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The Confessions of St.Augustine (Dover Thrift Editions) [Paperback]

Saint Augustine Bishop of Hippo
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 Nov 2002 Dover Thrift Editions
One of the most influential religious books in the Christian tradition recalls crucial events in the author's life: his mid-4th-century origins in rural Algeria; the rise to a lavish lifestyle at the imperial court in Milan; his struggle with sexual desires; eventual renunciation of secular ambitions and marriage; and recovery of his Catholic faith.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 319 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications Inc.; New edition edition (28 Nov 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486424669
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486424668
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 13.4 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 768,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

In this new translation, Augustine's vivid descriptions of his struggles with temptations and his adoration of God, are as full of life as if written yesterday (Universe) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Dr Carolinne White was educated at St Hugh's College, Oxford and has been teaching Latin language and literature at the University since 1988. In 1995, she was appointed Faculty Research Fellow by the Faculty of Literae Humaniores, and Associate Member of the SCR at St Hugh's. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Take and read 25 Jan 2006
By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Augustine's 'Confessions' is among the most important books ever written. One of the first autobiographical works in the modern sense, it also represents the first time a psychological and theological enterprise were combined. It also helps to bridge the gap between the Classical world and the Medieval world, exhibiting strong elements identifying with each of those major historical periods.
Most undergraduates in the liberal arts encounter the book at some point; all seminarians do (or should!). Many adults find (or rediscover) the book later, after school. For many in these categories, there are concepts, narrative strands and historical data new and unusual for them. However, Augustine's 'Confessions' is still generally more accessible in many ways that truly classical pieces; it has interior description as well as external reporting that we are familiar with in modern writing.
The 'Confessions' shows Augustine's personality well - he was a passionate person, but his focus wavered for much of his life until finally settling upon Christianity and the Neoplatonic synthesis with this faith. Even while remaining a passionate Christian and rejecting the sort of dualism present in the Manichee teachings, he varied between various positions within these systems. Augustine's varied thought reaches through many denominational and scholarly paradigms.
The 'Confessions' are divided into thirteen chapters, termed 'Books' - the first ten of the books are autobiographical, with Augustine describing both events in his life as well as his philosophical and religious wanderings during the course of his life. The text is somewhat difficult to take at times, as this is writing with a purpose, as indeed most autobiographies are.
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9 of 40 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This bitter sea, the human race 27 Nov 2006
By Luc REYNAERT TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This is an eminently Catholic book written by a sinner in his young age, becoming a singer of the heavenly pleasures of asceticism, growing older. It is a long masochistic call to God for forgiveness of his previous sins in order to get eternal bliss.

Saint Augustine sees sins everywhere and every time. Every newborn baby receives a stamp `original sin' from his first day on earth, followed immediately by `Was it a sin to cry when I wanted to be feed at the breast?' All organs are sources of sin: the ears, the eye, the smell, taste (eating and drinking) and obsessively, sex (`better a eunuch for love of the kingdom of heaven'). The bodily pleasures leave him so terrified to loose eternal bliss that `Even in my sleep I resist the attractions'!

Other characteristic cardinal Christian rules are: obey all authorities (`In his own kingdom a king has the right to make orders'), censure (`But your law, God, permits the free flow of curiosity to be stemmed'), and deep anti-science sentiments (`futile curiosities masquerade under the name of science and learning. The secrets of nature are irrelevant to our lives.')

One should think that `love thy neighbor' is one of his basic principle. Absolutely not. He is a profound sectarian: `the Manichees, I ought to have disgorged these men like vomit.'

But, why is he so sure that he is right? Because of his faith, `not a clear view'; his faith in God and the Holy Scriptures.

Saint Augustine's Confessions contain also rather childish reflections on the mind, the body-mind dichotomy, memory and, e.g., `the problem of space and God's dimensions'.

