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Looking for Augustine

James Francken: Jonathan Safran Froer, 25 July 2002

Everything Is Illuminated 
by Jonathan Safran Foer.
Hamish Hamilton, 276 pp., £14.99, June 2002, 0 241 14166 4
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... woman. On the back of the photo there is a message written in Yiddish: ‘This is me with Augustine, 21 February 1943.’ The woman helped his grandfather escape a Nazi round-up; with the photograph in hand – by turns a lucky charm, potent symbol and final, long-held jigsaw piece – he sets out in search of ...
...  something that comes from the dark (not self or non-self) but something between the two like the shimmering line where one form defines another yet fails to end; look for the proof in snow or the bleed of light between the shorefront and the harbour wall this late December evening: nothing there; but listen, and it sounds like wings arriving quietly over the firth and further out the snow is also falling as surely as it falls upon the lawns and hedges in this narrow seaside town ...

In a Garden in Milan

Adam Phillips: Augustine’s Confessions, 25 October 2018

Confessions: A New Translation 
by Augustine, translated by Peter Constantine.
Liveright, 329 pp., £22.99, February 2018, 978 0 87140 714 6
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... her that … the true combat takes place elsewhere. It’s to hear this voice that she has read St Augustine her whole life, almost in secret’ – ‘almost in secret’ suggesting that she wasn’t quite sure who she wanted to be, or wanted to be seen to be, by herself in particular. Such choices, she would have found by reading Confessions, are utterly ...

Watering the Dust

James Wood: Saint Augustine, 30 September 1999

Saint Augustine 
by Garry Wills.
Weidenfeld, 153 pp., £12.99, August 1999, 0 297 84281 1
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... The belittling of the human, the superstitious fear and the blackmail, seemed almost pagan to me. Augustine, the great early theologian, the North African bishop heavily influenced by Neoplatonism, is in many ways the patron saint of this pagan Christianity. Majestically, Augustine spent much of his life as a Christian ...

Darkness and a slippery place

Robert Alter, 25 April 1991

The Confessions of Saint Augustine 
translated with an introduction and notes by Henry Chadwick.
Oxford, 311 pp., £17.50, February 1991, 0 19 281779 5
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... Augustine’s Confessions, though frequently set at the beginning of a line of literary history that leads to Rousseau and Henry Adams, is a narrative of the writer’s life only in a highly intermittent and drastically selective way. Its aim, as has often been noted, is more spiritual exhortation then self-revelation, or, more precisely, it is an exposition of the divine scheme with reference to a particular life-experience ...

Silks and Bright Scarlet

Christopher Kelly: Wealth and the Romans, 3 December 2015

Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD 
by Peter Brown.
Princeton, 759 pp., £16.95, March 2014, 978 0 691 16177 8
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The Ransom of the Soul: Afterlife and Wealth in Early Western Christianity 
by Peter Brown.
Harvard, 262 pp., £18.95, April 2015, 978 0 674 96758 8
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... the spiritual mentors of some of the great families of Rome (including Melania and Pinianus) and Augustine, bishop of the prosperous port town of Hippo (Annaba in Algeria). On 24 August 410, an army of Visigoths sacked Rome. This was not a smash-and-grab barbarian horde streaming down the Italian peninsula intent on rape and destruction: Alaric’s troops ...

The Bathhouse

Harry Clifton, 18 May 2000

... It still exists, the bathhouse Where the young Augustine washed himself, But now it is everywhere And the waters of the spirit All steam, make wraiths out of men In Paris, Constantinople, Mosques and hammam dens Wherever they are. The pummellings, the rubdowns, Towelled bodies stretched on slabs, And tea, in little glasses, Green and sugared, sweetening the hour Of deep, corporeal peace ...

Chastity

John Barton, 16 March 1989

The Body and Society: Men, Women and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity 
by Peter Brown.
Faber, 504 pp., £32.50, February 1989, 0 571 15446 8
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Adam, Eve and the Serpent 
by Elaine Pagels.
Weidenfeld, 189 pp., £14.95, September 1988, 0 297 79326 8
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Heaven: A History 
by Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang.
Yale, 410 pp., £16.95, November 1988, 0 300 04346 5
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... major figures lead into potted accounts of their hopes and fears of heaven: ‘As is well-known, Augustine (354-430) did not start his life as a saint’; ‘Newton wrote extensively on alchemy, theology and sacred chronology, though he published very little in this area’; St Paul was ‘an indefatigable traveller and missionary’. There is wide learning ...

