vino gia Schiavi in the early evening on the way home from work, perched on the wall next to the canal, trying to protect the cicchetti from the rapacious and shameless seagulls.

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(Image from their website)

What is your Venice soundtrack?
It should probably be Monteverdi, or Vivaldi, or any one of the geniuses who were inspired by the place that historically was popularly known as “The Republic of Music,” but I’m unsophisticated, and you would be surprised how well Prince in your headphones suits strolling around the city.

Walk or take a boat?
Walk. Although I do dream of one day having a boat of my own.

Spritz or Bellini?
Either, or both! But the Spritz made with Select rather than Aperol, please, and garnished with a delicious huge buttery green olive.

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Spritz Aperol certainly gets around! Does anyone make a Select pillow?

What do you always tell friends to do when they visit the city?
Slow down your usual walking pace — this is a city for meandering, not hurrying. Walking is less of a method of propulsion to get efficiently from A to B than the mechanism through which you stumble onto your next adventure. (With an important caveat — while enjoying your sauntering reverie, do be mindful of the people who actually are in a hurry to get to their job or train or meeting — saunter on the right of the calle so others can march past you and you don’t get in the way of those walking in the opposite direction, and don’t block the bridges!)

If you could have dinner with any Venetian, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Caterina Dolfin (1736-1793) and her salon of Venetian artists and thinkers. Caterina was a powerhouse of a woman, a fierce intellectual, a poet and writer, renowned wit and conversationalist, a patron of the arts, dedicated to the cause of women’s education, as well as being the source of no small amount of extramarital and political scandal. I love that contemporary accounts note her “kindness” as well as her beauty and sophistication.

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Image taken from the Marciana Library in Venice

Casanova: genius or cad?
Both, clearly, but more than that, he is so fascinating because he’s just so human, full of very human flaws and complexities and contradictions and vulnerabilities.

If money were no object, which palazzo would you buy?
Ca’ Dario — famously haunted, full of malevolence, and reputedly cursed, I’m convinced it just needs some love. I’ve heard a rumour that the curse is due to the Palazzo being built on an ancient Templar burial ground, and since I’ve yet to meet a ghost, I’d like to have a chat with these ones to find out what’s making them so cranky, and try to make them feel better.

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The Palazzo Dario by Monet

Which gelato flavour are you?
A tasting-spoon-full of all of them.

How can readers learn more about you and your creative pursuits? 

I’m in Venice creating an immersive theatre show, which is bringing the late Settecento to life in all its splendid, sumptuous, multi-sensory glory. The show will be announced officially at the end of the summer, sign up for the mailing list at House of Casanova if you’d like to know more!

 

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Casanova in Place: The Papers

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Notice our poster advertising the Symposium

A symposium is defined as a conference to discuss a particular topic, but the secondary definition is “a collection of essays or papers on a particular subject by a number of contributors.” On Saturday June 29, our eight presenters shared their knowledge with us via papers, slideshows, and explanation. I posted the abstracts a few weeks ago, so here are just a few highlights and images from that day. 

After I welcomed everyone to our beautiful venue at the Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli, I also shared a few images from last year’s Casanova-inspired exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Our moderator Professor Bruno Capaci opened with his remarks in Italian, with translations from his colleague Tatiana Korneeva. He attended the last Casanovist gathering in 1998 in Venice and pointed out that this one is the first return of C to Venice, as well as a coming together of both the old and new scholars, plus the scholars from the US and Europe. In the 1960s, he pointed out, Casanova was not yet a prestigious subject to study, though this changed once the archives at Dux were made available.

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Jean-Christophe Igalens presents first, followed by Mladen Kozul

Jean-Christophe Igalens started the presentations with a topic that hit at the heart of our theme of Casanova in Place. In French, he explored the complicated relationship Casanova had with his birthplace, of both wanting to return to his home city but also feeling that nostalgia brought him no solace. His presentation was followed by Mladen Kozul speaking in English about the importance of the casin to C’s affair with the nun MM; this meeting space furthered the love affair and expanded it to include MM’s and C’s other lovers.

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Stefano Feroci and Cyril Frances share the table with Bruno Capaci

Following a coffee break, where we enjoyed Venetian pastries, we returned to hear from Stefano Feroci who shared in Italian his thoughts about Casanova’s time in Tuscany, where the difficult life of an adventurer and the onset of aging led C into some difficulties both physical and emotional. Cyril Francès, also in French, spoke as well about C’s difficulties in returning to Venice, in wanting to return after exile but also feeling that Venice was somehow unappreciative of his presence.

