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New York, N.Y. : The Modern Library 2017.
Modern Library edition. First edition
Item Description
Translated from the Latin.
Physical Description
xli, 484 pages ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references.
Main Author
354-430 Augustine (author)
Other Authors
Sarah Ruden (translator)
Review by Booklist Reviews

The world's oldest autobiography that is still read throughout the world is a love letter to God; the pronoun you occurs in virtually every sentence, and the referent is the triune God. It relates a spiritual journey, beginning with Augustine's account of his own infancy and early childhood, extrapolated from observation as if by a child psychologist some 1,500 years before that discipline's invention yet of a piece with the deep personalism of the whole book. Translated often into virtually every modern language, it nevertheless asks for hers, classicist Ruden says, because many of Augustine's words have been Englished too narrowly and also because Augustine's constant biblical allusion has been inadequately educed by previous translators. In the introduction, she instances some words she translates more flexibly than her predecessors; in the main text, she thoroughly footnotes the allusions, which constitute the inner structure of his thought. Altogether, she provides the other high-profile current translation, that of Garry Wills (2006), strong competition. Wills' version is more elegant, but Ruden's is more engaged with Augustine. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Augustine's classic work, originally published between 397 and 400 CE, has appealed to readers far beyond the Christian world and been translated a number of times. Ruden (visiting scholar, Brown Univ.; Paul Among the People) seeks to make her translation different by not looking at the text from the perspective of later theological issues and sticking as closely as possible to the sense of the original Latin. This approach does not seem to make much difference in the first nine books—the autobiographical part—when compared to other translations. However, Ruden's format works very well in the final three books, which are highly philosophical, with meditations on memory and time. Ruden seeks to bring to the contemporary English reader the same experience the original Latin reader would have had. To do this, she often uses two or more words to translate one of Augustine's, since his original language has nuances not easily conveyed by one word. Footnotes give references to the biblical allusions in the text and explain contemporary controversies. VERDICT Ruden's translation makes Augustine's ancient text accessible to a new generation of readers with a real taste of the original Latin.—Augustine J. Curley, Newark Abbey, NJ Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Written in Latin during the late fourth century C.E., this memoir from the North African saint—one of the earliest examples of autobiographical narrative—receives a wholly new translation by poet, essayist, and translator Ruden (Other Places). Approaching her subject with deep religious and historical knowledge, she chooses to translate Augustine as a performative, engaging storyteller rather than a systematic theologian. Beginning with his babyhood and struggles with early schooling, Augustine traces his own intellectual and religious development through adolescence into middle adulthood. Born to a family of both Christian and pagan faith, Augustine migrated to Italy as a young adult to pursue a career in rhetoric. Before committing himself to a life of celibate religiosity, Augustine spent roughly a decade in a long-term relationship with a woman, and the two had a son. Augustine also explored and ultimately rejected Manichaeism. He would become, during and after his life, a pivotal figure in the history of Christianity. While acknowledging that earlier translations may have been "learned and serviceable," Ruden argues that much is lost when Augustine's linguistic playfulness is downplayed. An extensive introduction delves into the translator's decisions, particularly those that depart most sharply from those of her predecessors. The resulting work is delightfully readable while still densely theological. In this lively translation filled with vivid, personal prose, Ruden introduces readers to a saint whom many will realize they only thought they knew. (June) Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

The Christian theologian describes his sinful youth, his conversion to Christianity, his struggle against his sexuality, and his renunciation of secular ambition and marriage.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

One of the great works of Western literature, from perhaps the most important thinker of Christian antiquity, in a revolutionary new translation by one of today’s leading classicists Sarah Ruden’s fresh, dynamic translation of Confessions brings us closer to Augustine’s intent than any previous version. It puts a glaring spotlight on the life of one individual to show how all lives have meaning that is universal and eternal. In this intensely personal narrative, Augustine tells the story of his sinful youth and his conversion to Christianity. He describes his ascent from a humble farm in North Africa to a prestigious post in the Roman Imperial capital of Milan, his struggle against his own overpowering sexuality, his renunciation of secular ambition and marriage, and the recovery of the faith his mother had taught him during his earliest years. Augustine’s concerns are often strikingly contemporary, and the confessional mode he invented can be seen everywhere in writing today.  Grounded in her command of Latin as it was written and spoken in the ancient world, Sarah Ruden’s translation is a bold departure from its predecessors—and the most historically accurate translation ever. Stylistically beautiful, with no concessions made to suit later theology and ritual, Ruden’s rendition will give readers a startling and illuminating new perspective on one of the central texts of Christianity.Praise for Confessions“[Ruden] has clearly thought deeply about what Augustine was trying to say.”—The Wall Street Journal“A translation of [Augustine’s] masterwork that does justice both to him and to his God . . . Repeated small acts of attention to the humble, human roots of Augustine’s imagery of his relations to God enable Ruden to convey a living sense of the Being before Whom we find him transfixed in prayer: ‘Silent, long-suffering and with so much mercy in your heart.’”—The New York Review of Books “Delightfully readable . . . In this lively translation filled with vivid, personal prose, Ruden introduces readers to a saint whom many will realize they only thought they knew. . . . Approaching her subject with deep religious and historical knowledge, [Ruden] chooses to translate Augustine as a performative, engaging storyteller rather than a systematic theologian.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)“Ruden’s translation makes Augustine’s ancient text accessible to a new generation of readers with a real taste of the original Latin.”—Library Journal “[Ruden’s] record as a translator of ancient texts . . . clearly establishes her considerable talent.”—Christianity Today