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Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Casanova - The Story of my Escape

A few years ago now I translated Casanova's account of his own escape from the Leads prison in Venice in 1756. In the 18th Century, the book was a huge hit throughout Europe, but was never published in English (Later, I gather that Arthur Machen translated the work, but this does not seem to have been widely available).

Clocking in at around 60,000 words, the book is a blend of action, suspense and philosophy, as Giacomo Casanova battles loneliness, depression, disease, madness, and the four walls of his prison cell high in the Doge's Palace in St Mark's Square. Simply, it has bestseller written all over it, and I can't understand why it's been snubbed by anglophone publishers for so long.

My translation was considered seriously by two publishers, who I shall not name here. One eventually turned it down as it didn't quite fit their range or schedule. Another offered me a contract, from which I walked away, which turned out to be a very wise move by all accounts.

Now I'm preparing to publish this work on Kindle, with a paperback edition to follow if it should prove successful. Just one problem: the cover.

As the work feels so modern in many ways, I decided early on that I wanted a photographic cover, and of course I have no budget to visit Venice and snap Casanova's cell myself, or to set up a shoot with a model, costume and appropriate set. Friends and family have offered me holiday photos of St Mark's Square, and some of the photos are really good - it's just that the Doge's Palace looks bloody horrible in pictures, to be honest. Given that it's in, you know, Venice, it's a nasty squat oblong of a building. And everyone was suggesting Canaletto, but then we're drifting from the point that it's not really a book about Venice, it's about a guy locked in a lead-lined cell. Casanova touches on many subjects in his writing, but it never stops being about him.

And then last night I had an interesting thought... This is a contemporary portrait of Casanova:

And this is yours truly, playing Mr Puff in a charity production of Richard Brinsley Sheridan's The Critic last Summer:

It's not going to win any awards for historical accuracy, of course, but I think we have a suspect...


  1. Hi Andrew,

    Brilliant that you translated this book. Excellent stuff, I do hope many will read it. People are funny about Giacomo/Jacques. Ive written a manuscript about himself and his love of fine food and have been getting nothing but rejections from publishers for many years. Still, Im not giving up as the stories are so exciting and seem so modern. Ive translated many food and drink anecdotes from his Histoire de Ma Vie. So now I am giving lectures on the topic in universities, alliance francaise etc. The cheese macaroni escape story is one of my favourites. Best of luck. Alice Schutte, Dutch Lector Trinity College Dublin.

    1. Thank you, Alice - I'm so sorry it took my so long to see and reply to this comment. I hope you find success with your own book - Giacomo is such a fascinating individual! So far Story of My Escape has been popular with the people who have read it, but it's difficult getting the word out to a broader audience! Andrew