He Had a Cold Gaze of a True Libertine


giacomo-casanovaI don’t think he did, for in spite of his superior knowledge of chemistry, to Casanova sexual relationship is not an experiment. He seeks no dark recess in a female. He refuses to take her seriously. In our hero’s bag of tricks the cabalistic math, metaphysics, theology, linguistics, masonic symbols have only instrumental value; but the mechanical values do not turn Giacomo into a cynic; on the contrary, I believe that he believes. Will any of his 122 conquests reveal to us his system?

Marquise d’Urfé is probably the best case to consider. Do I contradict myself? Do I claim depth? Not at all. Even when Casanova studies, and I am certain that he is very much in apprenticeship with the older woman, or the much admired Count Saint-Germain, he nevertheless remains playful. If we were to establish a Saint-Germain –Casanova–Cagliostro scale, I would claim that Giacomo laughs at Saint-Germain, but he despises Cagliostro. Giacomo laughs at what he knows to be the magic of science and despises what he recognizes to be a mere trick of the wrist.

The biological power of the sexual intercourse is scientific and Casanova is ready to employ it without any scruples, even if it takes a trick of the wrist to get physical: He had tricked d’Urfé into an intercourse under the false pretext, but he impregnated the old woman in all honesty; for to Casanova, this is the only way for the marquise to satisfy her wish to live on and in a male body. The true logos of Giacomo’s theology is phallus, not accidentally Casanova calls it verb; and when he says that Jesus is incapable of erection, he lays the grounds for the language of deification, and not just in the acts of incest — the relationship of Jesus to his mother is equated to the Casanova’s to his daughter: Philippe Sollers in his book Casanova the Magnificent sees God Father-God Son-the Virgin nod as authorization of incest.

Incest plays the role of denouement in The Story of My Life. It redistributes the meaning in the narrative; let us take a seemingly innocuous episode of Casanova’s interrogation by a policemen; the cop refuses to accept the passport with what looks like a false name of Chevalier Seingalt; there our hero explains that alphabet belongs to everyone, and anyone can do what he had done by arranging eight letters in a suitable fashion, and then Casanova backs up the trick with science, by adding that it could very well be that the cop himself is not really the son of the person everyone believes to be his father. This brings a smile on the policeman’s face. Casanova is free to go. The two men understand each other.

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