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The Confessions (The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, Vol. 1) Paperback – February 1, 2001
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From Library Journal
The latest volume in the series "Augustine for the Twenty-First Century," which will offer the first complete translation of all of Augustine's works into English, adds yet another vision of the Confessions to the many already available. The fourth-century bishop of Hippo in North Africa wrote this extended prayer, the first true autobiography, to confess his sins and God's goodness. It has been a standard of spiritual literature ever since. Boulding (Marked for Life, Abingdon, 1996), a Benedictine nun of Stanbrook Abbey, England, offers us a fine, smooth translation that is a pleasure to read. Hers is also the first English translation to use inclusive language. There is a complete index, which greatly enhances the usefulness of this particular volume. For all readers.?Augustine J. Curley, Newark Abbey, N.J.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
A whole new generation should fall in love with one of Christendom's greatest works, thanks to Maria Boulding. --Catholic Library World
Maria Boulding's version is of a different level of excellence from practically anything else on the market. She has perfected an elegant and flowing style. --Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury
So old and yet so new! This contemporary translation of Augustine's Confessions was like meeting an old friend and touching perennial truth, despite the passing years. Augustine was surely larger than life--and this translation matches it. --Richard Rohr OFM
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And if you’re in doubt, just read the first memoir ever written: St. Augustine’s Confessions.
Though first penned over a millennia and a half ago, Confessions is just as relevant today as it ever was. Augustine deals with the same issues and struggles we all do. And as I read, I was reminded again and again of how stable the human condition is.
This isn’t to say that Augustine’s story sounds like it could’ve happened in modern America. The cultural distance between North Africa in the fifth century and the Western world of the twenty-first century is great.
Augustine discusses philosophic and religious ideas that the average American won’t ever encounter (I mean, when was the last time you met a Manichee?). He has relationships and conversations that will sound peculiar to modern ears (when he and his dad are in a public bath and his dad notice he is...ahem...reaching puberty, he gets excited about potential grandchildren. Augustine is 16 at the time).
But so much of what Augustine writes mirrors our own lives.
Illegitimate children? Check.
Violent entertainment? Check.
Political maneuvering? Check.
So even though the form these things take may be foreign, the reality beneath is very modern. It’s because of this that I can say Confessions is the story of us all.
Who hasn’t struggled with the problem of evil? Or felt the sting of a broken relationship? Who hasn’t gone through life without grieving? Or rejoicing? Without searching for truth or meaning in life?
These are the things we read about in Augustine’s story. And as we read them there, we’re compelled to see our own journeys in light of his.
For example, as he reflects on one particular sin (stealing some pears from a neighbor’s tree), he delves into the reasons underlying his wrong doing. He digs deeper than I ever have:
“With regard to my theft, then: what did I love in it, and in what sense did I imitate my Lord, even if only with vicious perversity? ...Was I, in truth a prisoner, trying to simulate a crippled sort of freedom, attempting a shady parody of omnipotence by getting away with something forbidden?”
What a thought he has here! That we, in our sin, are fools “attempting a shady parody of omnipotence.” I can’t help but think about the sins that filled my own past. And when I think of them, I see exactly what Augustine is talking about. Every time I used my words to hurt rather than heal - every time I used others for my own advantage - what was I doing but stretching for godhood. Like a little boy who puts on his daddy’s tie and trots around the house with an empty briefcase, my sins were my way of saying “I’m a big boy. I can be just like Dad.”
“No one can tell me what to do,” I might’ve said. “Not even God.”
I was my own god.
But that’s how sin works. It’s the declaration of independence from a good, faithful, and gracious Father.
And so, as we read his Confessions, Augustine prompts us to look deeply into the well of our own hearts. Not simply to stare at ourselves like some modern Narcissus (or one of his off-spring). But in hope that God’s Spirit is stirring the waters.
Drawing us; purifying us; preparing us - all for Him.
Whether we realize it or not, this is what life is about: living into God’s call. Augustine’s prayer in the opening of his memoir couldn’t be truer: “You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you.”
Though I may not agree with all of Augustine’s theology (and I don’t), I can’t help but appreciate his journey. And - even more than that - the candor with which he recounts it. It’s a great reminder that even as the world around us changes, humanity remains largely the same. We love and fight, worship and politick. But whether we were born in the first century or the twenty-first century, we have the same problem (sin) and the same solution (Christ).
Reading Augustine’s Confessions will remind you of that fact and call you to reflect on your own journey.
May we continue down the well-worn path trodden by those who have gone before - including St. Augustine.
Oh, and Maria Boulding's translation is fantastic! I can't recommend it enough.
The first nine books give an account of Augustine's life. It is important however to read as well his philosophical thoughts on Memory, Time and Eternity, Heaven and Earth and Days of Creation. These make it very clear that he was not afraid of asking difficult questions. They show his ability to move between literal and allegorical modes. They also reveal how he faces his critics without attacking their dignity even though they may have attacked his.
Augustine's legendary wrestling with his sexual urges looks like small beer in this age of internet porn, but it is testimony to the effect of persistent mindfulness and reaching out which eventually place repetitively troubling and possibly compulsive behavior at a remove that allows for increasing freedom to choose.
This is a translation that merits more than one reading.
"Who will grant me to find peace in you? Who will grant me this grace, that you would come into my heart and inebriate it, enabling me to forget the evils that beset me and embrace me my only good?"
Albert Outler (no mean wroughter of words himself) translates this passage in this way,
"Who shall bring me to rest in thee? Who will send thee into my heart so to overwhelm it that my sins shall be blotted out and I may embrace thee, my only good?"
The loss of the "thees" are of course helpful to the modern reader, but the use of "that you would come into my heart and inebriate it," is just, well, stunning.
One final comparison with Outler in the well-known passage in book ten:
Outler: "Belatedly I loved thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new, belatedly I loved thee. For see, thou wast within and I was without, and I sought thee out there. Unlovely, I rushed heedlessly among the lovely things thou hast made. Thou wast with me, but I was not with thee."
Boulding: "Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new. Late have I loved you! Lo, you were within, but I outside, seeking there for you, and upon the shapely things you have made, I rushed headlong. I, mishappen."
Both use Augustine's marvelous play on the words "formosa" and "deformis" But Sr. Boulding's choice of shapely and misshapen retains Augustine's intentions and poetic voice, it seems to me.
This is a lovely work.