41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
A little known classic,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner: Written by Himself (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
In this oft-overlooked classic, we are presented with parallel narratives, that of the editor and the 'sinner' himself, Robert Colwan. They tell apparently the same story, although there are elements in the editor's narrative that the sinner has excluded in his and vice versa. Neither narrator is particularly reliable. The supposedly impartial editor's savage bias against Robert is compounded by his certainty that he knows the whole story - when he is in fact recounting the tale from tradition, a notoriously unreliable source of accurate information. Robert is obviously unreliable for being such a vile, lying, duplicitous and religiously hypocritical sneak. His perversion of the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination lends him a superior attitude; something the editor has simply because he tells his version of the tale with all the rational pomposity of an omniscient being.
This makes 'Confessions of a Justified Sinner' an admittedly demanding read, but it is well worth it. We are challenged to accept that no truth can be uncovered in either narrative: the role Hogg gives himself towards the end of the novel allows him to disassociate himself with the editor's quest for the 'truth'. The main question, of course, is whether the Devil-figure, Gil-Martin, is the Devil himself or merely Robert's alter-ego, there to spur him on in to committing deeds his conscience would normally never allow. It should be noted that Gil-Martin first appears after Robert has been assured of his salvation by the abominable Reverend Wringhim. Evidence for and against Gil-Martin's existence appears throughout the novel. But whether he is real or not the point of Gil-Martin is to show that certain, twisted forms of Presbyterianism are sinful - not exactly distanced from the Devil itself, it would seem. The fact we can't pin him down makes his ambiguous brand of evil all the more frightening. That is, evil we normally associate with Satan could be, in fact, coursing through the veins of Robert.
Enough. Read for yourself this well-written, expertly constructed novel and you will understand for yourself what a great book it is. My humble review can only express a fragment of this novel's ingenuity.