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Waiting for lunch at Ristorante San Trovaso

We passed through a sort of secret passage way to the restaurant next door where we were served large portions of lasagna, pasta with pesto, chicken, and salad. This break also gave us the opportunity to discuss and digest the papers we had heard that morning. Coffee sped us on our way back for more presentations, all in English, first from Tom Vitelli, who spoke about “dark matter” in C’s writings–what Casanova doesn’t tell us, and what that reveals about him. In counterpoint, Nicola Vinovrški revealed the ways that Casanova fit the modern definition of celebrity or well-knowness, before this concept had really been established. They each took some questions at this point, with conversations continuing outside in the cloister during our break.

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Dark Matter on the screen while Tom Vitelli presents

Finally we came to the final two papers. Malina Stefanovska used an innovative voice, presenting her paper as a letter to Giacomo, where she asked him questions about his emotions upon leaving people and places during his life. Our closer was Gregory Dowling, with slides that accompanied his presentation on fictional representations of C’s life, including authors Michelle Lovric and Barbara Lynn-Davis who were in the audience. This was the perfect segue to the following day, where our authors would discuss writing about Casanova.

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Gregory Dowling discusses authors who fictionalize Casanova

You might think that listening to eight papers would be enough for all of us that day, but no, we happily wandered off to find dinner, splitting into groups this night based on which language people wanted to speak. I was with an English speaking group that dined on the Zattere facing the water, at Terrazza dei Nobili. Gregory Dowling was with us and introduced us to the restaurant’s owner, a fellow professor at Ca’ Foscari. As cruise ships trundled by, the piano player played songs from Titanic. Dinner lasted nearly four hours–clearly was couldn’t get enough of conversation and each other’s company.

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The Italian speaking contingent at dinner

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Dinner in English

(All photos by RJ Wofford except for dinner photos by waiters.)

Since first posting this, I’ve also learned that it was reposted, in French, at Le Petit Casanoviste. Merci!

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Casanova in Place: Well Received!

I’ve been silent–but not sleeping! No, I’ve been in Venice and have successfully brought to fruition the Casanova in Place Symposium. I’ll break it up into a few posts (rather than one long one) to share some highlights with you.

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Last Friday, June 28, we gathered at Galleria il Redentore on Giudecca with our host, Manuel Carrión. Manuel is an artist with an interest in Casanova as well as others who have left their mark on Venice. Once all the participants had arrived at his gallery, Manuel told us about his projects and interest in Casanova, then gave each of us a panel to decorate with our artistic impressions of C. These will be incorporated into Manuel’s Spying on History with Casanova project, which currently consists of over 2,000 such panels. Here’s some video he shot that evening.

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We ran out of prosecco pretty quickly as we inaugurated our symposium. A very exciting aspect for me was finally meeting people face to face–folks I had emailed with for the last year (or more). One such person was Stefano Feroci, who greeted me by saying, “My hero!” as a way of thanking me for bringing us all together.

Soon we moved outside and next door to the church of the Redentore, where we gathered at the foot of the steps to hear from Albert Gardin. He recited Casanova’s translation of the Iliad into Venetian dialect. Behind us the sun gilded the waves and lit up the facades along the Zattere. It was a magical moment, an exciting beginning to officially open the symposium.

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A number of us strolled to the Ristorante al Redentor for dinner along the fondamenta. I got to know Mladen Kozul and hear his stories about growing up “cosmopolitan” and making the world his home. Then Tom Vitelli and I sat with Jean-Christophe Igalens while he pored over a photo of a letter by Casanova, trying to determine if it is real or not. I’ve rarely had the honor to watch an expert ply his trade, in this case, Jean-Christophe assessing the letter’s contents, lack of date, quality of paper, and so on. Yes, I totally geeked out.

Up next: The papers!

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Pictured here from left to right: Malina Stefanovska, Tom Vitelli, Valerie Ceriano, Valeriano Hernadez-Tavera Martin, Vonda Wells, myself, Mladen Kozul, Cyril Frances, and Jean-Christophe Igalens. A second table included others.