But not everything is negative in this book. There is the love for his mother and his young son.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  255 reviews
76 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life Changing 23 Feb 2011
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
I first came across St. Augustine's "Confessions" when I was a freshman in college. It was a monumental experience in terms of both the content of his writing and the freshness and relevance of his writing style. After re-reading them again recently, I am still struck with how contemporary the book feels. Aside from many of its 4th century particularities, the concerns that St. Augustine had and the way he frankly and honestly dealt with them could be lifted from almost any contemporary tell-all autobiography. The biggest exception is the fact that "Confessions" is a quintessentially and irreducibly a religious text, and in an age when religious considerations are largely pushed towards the margins of their life stories, it is refreshing and uplifting to see what would a life look like for someone who took them very seriously and committed himself to reorganizing one's whole life around the idea of serving God wholly and uncompromisingly. "Confessions" is a very accessible text, and for the most part it does not deal with theological and philosophical issues. The exception is the latter part of the book, which are almost exclusively dedicated to those topics. You may want to skip those at the first reading, but I would encourage you to read them nevertheless. Maybe the very inspiring and uplifting story of St. Augustine's conversion to Christianity can lead you into deeper considerations about your faith or the meaning of life in general. I cannot think of a better introduction to those topics than "Confessions," nor of a better guide than St. Augustine.
254 of 271 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Uplifting 30 Sep 2001
By Jeffrey Leach - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
St. Augustine is one of the greatest thinkers the West ever produced. Born in North Africa in the waning years of the Roman Empire, his Confessions detail his ultimate conversion to Nicene Christianity after a ten year journey through the various trendy sects of the 4th century C.E. Augustine was a member of the Manichean heresy, a follower of Astrology, and an all around sinner. He enjoyed the barbaric games of the coliseum, was overly proud of his education and teaching positions, and just couldn't bring himself to give up the ladies. He even had a son, Adeodatus, who was born out of wedlock. In short, Augustine loved the things that most people love, and he loved the same things that we love in our decadent age. This is what makes this book so relevant today; it shows how little the human race has come in 1500 years. Augustine's struggles are our struggles.
Two points of interest are worth mentioning here. The first is Augustine's mother, St. Monica. Throughout the book, Monica is an omnipresent figure in Augustine's life. She is a tireless Christian, and she does many things to try and bring Augustine into the faith. She prays incessantly, has visions and dreams from God that promise Augustine's conversion, and she follows her son everywhere he goes. Augustine gives much praise to his mother, but it's important to remember that he was writing this account after his conversion. At the time, Augustine must have been sick to death of some of her antics. He actually lied to her so he could sneak off to Rome without her, although she was soon on a boat so she could catch up with him. I also felt sorry for his father, Patricius. Dad wasn't really into the Christian thing, so Monica put on the pants in the family. Augustine even says that Monica made God the 'true' father in their house.
A second point of interest is Augustine's actual conversion. He seems to go through two of them in quick succession. The first is an intellectual conversion, as Augustine uses the texts of Neo-Platonic authors to prove to himself the fallacy of the Manichean theology. It seems the Manicheans believed in a Christ figure that was not fully divine, as well as the idea that God was a substance. Augustine shows how substance can be corrupted, making this idea totally incompatible with the idea of a perfect God. After all, if a substance can be corrupted, how can it be perfect? After the intellectual conversion, Augustine still can't totally believe because he can't give up the fleshly sin of lust with women. This second conversion finally comes about in the famous 'pick it up and read' incident in the garden. Augustine, wracked by his sins and on the verge of some type of mental collapse over his anguish, hears a child's voice singing, 'Pick it up and read.' Seeing this as a sign from God, he picks up Paul's Epistles and reads the first thing he sees in the book. He reads a passage about the evils of fleshly vice and his conversion is complete.
After this conversion, the rest of the book veers off on a tangent. Augustine examines the concept of time, in great detail, and writes an incredibly dense exegesis on the first parts of the book of Genesis. This section, with the exception of his discourse on time, isn't nearly as interesting as the account of his life and the fundamental changes he goes through as he tries to find the true way to live life. I do suspect that thousands have converted after reading this book because it speaks to every human on a fundamental level. The above description I've given doesn't even begin to cover the amount of information in this book. The Confessions is both beautiful and thought provoking and I would recommend it to anyone.
I do have a word of warning for those who are considering giving this one a shot. Avoid, like the plague, the John Ryan translation. It is wordy, dense, and not at all clear. Read this Penguin version, written by Mr. Pine-Coffin (great name, huh?). It is a clear and concise translation. It's one thing to struggle with ideas in a book, but why should we have to struggle with the syntax? Go forth and read, young man!
88 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Peeping into the soul of a man 24 Mar 2007
By Quilmiense - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Translation by Rex Warner (in Signet Classics)

This one is a very good translation, especially for the modern reader. It conveys the immediacy and vividness of a text written more than 1500 years ago. One feels almost as a voyeur peeping into the private confession of a man to his God. The honesty and unembarrassed disclosure of his sins, and fruitless search for worldly wisdom, is something we can personally identify with, even today. It is amazing how vivid the description of life in late 4th century is in this Confessions. What a wonderful way to approach History, places like Carthage, Rome or Milan, thru the eyes of a skilled and intelligent man who pours his heart on these pages for us to benefit from.

St. Augustine's life, however distant in time, is filled with events, desires, and troubles, as common today as in the year 400. We can identify fully with him, and in his longing and weakness we can see our own soul portrayed. He talks about his childhood, his family, his studies and his lifelong pursuit of wisdom and truth, specially since the age of 19. We get immersed in the daily life of people in the 4th Century under the Roman Empire, their daily worries, their intellectual debates, their religious confrontations. We see the social conditions of all classes of people, from the wealthy and idle to the slaves who fight in the Circus. We see people living, talking, traveling, dreaming, and going about their business as if we were present with them. No wonder this book is an authentic classic, one that I should have read long ago.

