Title: Casanova in Bolzano
Author: Sandor Marai
Publication Date: 2005 (1940)
Genre: Literary FictionSource: Birthday Gift
Another rediscovered masterpiece from the Hungarian novelist whose Embers became an international bestseller—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 Venetian prison and resurfaces in the Italian village of Bolzano. Here he receives an unwelcome visitor: the aging but still fearsome Duke of Parma, who years before had defeated Casanova in a duel over a ravishing girl named Francesca and spared his life on condition that he never see her again. Now the duke has taken Francesca as his wife—and intercepted a love letter from her to his old rival. Rather than kill Casanova on the spot, he makes him a startling offer, one that is logical, perverse, and irresistible. Turning an historical episode into a dazzling fictional exploration of the clasp of desire and death, Casanova in Bolzano is further proof that Sándor Márai is one of the most distinctive voices of the twentieth century. (Goodreads Synopsis)
I have previously read two of Marai's other books in English and loved them, so I was keen to get my hands on this one.
In general, I really enjoyed it. I have a full set of Casanova's memories, which I enjoyed reading a few years ago and it is wonderful to have him brought to life on the page again. This was a story full of wit, exuberance and the larger than life character of the man himself. I particularly loved the somewhat unexpected final chapters as they added a nice twist just when you thought you knew what was going to happen.
My only concern with this book, and the reason it got 4 stars and not 5, was the fact that it was a lot wordier than Marai's other pieces. This is not something that usual bothers me, but in this piece it resulted in some very long monologues and it was hard to remain attentive in a couple of places.
Still, this will please most Marai fans and is still an enjoyable read. If you are new to his writing, I would recommend starting with the delightful Embers and coming to this book later.