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Saint Augustine: A Life (Penguin Lives Biographies) Paperback – August 30, 2005
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Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Wills does two corrections right off the bat that helped to avoid a lot of confusion and made the human drama in Africa more alive. First, he renamed the Confessions the Testimony, since "confessions" in this case doesn't mean going into a box or getting the third degree. "Confessions" means this is what Saint Augustine believed, pure and simple.
Second, he names Saint Augustine's mistress, because Augustine never does. Wills gives her the name Una, meaning one, for she was the one. Wills makes the good point that Saint Augustine may have had a love life that was torrid, but compared to our century, he and Una were like the college couple next door. Saint Augustine, all through his life, was never promiscuous. Augustine and Una had one son from their association, whose name Wills translates as Godsend (from Adeodatus). Augustine was not pleased with the birth, though Godsend became a constant companion until his birth after Augustine returned to Africa.
Augustine founded a monastic order that exists to this day. Two American colleges (Villanova and Merrimack) are Augustinian schools. He wrote and expounded on a wide range of topics. His meditation on the Trinity is still compelling: The Father created the Son, and the love between the two formed the Holy Spirit. In an earlier work, Wills said that the first two verses of St.Read more ›
Writing a biography of someone like Augustine is difficult -- little information is available other than Augustine's surviving writings. The successful biographer needs to ground the available information, and a critical rereading of previous biographies, in our current understanding of the state of society at that time. Garry Wills has pulled that off nicely.
Augustine lived in interesting times: Church doctrine was evolving while identifying heretical docrines (e.g., Donatists); the Roman Empire was effectively split in two, with the Western capital moved from Rome to Ravenna; and (mainly) Christianized "barbarian" groups were taking over large sections of the Western Empire (Alaric's Goths captured Rome during Augustine's lifetime, and Augustine died near the end of the Vandal conquest of Roman Africa). Wills successfully places Augustine's life in context of these important events.
Other Amazon reviewers have noted that this is not a good introductory volume. I disagree, as long as the reader has some knowledge of the historical period. Even in that case, however, the early sections of the book can drag -- e.g., with lengthy reinterpretations of specific Augustinian phrases. But how can one complain about an Augustine biography that (in the final pages, anyhow) manages to incorporate discussions of both Roth's "Portnoy's Complaint" and Chesterton's "Secrets of Father Brown"?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not as useful or good as the work of Peter Brown. I have not read the new book by Robin Lane Fox on Augustine which Wills has just perversely trashed in the New York Review of... Read morePublished 7 months ago by N. Ravitch
The shipment was quick and the book is excellent reading.
This relatively short book does and excellent job of explaining St. Augustine, for those of us who have always wanted to know a little bit more about him.Published on July 2, 2014 by Roxy Fairdeal
Interesting look at Augustine's thoughts by a prolific writer who usually has a different take than usual. A well educated author who writes well.Published on March 28, 2014 by Arthur C
Even beginning to understand such a one as Augustine, so far removed from us by millenniums, language, and customs, is a formidable task. But Wills is up to it. Read morePublished on November 23, 2013 by likes good books, music, movies
I have read about two dozen biographies in the Penguin Lives series. This is the second worst that I came across, the worst being Herman Melville. Read morePublished on March 16, 2013 by LF
Great Life -
Excellent, well written, enjoyable. Brings History to life without being over pious. Like me , he said he didn't 'know' Greek. Read more
Gary Wills, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, writes this biography of Saint Augustine. The author does an admiral job at accomplishing what many biographers fail to do - write a... Read morePublished on July 29, 2011 by Mike Pettengill