An incredible autobiography by one ot the Church's greatest saints.
When St. Augustine composed The Confessions he was nearly 45 years old and had spent 11 years living the monastic life. His autobiography is unique because he is writing to God and not to an audience. Augustine intended for his work to be read, but the reader is a witness to an intimate conversation between God and Augustine. It is essentially a long prayer.
St. Augustine uses books one through ten to analyze his infancy, childhood and ultimate conversion. He says that when he was an infant he would become indignant and revenge himself on his elders with fits of tears when they did not obey his wishes. How many modern memoirs include infancy in their chapters? Augustine also devotes many pages to the events that shaped his life: watching the games, stealing the pear, the death of his best friend, the prayers of his mother and his conversion in the garden.
The last three books drift away from the story of his life into philosophical discussions. I remember many occasions in college discussing these chapters in the coffee bar. How is God outside of time? What is formless matter? How is time distended? How can we speak of the past when only the present exists?
The Confessions was written more than sixteen hundred years ago but is just as timely and inspirational today as it was in the fourth century. It contains some of the most beautiful prose in literature. Everyone has heard the lines, "Long have I loved you.." and "My heart is restless until it rests in you." And who can forget the quote, "Lord, give me chastity, but not yet!" Augustine's life is the ultimate story of conversion and can give hope to all who desire to change their lives and follow Christ.
This edition is published by Everyman's Library in sewn hardcover and has a ribbon bookmark. It is nicely organized with a long introduction by Robin Lane Fox and includes a chronology of Augustine's life, a detailed index, footnotes on the page, and an appendix by the translator, Philip Burton.
Many translations will render the "restless" prayer in a clumsy manner, but Burton poetically translates it as, "You stir us up to take delight in your praise; for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless till it finds its rest in you." Some people might hesitate to mark or highlight this edition but the fine translation makes it the choice for my collection.