978-0-670-03241-9 / 9780670032419

Saint Augustine's Sin (Confessiones)


Publisher:Viking Adult



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About the book:

Garry Wills--Latin scholar, liberal Catholic apologist, historian, award-winning Augustine biographer, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author--is certainly one of the best qualified translators in America to render Saint Augustine's Confessiones for modern readers. With Saint Augustine's Sin Wills offers the third and perhaps most crucial volume of the translation (following Saint Augustine's Childhood and Saint Augustine's Memory), and, with a small exception, his text remains lively, erudite, and contemporary while preserving the rhetorical games of the original.

As in the earlier volumes, the supporting apparatus for the translation--almost two thirds of the slim book--allows Wills to open the literary and theological complexity of Augustine to new readers. In the introduction he declares that Augustine's titular sin is not sexual (as is often assumed), but, rather, is a gratuitous sin--a theft of pears committed with a group of young delinquents--akin to Adams sin of "compulsion to solidarity" with Eve. Wills buttresses his contention in the Appendix, "Augustines Theology of Sin." Here, he cites Augustine's City of God at length to demonstrate the parallel language used in the narration of the fall.

Wills' other major goal in this translation, beyond positioning the work in its proper contexts, is to preserve Augustines Latin "rhetorical pyrotechnics." In doing so, he embraces word play and conjures Augustines Latin imagery into English equivalents. At one point, his decision to mirror Augustine's use of a rare Latin verb leads to the opaque phrase, "I boldly foisoned into ramifying and umbrageous loves." But after this intended, intrusive lapse in clarity, the language of the pear theft itself melds perfectly Augustine's philosophical and theological anguish. Wills' scholarly notes taken together with his rousing, vital translation insure that Augustine will be enjoyed by contemporary readers afresh both for his gifts as a writer and for the passion of his spirituality. --Patrick O'Kelley

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