Confessions (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Confessions (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

Confessions, by St. Augustine, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works. One of the first personal histories ever written, The Confessions of St. Augustine offers more than a gripping narrative of one man’s battle against doubt. It is also a brilliant work of theology that helped set the foundation for much of modern Christian thought.
 
In a series of thirteen books, Saint Augustine displays a profound and searching intellect as he examines his life: his early memories of growing up in Roman North Africa during the fourth century A.D., his disgusted response to his mother’s faith, his agonies and sins as a student, and finally his dramatic conversion in a garden in Milan. Along the way, the Confessions explores with great force and artistry the nature of time, mind, and memory, and lays out Augustine’s interpretation of the Book of Genesis.
Throughout, Augustine’s remarkable depth of thinking is matched only by his elegance of expression, which has powerfully moved readers for more than 1500 years. A timeless classic, the Confessions remains an unforgettable portrait of an individual’s struggle for self-definition in the presence of a powerful God. Mark Vessey is Professor of English at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of Latin Christian Authors in Late Antiquity and Their Texts and co-editor of Augustine and the Disciplines: Cassiciacum to “Confessions”. He has written extensively on the reception of early Christian Latin writings in the Renaissance and later periods.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781411431966
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 06/01/2009
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 153,487
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 3 Months to 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

From Mark Vessey’s Introduction to the Confessions
 
The Confessions stands in a unique relationship to the Western idea of the literary classic. Augustine’s most famous work challenges one of the supreme classics of ancient Latin literature, Virgil’s Aeneid, the epic of Rome’s imperial destiny. It contends against that sacred Roman model in an idiom derived from the Jewish and Christian scriptures, texts with their own strong claim to normative status in cultures of the ancient, medieval, and modern worlds. In the Confessions we witness the collision of two mighty traditions of storytelling, alike devoted to the long-term dealing of god(s) with human beings and societies. This alone would guarantee the work’s historic interest. What makes it startling, even now, is Augustine’s attempt to tell a story of the entire human race throughout all time, in the first person singular. The example of Roman epic encouraged narrative ambition. The Hebrew psalms provided an alternative dramatic voice. To say much more than that is to say more than we can know for certain about the genesis of this strange and utterly original creation. For a long while after Augustine’s death, no one knew what to make of the Confessions. By the time we find readers responding to it with real excitement, between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries of the Christian era, they already resemble the modern selves we call our own.
 
