In these hectic times it is easy to get a skewed impression of what is going on in the world. We tend to know more about celebrity misdemeanors – such as the recent Tiger Woods debacle – than we do about our own closest family. The onslaught of 24 hr news is relentless, creating a firewall outside of which things pale into insignificance.
Recently in the footnote of the news cycle, it was announced that the Bibliothèque National de France [BNF] purchased the hand written original of Casanova’s “The Story of my Life” . Written in his second language, French, the notorious womanizer looks back over his life and muses over the twists and turns: “By recollecting the pleasures I have had formerly, I renew them, I enjoy them a second time, while I laugh at the remembrance of troubles now past, and which I no longer feel.”
An anonymous donor trumped up the record breaking 5 million euro for the 3,700 page tome on behalf of the BNF which intends to put a digitized version on display in 2011 as part of an exhibition. Considered to be one of the most definitive sources of 18th century life in Europe, the work shows the elegant handwritten script and even evidence of his own frustration as he picked and tore at the corner of the pages.
It was only through a series of twists of fate that the manuscript came to see the light of day. First published in 1822, it underwent numerous alterations by 0ver zealous editors, traveled across borders and ended up in a cellar in Leipzig. It was feared lost after the Second World War when the offices where it was stored were razed to the ground, but as if by miracle it survived and was smuggled out of the country.
“Everyone at that time was touched when this manuscript was found,” said Marie-Laure Prevost, the curator of the BNF in an interview with Reuters. “Even Churchill asked whether it survived the bombing,” added Prevost.
While friend to King, Pope and artist during his prime, Casanova spent his final years a misunderstood pauper in exile in Bohemia penning the work that made his name. With the wisdom of his advanced years, he reflects on the drama of human intrigue and in spite of the toll it took on his life, remains unapologetic: “As to the deceit perpetrated upon women, let it pass, for, when love is in the way, men and women as a general rule dupe each other”. Tiger Woods take note.