Reviewing Sandor Marai’s Casanova in Bolzano by Jacab Abraham

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Literary Masterpieces have always their own secret stories to tell, when Sandor Marai’s Embers and Casanova in Bolzano came to the world in English translation, two hidden masterpieces in fiction unfolded their secrecy to the world. A powerful 20th century Hungarian novelist Sandor Marai rose to fame in 1930s, as an antifascist he survived the war but later prosecution by the Communists drove him from the country in 1948. Sandor Marai’s novel Embers was published in English in 2001. After the grand reception of Embers in 2001, Casanova in Bolzano’s English translation was published in 2004. A sensuous, suspenseful, aphoristic novel Casanova in Bolzano is a slice of life of the world’s most notorious seducer, Giacomo Casanova.

The novel begins with Casanova’s historical escape in 1756 from the reputedly inescapable Venetian prison after a 16 month imprisonment in the dark lice ridden cell upon various charges including his most coveted art, seduction. Accompanied by Balbi, his friend and companion, Casanova secretly enters into the Italian city Bolzano. After the successful escapade the seducer and his friend lodge in The Stag Inn. Casanova’s presence in the town turns to be the talk of the town and women admirers and lovers secretly visit him and he seduces Teresa, servant girl of The Stag Inn . Casanova settles in Bolzano and begins to enjoy life’s offerings like food, money, women while an unwelcomed visitor meets him and he is none other than the Duke of Parma.

A few years back Duke of Parma fought a duel with Casanova over a beauty named Francesca. The duke won the duel and the woman is now his wife, but he knows she still loves Casanova. So one night he visits the inn and presents his rival with a proposition. Not only will the Duke never kill this distinctly vulnerable ex-convict (as he vowed to do if their paths would ever be crossed again), he will reward Casanova handsomely if he manages to give the Duchess a night of love and then hurts her just enough to cure her of her romantic illusions.

Thus the novel turns into a deeper realm where the three characters, Casanova, Duke of Parma and Francesca express their hearts’ content about one’s own conception of love and life.

As the back cover blurb says ‘Turning an historical episode into a dazzling fictional exploration of the clasp of desire and death’, Casanova in Bolzano is a further proof that Sandor Marai is one of the distinctive voices of the 20th century literary world.

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