1
“To Carthage then I came / Burning burning burning burning.” The mood and movement are Augustine’s, at the beginning of book 3 of the Confessions. As a Roman citizen of the late Empire, Augustine spoke and wrote in Latin. The English lines occur in a modern classic, T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922), arguably the most influential English-language literary work of the twentieth century. (Its nearest competitor would be James Joyce’s Ulysses, published in the same year, another composition that plays on a long tradition of poetry and myth from Homer forward.) In the explanatory notes that he added to his poem, Eliot acknowledged Augustine as a source, quoting the Confessions in the first translation ever made of it in English, by Tobie Matthew (1620). “To Carthage then I came” was Matthew’s rendering of Augustine’s “Veni Carthaginem.”
The Latin phrase had a special resonance for Augustine’s readers in the early fifth century. In the far-off days of the Roman Republic, Carthage had been Rome’s great enemy. A Carthaginian army under Hannibal once encamped beneath the walls of the city itself. “Carthage must be destroyed!” That was the famous refrain of the Roman statesman Cato in his speeches to the Senate. Ancient Punic Carthage was destroyed, politically and physically. The city razed, its territories became Roman possessions. But the rivalry lingered in historical and mythological accounts of the rise of Roman power.
In the time of Augustus Caesar, the first Roman emperor, the poet Virgil devised a prophetic storyline in which the Trojan refugee Aeneas, making his way to Italy under the gods’ direction to found the future nation of Rome, was hospitably received at Carthage by Queen Dido. Aeneas’ tale of the fall of Troy, told to Dido and her entourage in books 2 and 3 of the Aeneid, is the leading first-person narrative in Roman literature. Augustine, who composed mock speeches based on episodes in the Aeneid as a schoolboy and taught the poem to his own students for years afterward, would have known it by heart. After relating the wearisome journey of himself and his fellows down to the moment of his father’s death in Sicily, before the storm at sea that cast them on the shore of Dido’s kingdom, Aeneas comes to a stop. Having come to Carthage, he has no more to tell in his own person, and reverts to being the third-person subject of a poet’s tale. In the inner time of the poem, meanwhile, Dido has fallen fatally in love with her storytelling guest. Fatally, because the fate or destiny of Rome and Aeneas is against her. The hero will go on his god-driven way, leaving Carthage and its queen behind without so much as a word of parting. Abandoned and betrayed, Dido takes her own life. As the Trojans sail over the horizon, they look back and see the city lit up by her funeral pyre. It is also the reader’s last sight of Carthage in the poem, burning.
When T. S. Eliot was asked to give a lecture on Virgil in wartime London—another city lit by fire—he made his subject the question “What Is a Classic?” (1944). He answered it by claiming Virgil as the universal classic of European literature, and the Aeneid as the poem par excellence of European civilization. For Eliot, the Roman destiny of Aeneas already prefigured the Christian destiny of the Western nations after Rome. The idea was not altogether original; like others who appealed to Virgil as guardian spirit of “the West” during the dark years of the mid-twentieth century, Eliot was deeply indebted to Dante, the Christian poet who, in the Commedia (Divine Comedy) had taken the pagan Virgil as guide for part of his journey. Central to Eliot’s vision of the literary classic is a scene of poignant separation that is also a promise for the future. There are only two moments in “What Is a Classic?” when he refers to a specific place in a literary text. The first is when he remembers how the shade of Dido refused to speak to Aeneas on his visit to the nether world. That passage in book 6 of the Aeneid Eliot calls “one of the most civilized . . . in poetry,” because of the assurance that he found in it—in his own intuition of what Aeneas must have felt—that Virgil’s hero possessed a “consciousness and conscience” suitable to the forerunner of European civilization. The second moment occurs at the very end of the lecture when Eliot quotes the lines spoken by the figure of Virgil as he takes his leave of Dante in the Commedia, having, says Eliot, “led Europe towards the Christian culture which he [Virgil] could never know.” These twin scenes of Virgilian wayfaring provided Eliot in 1944 with the emotional grounds for a joint definition of the literary classic and of the Christian destiny of the West, one that appealed at the time to audiences on both sides of the Atlantic and whose echo has not yet died away. Neither scene, however, could have appeared in such a light without the intervention, between the pagan Virgil and the Christian Dante, of the wayfarer of Augustine’s Confessions. Augustine, not Virgil, created the plot of the “divine comedy” onto which Eliot and other post-Romantic readers of Dante would one day graft their personal histories of the West. And that is perhaps the best reason for rating this work a classic in the twenty-first century. To read the Confessions is to go back to a place in memory from which the most expansive projections of Western civilization have been made—the place that Augustine, like Virgil before and Eliot after him, calls “Carthage.”

