What Casanova Told Me

Venetian adventurer, legendary lover and autobiographer Giacomo Casanova has captured the imagination of celebrated Canadian author Susan Swan. The colourful, prize-winning novelist and York humanities professor has a new book on the horizon. Titled What Casanova Told Me, the novel to be published by Knopf Canada on Sept. 18, celebrates the unexpected in life and travel as a form of love. It will be published in the USA next spring by Bloomsbury.

What Casanova Told Me embraces two centuries, two women, a long-lost journal and the mystery behind the legendary Casanova’s last great love. The story told is that of a Mediterranean odyssey about the search for renewal, pleasure and inspiration from the past – a story that has as its counterpoint, the travellers of the 18th century who sought truth and beauty in the ruins of Greece and Rome. The novel is based on the journals of Asked For Adams, the fictitious cousin of former American president John Adams, who travelled with Casanova during the last years of his life.

Swan’s book begins in 1797, an aging Casanova (right), has returned to Venice in disguise to elude the authorities. There he meets Asked For Adams, who is accompanying her father on a trade mission to the city just as Napoleon’s army invades, throwing everything into flux. Casanova convinces Asked For to abandon her future as the wife of a Yankee farmer and set out with him on a dangerous adventure through post-Byzantine Greece to Istanbul, which she records in intimate detail in her journal – until the travel diary ends abruptly and mysteriously.

Two hundred years later the journal comes into the possession of Luce Adams, Asked For’s 21st century descendant. Luce is awkward, shy and grieving her mother’s death. En route to her mother’s memorial service in Crete, accompanied by her mother’s lover, and entrusted with delivering the precious letters between her ancestor and Casanova to the Venetian library, she becomes enmeshed in unraveling their story. And as the journeys of the two women come together, Luce finds her own way of moving through the world, and Asked For discovers how vulnerable the great Casanova is – a man whose appetite for life and generous spirit ignites possibilities in every person he touches.

What Casanova Told Me illustrates the mysterious influence of the past on the present and celebrates the unexpected in life and love, the lure of pleasure and freedom, and the transforming lessons of travel.

In a unique twist, the book will also be the subject of the first in a series of short dramatic films. Titled What Casanova Told Me, the film is directed by Ed Gass-Donnelly and Marco Pecota. It will have its World Broadcast Premiere Sept. 8 on national Bravo!FACT Presents. The public screening debut will take place at The Word on the Street in Toronto on Sept. 26.

More about Susan Swan

Swan, a celebrated journalist, feminist, novelist, activist and teacher is one of the jewels in the Canadian literary scene. She teaches a fourth-year fiction class and a second-year course in creative writing at York University.

Her most recent novel, The Wives of Bath, was a finalist for the Guardian Fiction Award and Ontario’s Trillium Prizes. It was made into the feature film Lost and Delirious which was shown in 32 countries. The Wives of Bath was recently picked by a US reader’s guide as one of the best novels of the ’90s.

Her novel The Biggest Modern Woman in the World (English version, Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1983 and Key Porter, 1998) was translated into Spanish in 2003. (See the Dec. 3 issue of YFile.)

Swan’s critically acclaimed fiction has been published in 16 countries. Her other books include Stupid Boys are Good to Relax With (Sommerville House, 1996); The Last of the Golden Girls (Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1989, and Key Porter 2001) and Unfit for Paradise (Christopher Dingle Editions, 1981).