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Historia Calamitatum by Peter Abelard
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Historia Calamitatum (1958)

by Peter Abelard

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English (9)  French (1)  All languages (10)
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Hard pass ( )
  AliceAnna | Sep 6, 2019 |
This work was undertaken by a twelfth century philosopher and aesthetic holy man, but doesn't really delve much into philosophy, or theology. Instead, it is the story of his life, and a detailing of his enemies. It reads like a catalog of offenses, naming names of people who have done him wrong, and railing against the grievous harms done to him. Apparently written as a letter to a friend (posited in the afterword as possibly his former lover, Heloise), it stands as the autobiography of a man who has become the stuff of legends. Even as he seeks to vindicate himself in the face of his enemies, he comes off as rather vindictive, and not all that likable, a whiny child begging mommy to take his side against the other kids. Still, it is a fascinating look at the world through his eyes, and can be read quickly, not being as dense as many similar works of the time. This work makes it difficult to see him as the humble aesthete he seems to believe himself, as he brags continually about his great fame and his great insight, and many of the scriptural references he make appear to obliquely put him on a par with Jesus, St. Jerome, and other figures revered in Christian history. The introduction of this edition is quite amusing; apparently written in 1922 by a man who is presented as a name without any bio to tell us who he was, there are numerous historical howlers apparently intended to build up the idea of the Catholic Church as the spiritual center of peaceful society in a time when Catholicism had lost much of its hold on Western thought and policy. ( )
  Devil_llama | May 10, 2018 |
I actually read this book online through Project Gutenburg. It is a memoir telling the story of Abelard's life and adventures, with particular focus on his epic romance. But, of course, this is a story which took place during the 12th century AD, adding an interesting layer of historical interest to what otherwise reads as a rather modern tale. ( )
  JBarringer | Dec 30, 2017 |
Ever since I read "Heloise and Abelard: A New Biography" by James Burge, I've wanted to read something written by Peter Abelard, touted as one of the greatest intellectuals of the 12th century. He was certainly a brilliant man, almost too smart for his own good and apparently one of those people who makes everyone aware he is smarter than they. "Historia Calamitatum" is basically Abelard's autobiography and leaves the reader thinking, "he may be smart, but what a whiner". The entire book is replete with examples of people who were out to get him or did him harm. I have no doubt that he was, in fact, persecuted to a large degree but he seems to feel himself a complete innocent when he brought much of his troubles on himself. Even so, it's an interesting read. ( )
  Oodles | Feb 16, 2016 |
French apes can find a (rather more complete) French review here.

But the rest of the world need also be enlightened, and it is not the weird bleating you can find on the internet about the herooflove persecuted by the Darkages that will shed any useful light on this sewage of a book.

Pierre Abelard was a psychopath. Like most of them, he never fails to blame circumstances, others. Like most of them, he vaunts himself with grandiose exaggeration. Like most of them, he has a superficial charm and "intelligence" (the limits of which are soon apparent). But like most of them, he cannot maintain his disguise under the scrutiny of anyone less than entirely complacent toward him.

This book is a misunderstood and involuntary confession of absolute moral and intellectual bankruptcy.

Abélard, in it, seems so certain there is someone born every minute, as the saying goes, to buy his spurious justifications that he hardly puts any work in them, and the truth seeps through in a rather embarrassing (if funny) fashion.

His absolute contempt for anyone but himself, his parasitic lifestyle, the truth of his tryst with Héloïse (quite different, of course, from the version that generally circulates, and very unfavourably so) can convince anyone but the most stupid of the writer's evil nature.

The WORLD must KNOW ! ( )
1 vote Kuiperdolin | Feb 27, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peter Abelardprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bellows, Henry AdamsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cram, Ralph AdamsIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gilson, EtienneIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Muckle, J. T.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In this classic of medieval literature, a brilliant and daring thinker relates the spellbinding story of his philosophical and spiritual enlightenment--and the tale of his tragic personal life as well. Peter Ablard paints an absorbing portrait of monastic and scholastic life in twelfth-century Paris, while also recounting the circumstances and consequences of one of history's most famous love stories--his doomed romance with Heloise. Considered the founder of the University of Paris, Ablard was instrumental in promoting the use of the dialectical method in Western education. He regarded theology as the "handmaiden" of knowledge and believed that through reason, people could attain a greater knowledge of God. "By doubting," he declared, "we come to inquire, and by inquiry we arrive at truth." Ablard's tendency to leave questions open for discussion made him a target for frequent charges of heresy, and all his works were eventually included in the church's Index of Forbidden Books. Unfortunately, Ablard's reputation as a philosopher is often overshadowed by his renown as a lover. In addition to its value as a scholarly treatise, The Story of My Misfortunes offers the rare opportunity to observe a legendary romance from the point of view of one of its participants.… (more)

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