(All photos by RJ Wofford)

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Redefining Beauty: Giustiniana Wynne

I’m here to set the record straight about Giustiniana Wynne. Previously, I wrote and spoke about her affair with Casanova, in which I relate a pretty funny and maybe even bawdy story about their assignation in a garret. But after doing much more research into her life and works, I learned that she is so much more than that silly story. In this video, shot on the Grand Canal in Venice, I give a fuller rendition of her life and works.

I hope you’ll take this moment to learn more about women’s history and this particular woman who deserves more credit than she often receives. Giustiniana Wynne is an important and groundbreaking author–she really did DO something as she predicted in her youth.

 

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Venice, My Muse: An Interview with Liz from DreamDiscoverItalia

WordPress brought us together…

I met Elizabeth Salthouse when she reached out to me after reading my blog here on WordPress. In fact, we met up in Venice, checked out some Casanova sites together, had a spritz, and hit it off! Lucky Liz found a way to live in Venice for over a year, and she continues to write about it on her blog and for various publications about Italian culture. She also contributed to last year’s book First Spritz Is Free. Check out Liz’s responses to see how Venice has seduced her.

DDI - Liz in Venice

How has Venice seduced you?

Venice seduced me slowly and from a distance at first.

I love reading biographies and years ago bought a copy of Giacomo Casanova’s memoirs on a whim. There were pages and pages of buxom conquests, as you might expect, but there was much more to life in the lagoon city. So although he wrote about the ladies, most of Casanova’s memoirs talk of his extraordinary Venetian life outside the bedroom. And it was fascinating.

From delicious dinners to tales of travel, from his clothes bill to the books he read, from gambling and casinos to medicines and his health, Giacomo described life in full, even naming the streets he walked, the canals he navigated, and the palazzi where he lived.

As I read the 1200-page life story, I wondered if any of the places were still there; could I walk in Casanova’s footsteps, could I enter the rooms he once occupied? So I set out to find out and the answer was life-changing as I fell madly and deeply in love with La Serenissima!

 

What do you never fail to do in Venice?

Apart from catching up with friends, there are lots of favourite things to do – eating cicchetti and tramezzini by the plateful, gelato every day, and taking my camera out for a walk to name just three — but the main thing I insist on is travelling by water at every chance and taking as many boat trips as possible!

Whether I’m arriving by Alilaguna ferry, travelling by vaporetto, crossing the Grand Canal by traghetto gondola, or touring on the Burchiello to Padova, I have to be on the water! And Venice lives on the water so all its services come by boat, which I love. From market deliveries to house removals, hotel laundry to the emergency services, water buses to refuse collections, it’s all by boat.

For me, the gentle rocking and slapping of water on wood dissolves stress like few other things. Even just sitting on the gently rocking, floating water bus stops, watching the world go by as the vaporetti ferries slowly hove into sight brings me such enormous joy that I make a point of staying on the island of Giudecca whenever I can so my first and last trips of the day are always the number 2 vaporetto. I miss the watery commute terribly when I’m not there, and just thinking about it makes me yearn to return!

A trio of tramezzini!

What is your Venice soundtrack?

The city boasts one of the world’s most respected opera houses: La Fenice, near St. Mark’s Square. And I love the weekly baroque opera concerts of the Venice Music Project too, listening to pieces that Venetians would have heard in the 17thand 18thcentury. But for me the true soundtrack to Venice is much less obvious.

It’s the clickety-clack of supermarket stock cages juddering along canal sides into stores each morning. It’s the church bells chiming across the rooftops. It’s the soft thrum of motorboats, instead of motorcars, reverberating through the narrow waterways. And it’s the nighttime silence, muffling the city like a duvet, broken only by the occasional stony footsteps of a late reveler or early riser. It won’t top the charts or sell thousands on iTunes, but it’s music to my ears.

 

Walk or take a boat?

Boat, boat, and more boats, even if it means it takes longer! And not just because it’s more refreshing than the hot, sticky summer streets but because travelling by boat is the best way to see Venice as it was intended to be seen.

From its earliest foundations Venetians have moved around the low marshy lagoon by boat. As Venice grew, newly rich merchants built along the main canals. Their palaces were both their shop front, with warehouse space and trading on the ground floor, and also their home, with grand reception, dining, and bedrooms on upper levels. And with imported goods, buyers, friends, and family all travelling by boat, it made sense to build the front doors and fanciest façades facing the canals, leaving the rear plain and mundane as no-one would ever see it.

