Fiction v fact (Part 1)


‘Casanova in Paris’ is historical fiction.  In creating the balance between the two elements, fact and fiction, we have given the narrative a very strong historical core that goes beyond elements of the setting (such as architecture, dress, forms of transport and so on) so much so that our own story can be considered as grafted on to real events, people and beliefs rather than merely using history as a decorative backdrop.  History is in its grain.

It is all true that Casanova arrived in Paris in January 1757 having escaped from the prison of the Venetian Inquisition and on the same day that Roberts Damiens attempted to kill Louis XV.  It is also true that at the time Abbé de Bernis was Louis XV’s chief minister in charge of prosecuting the Seven-year’s war and became Casanova’s protector, introducing him to influential court figures such as Paris Duverney, enabling Casanova to play a central role in the establishment of the most successful lottery in history up to that point in time.  Casanova and De Bernis had indeed known each other in Venice where they had been involved in a ménage à quatre with two nuns.  In addition, Stefano, Zanetta Farussi, Madame de Pompadour, Madame de Boufflers and the Marquise d’Urfé were all real people who Casanova knew.  Robert Damiens was brutally tortured and executed, as depicted in the novel, ultimately being pulled apart by four horses (Casanova witnessed the execution).  Louis XV did maintain a house, Parc-aux-Cerfs, that accommodated various mistresses (one of whom, O’Murphy, had been initially discovered by Casanova).  As depicted, Louis XV possessed an extravagant menagerie and employed spymasters.  In fact, Paris was filled with government informants. Even Café Procope was a real café that existed at the time (as it still does today), hosting the greatest writers and intellectuals of the day, such as Rousseau and Diderot.

The main fictional characters in our story are the Southerner, Bechard, Gabrielle, Guillaime and Marie.  Casanova had known an actress called Marie le Fel but she bears no connection to our Marie (who had taken the name because she thought it might help her career).  The plot itself, the attempted destruction of Paris Duverney, is, of course, fictional.

How faithfully have we tried to depict the characters themselves?  Some we have, some we haven’t.  A great deal is known about Casanova from his autobiography as well as other documents, his psychology as well as his actions, and we’ve tried to reflect at least something of the essence of the man, taking into account all his contradictions and complexity.  The Stefano we introduce is pretty much as described by Casanova, although we go on to paint a more sympathetic picture of him as the story unfolds.  Abbé de Bernis we’ve been a bit hard on.  He was a libertine, that is true, but a more likeable, bon viveur than our De Bernis.  The Marquise d’Urfé we’ve played around with.  The real D’Urfé is described to the audience but later we suggest it is a fiction based upon disinformation spread (for the purpose of maintaining her privacy) by D’Urfé and Casanova and that the real woman is a very different kind of person.


‘Casanova in Paris: The Shadows of the King’ is freely available here.

27 long form articles on Casanova’s life and times are freely available here.


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