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The Private Memoirs And Confessions Of A Justified Sinner (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – 1 Nov 2002

4.0 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (1 Nov. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590170253
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590170250
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 837,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Book Description

'A Scottish classic, a world classic' Ian Rankin, Observer --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

Set in early eighteenth-century Scotland, James Hogg's masterpiece is a brilliant psychological study of religious fanaticism and the power of evil. Led on by his sinister companion, Gil-Martin, Robert Wringhim commits a series of atrocious crimes. As the novel progresses, however, and the complexity of Wringhim's mind is revealed, the reader begins to doubt whether Gil-Martin even exists.

This edition of The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner places the work within the context of Calvinism, Scottish political and constitutional history, and early psychological theories of "double consciousness." A wide-ranging introduction discusses the novel in relation to its setting as well as to the period in which it was composed. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I picked this book up more or less at random, never having heard of it or Hogg before. Havng read it, I can't believe it doesn't have a higher profile as a classic of British literature, because it is one of the most startlingly original books I have ever read, and was well before its time in terms of structure and themes.
The book consists of two parallel narratives. The first is of an editor, who comes across the strange tale of a murder over 100 years after it occurred. The story is that of two estranged brothers, George Colwan and Robert Wringham. George is the heir to a lairdship, while Robert and his mother are thrown out of the estate because of her religious zeal and the possibility that Robert was fathered by another man (the sinister religious tutor for whom he is named). Burning with hate, Robert stalks George and a series of unpleasant episodes ensue which culminate in George's murder, and the disappearance of Robert and his mother. This is all told as a dry legal matter. The second narrative is Robert's diary, retelling the same events but with a decidedly supernatural twist. It is a brave move by the author to make the least sympethetic character in the book its narrator. Robert's actions are explained because he is morally unconstrained, because he has been told that his place in heaven is assured. As soon as he becomes aware of this, the stranger Gil-martin appears at his side, persuading him to do evil acts in the name of goodness, including the murder of his brother and his eventual flight and suicide.
There is so much to enjoy about this book. It is ostensibly an attack on predestination (the religious view that some people are chosen by God for heaven before they are born, and that nothing that they can do on earth alters this destiny).
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By A Customer on 18 Jan. 2003
Format: 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.
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Format: Paperback
Hogg's novel is about 150 years ahead of its time. Published in 1824, the work has everything readers of post-modern novels could ask for, including clustered narratives, self-reflexive point-of-view, unreliable narrators, unsympathetic-protagonist, etc. Hogg is engaging in a highly playful exercise, yet at the same time the novel can be read as an entirely chilling depiction of what may happen to the human psyche when it is given absolutely free-reign. The story takes place in Scotland in the early 18th century, a time of political and religious foment. It chiefly concerns the religious "progress" of Robert Wingham. Robert's mother is a religious enthusiast who has left the household of her husband, George Colwan, laird of Dalcastle, because he does not meet her stringent standards of pious behavior. Before she leaves, she delivers a son, whom Colwan names after him and names him his sole heir. A year after she has left she delivers another son, Robert, whom the editor-narrator who first tells the story is too polite to say is illegitimate, but it's evident by all appearances and intimations that Robert is the son of Lady Colwan and the Reverend Wringhim, a dour, intolerant, "self-conceited pedagogue," who is the polar opposite of the easy-going laird. Reverend Wingham undertakes the instruction of young Robert and eventually adopts him. Robert, like his father, is a cold fish, who abhors the presence of women and anything else that he thinks will lead him to sin. Young George, on the other hand is naturally open and fun-loving, engaging in the "normal" activities young men of the time preferred. This attitude piques the ire of Robert, who sees any activity that is not directly related to religion as frivolous.Read more ›
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