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Confessions (Oxford World's Classics) [Paperback]

Jean-Jacques Rousseau , Patrick Coleman , Angela Scholar
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

16 Mar 2000 Oxford World's Classics
'No one can write a man's life except himself.' In his Confessions Jean-Jacques Rousseau tells the story of his life, from the formative experience of his humble childhood in Geneva, through the achievement of international fame as novelist and philosopher in Paris, to his wanderings as an exile, persecuted by governments and alienated from the world of modern civilization. In trying to explain who he was and how he came to be the object of others' admiration and abuse, Rousseau analyses with unique insight the relationship between an elusive but essential inner self and the variety of social identities he was led to adopt. The book vividly illustrates the mixture of moods and motives that underlie the writing of autobiography: defiance and vulnerability, self-exploration and denial, passion, puzzlement, and detachment. Above all, Confessions is Rousseau's search, through every resource of language, to convey what he despairs of putting into words: the personal quality of one's own existence.

Product details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New edition edition (16 Mar 2000)
  • Language: French
  • ISBN-10: 0192822756
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192822758
  • Product Dimensions: 3.3 x 12.6 x 19.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,332,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

A philosopher, literary figure, and composer, Jean - Jacques Rousseau(1712 - 1778) was born in Geneva. Left alone at 10, he moved to Paris when he was 16. His ideas and philosophies laid the foundations of the French Revolution and for the liberal and socialist doctrines of Europe. Confessions gave a new turn to the art of autobiography - writing. The Social Contract is his most important work-it deciphers the relationship between man and society. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A genius laid bare 24 July 2006
The Confessions is acclaimed as the first recognisable autobiography. Early on I was impressed by his honesty and the depth of his analysis of his early sexual life : Freud would owe him credit. An essentially middle-class struggle to find a trade, respect, and income, the ultimate failure of which - mainly through his inability to learn and adapt -- led him to make some independent and of course original thoughts. With his autobiography, you can see his other works came about. As a proud outsider who came to be as prickly and proud as a porcupine, why wouldn't he have been thought about the degrading affect of money and status (Origins of Inequality, and The Social Contract) . As an eternal trier and at times embarrassing failure, why wouldn't he eventually contribute something musical (Le Devin du Village). That's the beauty of this detailed work: it's the man laid out bare, and it's his genius explained. He was awkward, uncomfortable, and this more than his pride stood him outside of society. His life with the simple Therese; he needed her company, he valued her steady presence over the polygamous Mme Warens he so once worshipped. He gave his children away because (we suspect from the book) he didn't want the child in the hands of Theresa's in-laws. His life is awe-inspiringly tragic due to the proud man at once wanting acceptance (love) from his peers, and then almost simultaneously pulling away from society as a way of protecting himself from their opinions.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rousseau's painfully honest account of his life. 25 Sep 2000
By A Customer
This book is another by Rousseau that shows his diversity as a thinker and imagination as writer, as with 'Confessions' he practically invented the autobiographic genre.
Unlike most subsequent autobiographers, Rousseau's principle aim is to lay bare his failings and vices without attempting to apologise to the reader for his often surprising revelations; as he often repeats, God will be the judge.
Ultimately, this is a melancholy tale about a man desperately seeking a peaceful, solitary life but unable to escape the demands and injustices of society. The final passages reveal Rousseau to be a tragic character, hounded by critics and apparently unwanted by the public, but stubbornly clinging to his priciples.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The first real autobiography 4 Aug 2008
The introduction to this book, and Rousseau's own introduction at the start of the book, talk this up as the first 'warts and all' autobiography. It certainly is brutally honest, especially in the first half, where he talks about his sexual development and his attractions (often unrequited) to various women, and about how for him sometimes the mere touching of a woman's glove could wrap him up in fantasies for weeks.

Rousseau the man is a troubled soul, one without (so he claims) a trace of malice in his body, and who is constantly tormented by his need to do things of his own accord. Artistically, he talks of his inability to work to deadline or to task, and, along the same lines, of his aversion to monetary gain. The later parts of the book deal with the problems that his artistic intergrity lead him into - how Grimm and Diderot (amongst others) found his stances intolerable, and how he was attacked and hounded from one place to another until he eventually ends up in England at the end of the book. How much of what he says about these attacks on his character is true is a matter of opinion. As we see from earlier parts of the book, he is a man who often swills past events over in his mind, and as many novelists of the current generation have dwelt upon, the workings of memory often do very little to aid the conveyance of truth. Still, this is arguably the most interesting side of Rousseau's character, if not the most interesting part of the book.

Beyond the psychological level of this graphic peek into a man's soul, 'The Confessions' provides us with a wealth of interesting historical information, and a real insight into the etiquette and developments of the period - most notably during his time as an ambassador in Italy.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Independent Spirit 11 Feb 2011
Much misunderstood and maligned, Rousseau was one of life's true independent spirits who influenced at least two nations with his philosophies.

I think any intuitive introvert will feel an affinity with J-J. A deep thinking, sensitive and introspective man who was misunderstood by contemporary French Enlightenment - concrete - thinkers such as Voltaire. He only achieved respect and recognition posthumously.

Controversial, humorous, honest, open - this is a biography of a man who was ready to lay his soul bare in order to be understood in a world where extroverted, judgemental thinking ruled - and still does.

I highly recommend this book to all.

Viva Le Rousseau!
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gift for my mother in law 25 July 2011
By Shah
I bought this rare book from Amazon. I was looking for this book elsewhere on book selling websites but could not find the version I wanted. Amazon had this version which I wanted. She was so surprised how I got this book for her and loves the gift a lot.
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