The World Took Sides

Diarmaid MacCulloch: Martin Luther, 10 August 2016

Brand Luther: How an Unheralded Monk Turned His Small Town into a Centre of Publishing, Made Himself the Most Famous Man in Europe – and Started the Protestant Reformation 
by Andrew Pettegree.
Penguin, 383 pp., £21.99, October 2015, 978 1 59420 496 8
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Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet 
by Lyndal Roper.
Bodley Head, 577 pp., £30, June 2016, 978 1 84792 004 1
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Martin Luther: Visionary Reformer 
by Scott H. Hendrix.
Yale, 341 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 0 300 16669 9
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... was 31 October 1517. The main actor belonged to a religious Order known as the Hermits of Saint Augustine, Martin Luther by name, though he also tried out a hybrid Greek/Latin polish for his surname by dressing it up as ‘Eleutherius’, ‘the freed man’. This kind of personal rebranding was a humanist affectation then common among university ...
... No doctor of the Church gave a more authoritative and exhaustive answer to that question than St Augustine. In his great dispute with Pelagius he argued that the Pelagian doctrine of free will was just such as might be expected to have come from a monk ill-acquainted with the world. Pelagius put forward a liberal, common-sense view of free will. To Pelagius ...

Rome’s New Mission

Diarmaid MacCulloch: Early Christianity, 2 June 2011

Christians and Pagans: The Conversion of Britain from Alban to Bede 
by Malcolm Lambert.
Yale, 329 pp., £30, September 2010, 978 0 300 11908 4
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... the population with their gene-pool and language. Was there a coherent Church left when Augustine of Canterbury arrived in 597 on his mission from Rome? The historian Rob Meens has made provocative observations on the correspondence between Augustine and his patron, Pope Gregory I, about policy in the newly ...

Joinedupwritingwithavengeance

Danny Karlin, 7 January 1993

Pause and Effect: An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West 
by M.B. Parkes.
Scolar, 327 pp., £55, September 1992, 0 85967 742 7
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... beginning to pass away) because of a revolution in the way writing was perceived. Parkes compares Augustine, for whom ‘letters were invented that we might be able to converse even with the absent,’ and who followed Aristotle in seeing written words as the ‘signs of sounds’, with Isidore of Seville, three centuries later, who, saw letters as having ...

His Father’s Children

Sissela Bok, 5 April 1984

Collected Works of John Stuart Mill. Vol. I: Autobiography and Literary Essays 
edited by John Robson and Jack Stillinger.
Toronto, 766 pp., £35, March 1982, 0 7100 0718 3
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... programmed, indelibly stamped by his father, took on new urgency. His Autobiography is as much as Augustine’s Confessions a probe into what it could mean to be himself and into what control, if any, he might have over his own life. Mill believed that character was formed by circumstances and knew the extraordinary extent to which his father had put his ...

Sexuality and Solitude

Michel Foucault and Richard Sennett, 21 May 1981

... philosopher of the third century, and the other is the well-known 14th book of The City of God by Augustine. Artemidorus wrote a book about the interpretation of dreams in the third century after the death of Christ, but he was a pagan. Three chapters of this book are devoted to sexual dreams. What is the meaning, or, more precisely, what is the prognostic ...

What’s next?

James Wood: Afterlives, 14 April 2011

After Lives: A Guide to Heaven, Hell and Purgatory 
by John Casey.
Oxford, 468 pp., £22.50, January 2010, 978 0 19 509295 0
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... who taught in Rome in the late fourth and early fifth centuries, is another. Pelagius did not like Augustine’s Pauline emphasis on our helplessness before God’s gift of salvation. Faith, Augustine said, is crucial for salvation, but faith itself is God’s free gift. ‘The choice of believing does not lie in the human ...

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