For me, travelling by boat is a way to get a little bit closer to Venice, to peek through the extravagantly glazed windows at the high-ceilinged reception rooms still adorned with frescoes, wood paneling, and twinkling Murano chandeliers. One particular pleasure is floating down the Grand Canal after dinner as the chandeliers light up –- it can be quite a light show now, but just imagine how mind-blowing it must have been in days gone by.

 

Which church or campo best epitomizes you? Please explain.

139 churches are packed into Venice, and they range from quiet, little chapels to the gloriously glistening Basilica of St. Mark. I don’t think I’ve even found half of them, but there’s one that’s stuck in my memory since the first time I clapped eyes on it.

It takes a few seconds to adjust to the gloom that cloaks quiet worshippers in the church of San Pantalon, Dorsoduro. Six deep chapels line the nave and artwork covers the walls, but it’s the ceiling that I love as it’s an immense optical illusion painted by Gian Antonio Fumiani sometime between 1680 and 1704.

To get the best view, feed a few coins into the church lights machine, take a pew, and lean back. I’m not sure it epitomizes me, but it’s definitely worth a look!

The Church of San Pantalon, missing its facade

Which is your favorite Venetian festival and why?

That is a tricky question! There’s the winter Festa della Madonna della Salute where Venetians light thousands of candles in thanks for deliverance from plague. Or the springtime Festa della Sensa that weds the city to the sea in hope of another year of prosperity. But my favourite is the Festa di San Martino in November.

As the festival approaches pasticcerie launch their San Martino specialties — cotognata sweets made from quince jelly and decorated biscuits shaped like St. Martin on horseback available for a couple of short weeks each year. Children paint pictures of San Martino, and in the afternoon they march through town banging pots and pans, singing to shopkeepers asking for treats. It’s not a big, flashy festival but it’s one of the few local traditions still marked by Venetians for Venetians.

DDI - San Martino biscuit

Spritz or Bellini?

If I could only choose between these two I’d go for the Bellini as I love peaches, but actually my drink of choice in Venice is the lesser known Hugo.

A Hugo cocktail is light, refreshing, and absolutely perfect for the hot, humid summer months in Venice. All you need are –

  • 3 cl. Elderflower syrup
  • 7 cl. Prosecco or sparkling wine
  • 2 cl. Sparkling mineral water
  • Ice cubes
  • Some gently crushed mint leaves

Put the mint leaves in the bottom of the glass, pour over the elderflower syrup, prosecco and mineral water and garnish with a slice of lemon. Absolutely delicious! Salute!

 

What do you always tell friends to do when they visit the city?

Get lost! Get off the beaten track! Sure, see the main attractions, but explore wider than St. Mark’s. Look out for where the gondoliers are eating and drinking – chances are it’s a tasty place to stop. And don’t feed the pigeons in St. Mark’s Square!!

 

If you could have dinner with any Venetian, living or dead, who would it be and why? What would dinner be?

It would have to be Giacomo Casanova, no question; he’s the reason I fell in love with Venice in the first place, and I’d love to hear the rest of his life story as his memoirs stop long before he died.

Liz and I in 2014 at the Church of San Lio

Casanova: genius or cad?

Definitely both and that is why he’s so fascinating.

 

What would you do with $30,000 U.S. to spend in Venice?

Find a little apartment in Giudecca or San Polo and immerse myself in Venetian life, volunteering for organizations and charities that keep Venice alive as a living, working city free of cruise ships, not just a tourist day trip destination.

 

If money were no object, which palazzo would you buy?

If money were no object I’m not sure that I’d buy a palazzo at all.

For one, I’d rattle around it all on my own; for another, I’d hate all that cleaning and I hate the dark! But I would love to find a cosy little apartment overlooking the Grand Canal with a roof terrace, a Pug or Dachshund for company, and a little motor boat moored outside so we could explore further afield in the lagoon. That, for me, would be priceless luxury. Magari! If only!!

 

Which gelato flavor are you?

Mmmmmmmmm, gelato!!

I’m most definitely Amarena as I’m quite down to earth (aka the creamy, vanilla base) with touches of fruitiness (aka the cherry pieces and sauce that swirl throughout the vanilla)!

DDI - gelato amarena

How can readers learn more about you and your creative pursuits? 