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The Confessions 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 80 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is by far the best translation I've read. It is vibrant and the wording flows with an excellent rhythm.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm only somewhat more than halfway through the Confessions just yet, but I already find St. Augustine's extremely deep knowledge of God, His Triune nature, His Incarnation, et cetera, are amazing! No other saint that I've heard of can take you so deeply into the mysteries of God, with such simple language! Now, there are times where he gets more philosophical, and one needs to read a paragraph several times in order to understand exactly what he's getting at, but that is rare. For the most part, St. Augustine's story of how he went from sinner to saint is a truly amazing story- not even so much that it's amazing in itself, but that the way it will move one towards God is certainly amazing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a very readable and good translation. Vessey's introduction is informative and helpful in appreciating Augustine's work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent Read, great gift
Dr_Rob More than 1 year ago
I wish more Christians would read this autobiography by Augustine of Hippo, which is actually an ongoing prayer to God about his life and conversion. His honesty in describing himself to God is a good example for contemporary Christians. I especially liked this translation, too, because it brought out the humanity of the author, avoiding archaic language that could make Augustine appear formally religious and distant from human experiences. Augustine, who was from North Africa and of Berber ancestry, is one of the most profound theologians in Christian history. HIs writings have had great influence on Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox Christians. I consider him to be one of the most profound theologians in the Reformed branch of Christianity.
Borg-mx5 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
St. Augustine is one of the most significant authors of the early Roman Catholic Church. This autobiography is stunning in its frankness and its passion. Augustine of Hippo documents his transition from childhood to adulthood; also his path from Paganism to Christianity. He is not a perfect human being, he is seeking something profound, but is also admittedly weak and tempted by pride and pleasure. While many books have been written after, none before had been written like it.
StephenBarkley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The peril with reading classics is my insufficiency to write a proper review. As with The Imitation and Revelations of Divine Love, you'll have to be content with my amateurish reflections instead.When I first sat down to begin Book One of The Confessions, I was prepared for a war. I figured if I could get through five or ten pages, I'd be doing well. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how readable and compelling this spiritual autobiography is. The work is divided into thirteen separate "books", and it's no problem to lose yourself in one book per sitting¿even if you're not trained in history or theology. I'm sure much of this is due to Philip Burton's fine translation.Speaking of the translator, he did the reader a favour by setting all scriptural quotations in italics. Augustine was pickled in scripture¿especially the Psalms. He can't praise God without the Psalmist's phrases springing to his pen. While with some this style could seem cumbersome (little more than parachuting in proof-texts), it's endearing with Augustine. There's no wonder why his name is prefixed with Saint.Augustine's heart was tender. When he sinned, he grieved over it. Not just so-called big sins, either. In one section he delves into his motives for steeling some fruit he didn't even need from a neighbour's tree. It's encouraging to read someone who takes their spiritual life so seriously, and who admits their faults so freely. (Where else on the spiritual best-seller list can you find a chapter entitled, "Farewell My Concubine"?)I have to admit that I was frustrated by the last three chapters. They were a reminder that ancient writers don't follow the same conventions that we moderns do. After ten books of beautiful and gripping autobiography he spent the last three explaining his philosophical and allegorical understanding of Genesis 1. I know his break with Manichean philosophy runs through both biography and commentary but it doesn't make it any less frustrating to read. Even so, endure the last three books. There are still gems to be found.With a work so classic as The Confessions, you can find any number of editions. I choose the cloth-bound Everyman's Edition from Knopf, published in 2001. The binding is solid and the typesetting is elegant. More importantly, the translator was clear and authentic and Robin Lane Fox's substantial introduction helped to put the entire work into perspective.Don't fear the "classic" moniker. This work is a gem any thinking Christian would do well to read.
jwhenderson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have read this book several times, both as part of the Basic Program of Liberal Education at the University of Chicago and most recently as one of the monthly selections of a reading group in which I participate. Like all classics it bears rereading and yields new insights each time I read it. But it also is unchanging in ways that struck me when I first read it; for Augustine's Confessions seem almost modern in the telling with a psychological perspective that brings his emotional growth alive across the centuries. From the carnality of his youth to the moment in the Milanese Garden when his perspective changed forever you the story is an earnest and sincere exposition of his personal growth. You do not have to be a Catholic or even a believer to appreciate the impact of events in the life of the young Augustine. His relations with his mother, Monica, are among those that still have impact on the modern reader. This is one of those "Great" books that remind you that true insight into the human condition transcends time and place.
jamguest on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked it. One of the more theological books I¿ve read this year and in the past year (shame on me). For what it was it was assuredly brilliant. And I was intrigued to learn of his struggles in the faith. I was particularly challenged in my own spiritual life in my relationships with others. I didn¿t quite finish it because it isn¿t an easy read prose wise. I owe it another go at some point (along with City of God).
sedeara on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well, I'm finished with this book at last!I originally became interested in reading Confessions when I saw a special twelve years ago about the beginnings of Christianity, because I thought "Confessions" sounded like a juicy book. It's really not juicy at all, so it's a good thing I approached it interested in theology and not scandal by the time I finally got around to reading it. This time around, I mainly felt like it was important for me to read firsthand the philosophy that is so much a basis of Catholic thought.Like most books written in the middle ages, St. Augustine's would have benefited from a good editor. There were a lot of times where I felt he repeated himself, which is fine for a spiritual seeker's personal musings, but a bit annoying for an outside reader hundreds of years later. And even though he wrote his Confessions both to strengthen his understanding/relationship with God and to further the same for others, a lot of it really did feel like naval-gazing. Still, I found myself appreciating a LOT of Augustine's theology, such as his insistence that people could come to diverse interpretations of Scripture without any of them being "wrong" (take that, fundamentalists!). Indeed, Augustine's perception of Christianity seems a lot more open than the Catholic Church of today would lead you to believe, although the hierarchy HAS kept his puritan perceptions of sexuality fully intact. Thank God for that.
elfortunawe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago

