Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Paris Note: Piketty, and A Second Choice

At Les Cahiers de Colette Bookshop in the Rue Rambuteau in Paris a few days back I came upon a copy of the French edition of the Piketty world shaker, aka Le capital au XXIe si├Ęcle.  Best  I can tell, it is even longer than the English language version, and with footnotes.  At 25 Euros, the per-pound price doesn't seem out of line.  I did give it a heft but the--nah, I went for a new Livre de Poche one-volume edition of the memoirs of Casanova. aka Histoire de ma vie, with a rewarding intro by Jean M. Goulemont.    Apparently there was a "new" edition published just last year by Robert Laffont, supposedly from an "original" manuscript but this isn't it.  The edition bears a 2014 copyright but it appears to drive from an earlier publication dated 1993--also, somewhat confusingly, from Laffont.

No matter.  It's a good, clear, readable text which helps one (assisted by Goulemont) to see Casanova as a complex and challenging.  Yes, there is rutting enough to scandalize a Jesuit but as the editor urges, there's a lot more.   Casanova indeed comes across as a man of the 18th Century--alert, inquisitive, energetic with a high sense of self worth.   The comparison that comes to mind is he memoir of Lorenzo da Ponte,  Da Ponte comes across as a lesser figure--odd, when one reflect that he wrote three of the best opera libretti ever.  But they both offer the same posture of restless, worldy self-sufficiency--and both were Venetians who spent a good deal of their life on the run.  One also thinks of the Tiepolos (Tiepoli?) father and son--particularly the son with his dark, ambiguous comic visions of an Enlightenment in decline.

Fun fact: I see there is already an Executive Summary of Piketty, available, so far as I can tell, in France and England, not (yet?) in the US.  So far as I can tell, no executive summary of Casanova. 

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