Friday, July 21, 2006

The Meaning Of Love

Book Number 1: 'In Lucia's Eyes', by Arthur Japin
Country: The Netherlands

It is, I think, brave for a man to place himself in the shoes of a woman in love and attempt to write an account of her desires and sacrifices as though he himself had lived her life.

I discovered Arthur Japin's fictionalised memoir of the life of Lucia, one of only two women Casanova admits to having 'wronged', in a secondhand book shop, when I shouldn't really have been looking for a book at all. What I stumbled across turned out to be a story of all kinds of love: real and imagined, unrequited and passionately returned. As children, Lucia and Casanova fell in love. As adults, they loved each other again, but she hid herself behind a veil, and he did not know who he loved.

This book is utterly spellbinding. The only complaint I can imagine someone having is that the character of Lucia is somewhat idealised. Although the man she loved with all her heart confirmed her (and perhaps everyone's) worst fear, she never lapses into self pity, or resentment, or bitterness. Then again, this is a fictionalised account of a life lived, and in my opinion, it adds to the romance and ambiance of the story. Any artistic liberties the author has taken with Lucia's character obviously do not interfere with the historical facts as far as they are known.

I'm not really one for re-reading books, but I have a feeling I'll be coming back to this one in the future. It has everything - love, betrayal, deception, sacrifice and an unexpected bittersweet ending. I'm actually a little horrified to think that if I hadn't specifically been searching for something by a European author, I probably would never have read this!


Danielle said...

I have looked at this book in the library (our US cover is quite different than yours), but never taken it home with me. It sounds good--I will have to take another look next time when I am in the library!

litlove said...

I've never heard of the book before but I am very intrigued by your description of it. I've read other accounts of the Casanova myth, but mostly from cynical/world weary French perspectives. This sounds altogether different.

The Traveller said...

Yes...I think the author wanted to give Lucia a chance to tell her side of things, and from the point of view of relative perspectives, it is very thought provoking. I think it's true of almost anyone that how you see yourself, and how others see you, and react to you, are quite divergent. I want to read more on Casanova - maybe his memoirs, to get his take on the whole situation with Lucia - when I have time.

booklogged said...

Traveller, how are you finding author's from different countries? Is there a list somewhere or can you tell by the names? Just curious how a person would go about accomplishing this.

The Traveller said...

To be honest Booklogged, it depends on my mood! A lot of the time I wander around my local library, or a second hand book shop and pick up any books that look as though they might be by a European author (it is very hard to resist all the other books). Some times, I look at lists online to find authors from certain countries, if I'm struggling - for example, see for a list of nobel prixe winning authors, and the countries they are from, or is good generally (many works online, short stories and things). I do tend to go by the (dubious) assumption that if a book has been translated into English, it probably has something to recommend it!