I began reading this once years ago, but it failed to engage me and I put it aside. When I started again I couldn't understand my previous lack of interest. The work ranges from philosophical speculation to personal memoir, and each kind has it's appeal. I was surprised by how must variety of belief and opinion late antiquity held on so many topics. Some of the debates and issues Augustine describes sound shockingly contemporary, though put in different terms. The passages covering Augustine's personal life can be poignant, especially those concerning death.

The scholarly consensus is that the Confessions was meant to be a preamble to a longer work: a detailed exegesis of the entirety of Christian scripture. The last three books cover the first chapter of Genesis, with careful attention given to an allegorical interpretation of the creation story. This is apparently as far Augustine ever got, thus adding to the long tradition of great, unfinished masterpieces.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A masterful work of antiquity. The spiritual journey of his life in part one: Bk. 1-9; The account on Genesis on the creation Bk. 10-13. A recommended read for History Majors, laymen and for all audiences to understand Catholicism better. It ends with his peace and reconciliation with His God after being wayward his entire life before his conversion and baptism. A seminal and an introspective work gracefully done. His legacy is influential to this day in the Western World.
Jeff_Cann More than 1 year ago
Books 1 through 9 were enjoyable because I could relate to his struggles. I then struggled with Books 10 - 13 as St. Augustine dove into the deep end of philosophy. I did appreciate the additional materials, in particular the introduction definitely helped me understand. Also, there was another reviewer who was apparently offended that this author translated deus into god (lower case). I wanted to point out (from the introduction) that the author was trying to be faithful to the original Latin codex. Unfortunately, codex written in Augustine's time had minimal punctuation and proper nouns were not capitalized consistently like they are these days. Here's the quote from the author in the introduction: "There would be no initial capitals for proper names or other key terms. Not even the words for “god” (deus) and “lord” (dominus) would be capitalized, though they might on occasion be abbreviated."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For clarification, this is a review of the Barnes & Noble Classics Series edition of Confessions by St. Augustine in NOOK Book format, translated by Richard C. Outler and with an introduction by Mark Vessey.  The biggest problem I have with this version is that it uses lower case for God, Lord, and other terms for our creator throughout the book. What was particularly odd about this is that I've seen at least one other printing of Outler's translation that does not omit the conventional use of capital letters for God's name. It is as if the editor was deliberately trying to minimize the importance of God. The editor is entitled to believe what he wishes, but clearly this book was written by someone who believes in and respects the Lord, and who would certainly have used capital letters had he been writing in contemporary English. (Heck, while I don't believe in Zeus, I still capitalize his name, because that's it's conventional to capitalize words used as names. I also noticed the footnotes making a reference to "Augustine's mythology, referring to Christianity. After a few chapters, I decided to find another translation from someone who was so clearly a non-believer, to ensure that the translation, format and footnotes captured the spirit with which St. Augustine wrote.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Seghetto More than 1 year ago
If you expect a stuffy book written by a Saint of The Catholic Church then you are reading the wrong book. St. Augustine details his days as a sinner as well as his time among the nicomacheans. He was disillusioned so he found God and the church. Augustine actually goes pretty deep into the psychology behind his worship and his epiphany. This translation was fantastic and I couldn't have imagined any other version.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It seems as though all this version gave me was part way through book 2? Where is the resr?
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