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The Confessions of Saint Augustine Paperback – January 31, 2006
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"[Wills] renders Augustine’s famous and influential text in direct language with all the spirited wordplay and poetic strength intact." —Los Angeles Times
"[Wills’s] translations . . . are meant to bring Augustine straight into our own minds; and they succeed. Well-known passages, over which my eyes have often gazed, spring to life again from Wills’s pages." —Peter Brown, The New York Review of Books
"Augustine flourishes in Wills’s hand." —James Wood
"A masterful synthesis of classical philosophy and scriptural erudition." —Chicago Tribune
From the Inside Flap
Written in 397 A.D., Saint Augustine's classic autobiography, Confessions, reveals the innermost thoughts and struggles of a soul converting from selfishness and pleasure-seeking to a life of love for God. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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I searched recently for a passage to share with my companion on Valentine's Day, and found this gem:
c. 397 | Hippo
The Brambles of Lust
During my sixteenth year, the narrow means of my family obliged me to leave school and live idly at home with my parents. The brambles of lust grew high above my head and there was no one to root them out, certainly not my father. One day at the public baths he saw the signs of active virility coming to life in me and this was enough to make him relish the thought of having grandchildren. He was happy to tell my mother about it, for his happiness was due to the intoxication which causes the world to forget you, its Creator, and to love the things you have created instead of loving you, because the world is drunk with the invisible wine of its own perverted, earthbound will. But in my mother’s heart you had already begun to build your temple and laid the foundations of your holy dwelling, while my father was still a catechumen and a new one at that. So, in her piety, she became alarmed and apprehensive, and although I had not yet been baptized, she began to dread that I might follow in the crooked path of those who do not keep their eyes on you but turn their backs instead.
How presumptuous it was of me to say that you were silent, my God, when I drifted farther and farther away from you! Can it be true that you said nothing to me at that time? Surely the words which rang in my ears, spoken by your faithful servant, my mother, could have come from none but you? Yet none of them sank into my heart to make me do as you said. I well remember what her wishes were and how she most earnestly warned me not to commit fornication and above all not to seduce any man’s wife. It all seemed womanish advice to me and I should have blushed to accept it. Yet the words were yours, though I did not know it. I thought that you were silent and that she was speaking, but all the while you were speaking to me through her, and when I disregarded her, your handmaid, I was disregarding you, though I was both her son and your servant. But I did this unawares and continued headlong on my way.
Robert C. Ross
The book has no notes, and no organization other than the Book I, Book II, Book II, etc. So there is no introduction as to how St. Augustine is organizing his thoughts or where is going with what he has written. In addition, the English translation is written in the "King James English" of "Thee" , "Thou", "art", "wert"., which, in my opinion, is okay for prayerbooks, but not so much when it is pages and pages of this. It makes it a harder read than it needs to be.
In addition St. Augustine indirectly references many biblical texts that are not mentioned in the book. I found online a free Google copy that does give the notes, and while the language is the same, there are notes explaining the theme of each book, which makes the traditional English bearable.
"...BECAUSE YOU MADE US FOR YOURSELF AND OUR HEARTS FIND NO PEACE UNTIL THEY REST IN YOU"
"OR, SINCE NOTHING THAT EXISTS COULD EXIST WITHOUT YOU, DOES THIS MEAN THAT WHATEVER EXISTS DOES, IN THIS SENSE, CONTAIN YOU? IF THIS IS SO, SINCE I TOO EXIST, WHY DO I ASK YOU TO COME INTO ME? "
"MY INNER SELF WAS A HOUSE DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF"
"YOUR YEARS ARE COMPLETELY PRESENT TO YOU ALL AT ONCE, BECAUSE THEY ARE AT A PERMANENT STANSTILL"
"...IT MUST BE ILLUMINATED BY ANOTHER LIGHT, BECAUSE THE MIND ITSELF IS NOT THE ESSENCE OF TRUTH"
READ BEYOND THE WORDS, AND YOU WILL LEARN MORE THAN YOU EXPECTED.
The criticisms do not, in fact, pertain to the edition here, containing Monsignor Ryan's 1959 translation. (I suspect they have to do with the edition containing Henry Chadwick's translation, but I'm not sure. They may appear everywhere, for all I know.)
The Image Classics (Doubleday) edition is complete, containing all 13 books, and is very well set-up. It includes clickable end notes.
My comments here imply nothing about the relative merits of the translations, of course. Also, I've awarded this edition five stars basically because I had to do something on the star front! I have not yet read the entire thing.