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Book Title: Il ritorno di Casanova|
The author of the book: Arthur Schnitzler
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Date of issue: September 1982
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The size of the: 798 KB
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Ageing, weary, his money gone, Casanova is travelling to Venice, to ask its overlords to forgive his past misadventures there, so that he can live out the rest of his days in “the city of his youth… enshrined in all the charms of memory”.
He is no longer handsome. “His power over his fellows, over women no less than over men, had vanished. Only where he evoked memories could his words, his voice, his glance, still conjure… His day was done!” But such self-admissions surge up against his narcissism, creating great turmoil in his heart. Intellectually he fancies himself the equal or superior to Voltaire, against whom he is preparing a polemic. But he remains addicted to sexual conquest and can’t settle calmly into the life of the mind.
A chance meeting on the road leads him into the lives of a group of local people, creating a forum in which the tensions of his inner life play out. There is his amiable and generous host Olivo; his hostess Amalia, hot to resume an old liaison with Casanova; their 13 year old daughter. There is a playful aristocratic Marchesa and her husband the Marchese, who is enraged at being openly cuckolded by the coolly insolent young soldier Lorenzi. There is the calm and lovely young Marcolina, focused on intellectual pursuits. This group spend two days and nights together, in gardens, bedrooms, at dinners and at the gambling table.
The charms of Amalia are stale to Casanova, who tries to put her off by emphasising his own physical decay. It is Marcolina who he must have: Marcolina, who holds the youth and beauty that he has lost. She offers him a dignified friendship across the generational and gender divide, with gentle intellectual sparring between equals, but she recoils at every glimpse of his lust. In fact she is sending him into a confused frenzy of despair, self-deceiving hope, and desperate calculation.
At their introduction, Casanova and Lorenzi “exchanged glances of cold aloofness that seemed to offer assurances of mutual dislike”; but moments later Casanova was staggered by the sense that his own youthful persona stood before him. He is temporarily soothed when he learns that Marcolina has rejected Lorenzi’s offer of marriage, but when he discovers they have a secret relationship the blood rushes to his head.
In the end, it is only by literally taking over Lorenzi’s identity - impersonating him in the dark - that Casanova beds Marcolina. But this “return to youth” is pitiful: when she realises what has happened she feels loathing and disgust, then deep sorrow. His second return to youth, in the form of Venice, is also pathetic: he is only allowed back as a police spy, reporting on hot headed young men of the kind that he once was.
Casanova also manages to rape Amalia’s 13 year old daughter. The girl does not show any distress during or after the event, rather she is excited and conspiratorial. Casanova cynically reflects that he managed to have grandmother, mother and daughter. The incident seems designed to throw further light on his character, but it may overshadow the rest of the story for many modern readers.
Most of the text is a close observation of Casanova’s state of mind. During the climatic events in Olivo’s house it shifts style, and feels more like one of Schnitzler’s plays recast into novelistic form.
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Read information about the authorArthur Schnitzler was an Austrian author and dramatist.
The son of a prominent Hungarian-Jewish laryngologist Johann Schnitzler and Luise Markbreiter (a daughter of the Viennese doctor Philipp Markbreiter), was born in Vienna in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and began studying medicine at the local university in 1879. He received his doctorate of medicine in 1885 and worked at the Vienna's General Hospital, but ultimately abandoned medicine in favour of writing.
His works were often controversial, both for their frank description of sexuality (Sigmund Freud, in a letter to Schnitzler, confessed "I have gained the impression that you have learned through intuition — though actually as a result of sensitive introspection — everything that I have had to unearth by laborious work on other persons") and for their strong stand against anti-Semitism, represented by works such as his play Professor Bernhardi and the novel Der Weg ins Freie. However, though Schnitzler was himself Jewish, Professor Bernhardi and Fräulein Else are among the few clearly-identified Jewish protagonists in his work.
Schnitzler was branded as a pornographer after the release of his play Reigen, in which ten pairs of characters are shown before and after the sexual act, leading and ending with a prostitute. The furore after this play was couched in the strongest anti-semitic terms; his works would later be cited as "Jewish filth" by Adolf Hitler. Reigen was made into a French language film in 1950 by the German-born director Max Ophüls as La Ronde. The film achieved considerable success in the English-speaking world, with the result that Schnitzler's play is better known there under Ophüls' French title.
In the novella, Fräulein Else (1924), Schnitzler may be rebutting a contentious critique of the Jewish character by Otto Weininger (1903) by positioning the sexuality of the young female Jewish protagonist. The story, a first-person stream of consciousness narrative by a young aristocratic woman, reveals a moral dilemma that ends in tragedy.
In response to an interviewer who asked Schnitzler what he thought about the critical view that his works all seemed to treat the same subjects, he replied, "I write of love and death. What other subjects are there?" Despite his seriousness of purpose, Schnitzler frequently approaches the bedroom farce in his plays (and had an affair with one of his actresses, Adele Sandrock). Professor Bernhardi, a play about a Jewish doctor who turns away a Catholic priest in order to spare a patient the realization that she is on the point of death, is his only major dramatic work without a sexual theme.
A member of the avant-garde group Young Vienna (Jung Wien), Schnitzler toyed with formal as well as social conventions. With his 1900 short story Lieutenant Gustl, he was the first to write German fiction in stream-of-consciousness narration. The story is an unflattering portrait of its protagonist and of the army's obsessive code of formal honour. It caused Schnitzler to be stripped of his commission as a reserve officer in the medical corps — something that should be seen against the rising tide of anti-semitism of the time.
He specialized in shorter works like novellas and one-act plays. And in his short stories like "The Green Tie" ("Die grüne Krawatte") he showed himself to be one of the early masters of microfiction. However he also wrote two full-length novels: Der Weg ins Freie about a talented but not very motivated young composer, a brilliant description of a segment of pre-World War I Viennese society; and the artistically less satisfactory Therese.
In addition to his plays and fiction, Schnitzler meticulously kept a diary from the age of 17 until two days before his death, of a brain hemorrhage in Vienna. The manuscript, which runs to almost 8,000 pages, is most notable for Schnitzler's cas
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