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Saint Augustine: A Life (Penguin Lives Biographies) (original 1999; edition 2005)
by Garry Wills
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0670886106, Hardcover)Saint Augustine, by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and cultural critic Garry Wills, is a 145-page biography of a saint whose collected works total 13 volumes. Despite its brevity, the book offers a complex and compelling interpretation of Augustine's life and work. Much of Wills's task is demythologizing: Augustine was not a central figure in 4th-century Christianity but was "peripheral in his day, a provincial on the margins of classical culture," who did not know Greek, the intellectual lingua franca of his time. Although Augustine has been portrayed by artists as a bishop "wearing all the episcopal finery of the late Middle Ages," he actually "dressed in the gray clothes of a monk." And far from being a self-righteous pontificator, Augustine was "impatient with all preceding formulations, even his own." He wrote, "Since it is God we are speaking of, you do not understand it. If you could understand it, it would not be God." Wills also argues that Augustine's Confessions (which, Wills persuades the reader, is an anachronistic, egoistic translation of the original Latin title, a word Wills more accurately renders as "Testimony") has been misread in a way that suggests Augustine led a debauched sexual life before his conversion. In the Shocking Revelation department, Wills does, however, find more detailed (if elaborately coded) information about Augustine's mistress and about the son they raised together than other biographers have found. Like Wills's masterful Lincoln at Gettysburg, Saint Augustine accomplishes its revisionist aims completely and yet lightly. Wills makes his arguments without ever forgetting his first job: telling the story of a life. --Michael Joseph Gross
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:05:26 -0400)
"For centuries, Augustine's writings have moved and fascinated readers. With the eye of a writer whose own intellectual analysis has won him a Pulitzer Prize, Garry Wills examines this famed fourth-century bishop and seminal thinker whose grounding in classical philosophy informed his influential interpretation of the Christian doctrines of mind and body, wisdom and God."--BOOK JACKET. "Saint Augustine explores both the great ruminator on the human condition and the everyday man who set pen to parchment. It challenges many misconceptions - among them the myth of his early sexual excesses. Garry Wills's Saint Augustine illuminates both the man and the age with the eloquent economy that will introduce to a new generation of readers this once popular genre."--BOOK JACKET.
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