I indulge my obsession with Venice and Italy by writing a blog called DreamDiscoverItalia.com. It concentrates on festivals, historical events, and old traditions mixed in with travel inspiration and Italian language tips. If you prefer books, why not check out my chapter in the recently published First Spritz Is Free: Confessions of Venice Addicts, a compilation written by 35 Venetians and Venetophiles telling of childhood memories, first impressions, and falling in love. I can also be found on social media and occasionally contribute to L’Italo-Americano, a U.S.-based newspaper so do pop by to say ciao! Grazie mille!

Website: dreamdiscoveritalia.com

Facebook: facebook.com/DreamDiscoverItalia/

Instagram: instagram.com/dreamdiscoveritalia/”

Twitter: twitter.com/d_d_italia

 

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Filling a Vacancy

The Casanova in Place Symposium is only two weeks away! If you’ve been following along for the past few weeks, you’ve seen the abstracts and biographies for the papers that will be presented. But on Sunday 30 June, we also have an author panel. Moderated by UCLA Professor Malina Stefanovska, it will feature a variety of authors who write about Casanova: Michelle Lovric, Barbara Lynn-Davis, Ian Kelly, and myself. I’ve previously blogged about Barbara’s book Casanova’s Secret Wife, so today I wanted to share with you some added material from Michelle Lovric. In preparing for the symposium, she wrote extensive notes; she shared much more with me, but you should come to the symposium to hear the rest!

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Why do you choose to write about  Casanova?

My novel Carnevale is about a Venetian woman named Cecilia Cornaro, who loves both Casanova and Byron, though naturally these affairs are some decades apart. Only one of these men knows how to love properly. Cecilia is not without talent of her own. She becomes a portrait painter, a kind of composite of Élisabeth Vigée le Brun, Angelica Kauffman and Rosalba Carriera. At the time I wrote Carnevale, no one had yet produced a fictional account of what it might be like to be a woman loved by Casanova. It appeared to me that there was a vacancy. Too many books about Casanova had been written from a man’s point of view, I felt. They were often so jeering that one can suspect that a little of the nastiness must have sprung from jealousy. That the world of the Casanovistes was for a long time dominated by men – well, it slightly misses the point, when it comes to a man born to please women.

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Élisabeth Vigée le Brun, self portrait

 I had something to say too about the gendering of the 18thand 19thcenturies and the perception/identities of women in those two very different spaces. It seemed to me that, in the writing of Byron, women were largely reduced to mothers and victims of the contagious, careless, contemptuous tragedy generated by an entirely self-absorbed hero. Whereas I could not help feeling that Casanova actually liked as well as loved women. Indeed, he actually thought about femininity a great deal and even wondered about coming back as a woman. So the experience of my character Cecilia reflects that empathy. Casanova teaches her about love, life, joy, regret and leave-taking. Byron teaches her about narcissism, cruelty and pain.

Also, I wanted to write about Venice in the 18thcentury: in a sense, Casanova embodied the 18thcentury, and his fall was Venice’s fall … Napoleon crushed the Venetian republic, just as her exiled son was fading faraway in Bohemia. Casanova died at the same time Venice died. That was probably a good thing as I doubt if he could have been able to bear her humiliation.

Cecilia too impersonates all the freedoms and joys of 18thcentury femininity: she is appreciated for her talent; she has lovers; she travels. It is only when she falls in love with Byron that her life becomes curtailed.

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And I was interested in Casanova’s relationship with Venice – especially as my own began to deepen. Casanova spent a great deal of his life in exile from Venice. It was as if Casanova and Venice were too alike, like two ends of the same magnet, acting in repulsion. (Like Shakespeare, Casanova is attracted to uncomfortable dichotomies and twins).

Venice was like his mother … cold and indifferent to him. You might argue that both took a merely narcissistic interest in him. It was his mother’s and Venice’s affection and approval for which Casanova struggled, and by whom he was continually rejected.

“… I was born for the sex opposite to my mine, I have always loved it and done all that I could to make myself loved by it.”       —-  History of My Life, Preface

The same might be said for his relationship with Venice.

Auguste Leroux, Casanova, History of my Life 145

I’m also happy to announce the release of Michelle’s newest book, The Wishing Bones, also set in Venice and featuring Casanova as a teenager. A dark and magical book, it follows orphans as they try to unravel the evil that four sisters have wrought on Venice. Due out in late July.

(Images from Auguste Leroux’s Mémoires de Casanova, from http://book-graphics.blogspot.com/2013/06/memoires-de-casanova-ill-auguste-leroux.html)
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