There are many reasons to read this book. Those interested in History are certainly going to find plenty of information from eye-witness perspective; those who like to read personal memories and autobiographies won't have it easy to find a better one. For those interested in the history of religion and Catholicism, this is a must, a landmark in Christian literature. Whatever you are looking for, this book is certainly one that will satisfy your intellectual curiosity as well as fill you spiritually.

One thing to bear in mind is that the Confessions are not addressed to us, readers, that is why certain things about the author's behavior seem inexplicable: certain things that would seem to us to merit more explaining, being only mentioned briefly (his behavior toward the woman he had a child with, for example), while other issues are given a lot more space. Of course the Lord knew his heart well, but still, one is intrigued at this man.
71 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Translation 30 Aug 2000
By D. S. Heersink - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I won't recount all the excellent reasons for reading this remarkable book. It's not a part of the Western Canon for nothing! It's a seminal work (autobiography) in a seminal field (Patristics)worth reading regardless of religious orientation, including none. What makes THIS particular version so exciting is that it is eminently readable and still quite stylized. Chadwick's eloquent translation caputes not only Augustine's ideas and thoughts, but equally important, his rhetorical skills. This alone justifies the purchase of this work. The philosophical nuances that, ironically, have entered twentieth-century thought again are very clearly articulated in Chadwick's translation. Other translations are likely to obfusicate what Chadwick elucidates. Read this great work by a great translator. I am confident you'll return to it again and again (even if you disagree with the Doctor).
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Take and read 12 Jan 2006
By FrKurt Messick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Augustine's 'Confessions' is among the most important books ever written. One of the first autobiographical works in the modern sense, it also represents the first time a psychological and theological enterprise were combined. It also helps to bridge the gap between the Classical world and the Medieval world, exhibiting strong elements identifying with each of those major historical periods.

Most undergraduates in the liberal arts encounter the book at some point; all seminarians do (or should!). Many adults find (or rediscover) the book later, after school. For many in these categories, there are concepts, narrative strands and historical data new and unusual for them. However, Augustine's 'Confessions' is still generally more accessible in many ways that truly classical pieces; it has interior description as well as external reporting that we are familiar with in modern writing.

The 'Confessions' shows Augustine's personality well - he was a passionate person, but his focus wavered for much of his life until finally settling upon Christianity and the Neoplatonic synthesis with this faith. Even while remaining a passionate Christian and rejecting the sort of dualism present in the Manichee teachings, he varied between various positions within these systems. Augustine's varied thought reaches through many denominational and scholarly paradigms.

The 'Confessions' are divided into thirteen chapters, termed 'Books' - the first ten of the books are autobiographical, with Augustine describing both events in his life as well as his philosophical and religious wanderings during the course of his life. The text is somewhat difficult to take at times, as this is writing with a purpose, as indeed most autobiographies are. The purpose here at times seems to be to paint Augustine in the worst possible light (the worse his condition, the better his conversion/salvation ends up being); at other times, one gets a sense (as one might get when reading the Pauline epistles) that there is some significant degree of ego at work here (Paul boasts of being among the better students, and so does Augustine, etc.).

Augustine also uses his Confessions as a tract against the Manichean system - once a faithful adherent, Augustine later rejects the Manichean beliefs as heretical; however, one cannot get past the idea that Augustine retained certain of their intellectual aspects in his own constructions even while denouncing them in his official life story.

The whole of the conversion turns on two primary books - Book Seven, his conversion to the Neoplatonic view of the world, including the metaphysics and the ethics that come along with this system; and Book 8, which describes his conversion to Christianity proper. This is where perhaps the most famous directive, 'Tolle! Lege!' ('Take and read!') comes from - Augustine heard a voice, and he picked up the nearest book, which happened to be a portion of the Pauline epistles, arguing against the undisciplined lifestyle Augustine lived. Scholars continue to debate whether Augustine's conversion to Christianity was more profound or more important than his conversion to Neoplatonism; in any event, Christianity interpreted through a Platonic framework became the norm for centuries, and remains a strong current within the Christian world view; Protestant reformers as they went back to the 'original bible' in distinction from the Catholic interpretations of the day also went back to the 'original Augustine' for much of their theology.

The final three books are Augustine's dealing with the creation of the world via narrative stories in Genesis 1 exegetically and hermeneutically. This is very different from what is done in modern biblical scholarship, but is significant in many respects, not the least of which as it gives a model of the way Augustine dealt with biblical texts; given Augustine's towering presence over the development of Western Christianity in both Catholic and Protestant strands, understanding his methods and interpretative framework can lead to significant insights into the ideas of medieval and later church figures.

This is a book that will be of interest to novice readers of Augustine as well as scholars, to students, clergy and laypersons, and anyone else who might have an historical, literary, philosophical, theological or other interest in Augustine - something for everyone, perhaps?

This particular edition is an abridgement, drawing in crucial elements in a new translation of the text. It probably consists of only about one-tenth of the overall text of the Confessions, pulling out significant stories and passages rather than preserving the entirety of the narrative strand. It is a good primer, but be advised that it is not the complete text. It does have a nice feel and design to it, and makes a good gift book.
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