Hot Best Seller

Augustine: A New Biography

Availability: Ready to download

O'Donnell, provost at Georgetown University and editor of the definitive edition of Augustine's Confessions, is admirably qualified to chronicle the life of the man who wrote history's most famous autobiography. But in this book, suffused with the methods (though thankfully not the tortured vocabulary) of postmodern critical suspicion, the Confessions is more hindrance tha O'Donnell, provost at Georgetown University and editor of the definitive edition of Augustine's Confessions, is admirably qualified to chronicle the life of the man who wrote history's most famous autobiography. But in this book, suffused with the methods (though thankfully not the tortured vocabulary) of postmodern critical suspicion, the Confessions is more hindrance than help at seeing the "many Augustines" who have been lost behind Augustine's own self-presentation. The Augustines that O'Donnell sketches include the aspiring social climber who transferred his ambitions from society to church; the bitter and dogged polemicist; and "Don Quixote of Hippo," whose "fantasy world of earliest Christianity has come eerily to be real." O'Donnell's pace is quick, his writing is sharp and there are lively and provocative interpretations on nearly every page. But his jaundiced portrait does not quite seem to do justice to the African bishop's perennial appeal, which O'Donnell acknowledges in characteristically backhanded fashion: "Call it codependency or Stockholm syndrome at its mildest; call it religious partisanship at its most extreme, but even Augustine's severest modern critics find something attractive or fascinating about the man and his work." Readers of this book will certainly wonder why. For O'Donnell, it seems, familiarity has bred contempt.


Compare

O'Donnell, provost at Georgetown University and editor of the definitive edition of Augustine's Confessions, is admirably qualified to chronicle the life of the man who wrote history's most famous autobiography. But in this book, suffused with the methods (though thankfully not the tortured vocabulary) of postmodern critical suspicion, the Confessions is more hindrance tha O'Donnell, provost at Georgetown University and editor of the definitive edition of Augustine's Confessions, is admirably qualified to chronicle the life of the man who wrote history's most famous autobiography. But in this book, suffused with the methods (though thankfully not the tortured vocabulary) of postmodern critical suspicion, the Confessions is more hindrance than help at seeing the "many Augustines" who have been lost behind Augustine's own self-presentation. The Augustines that O'Donnell sketches include the aspiring social climber who transferred his ambitions from society to church; the bitter and dogged polemicist; and "Don Quixote of Hippo," whose "fantasy world of earliest Christianity has come eerily to be real." O'Donnell's pace is quick, his writing is sharp and there are lively and provocative interpretations on nearly every page. But his jaundiced portrait does not quite seem to do justice to the African bishop's perennial appeal, which O'Donnell acknowledges in characteristically backhanded fashion: "Call it codependency or Stockholm syndrome at its mildest; call it religious partisanship at its most extreme, but even Augustine's severest modern critics find something attractive or fascinating about the man and his work." Readers of this book will certainly wonder why. For O'Donnell, it seems, familiarity has bred contempt.

30 review for Augustine: A New Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Terence

    I can’t recommend Augustine: A New Biography to anyone who doesn’t have a good background in early Christian theology, late Roman history and at least a passing familiarity with Augustine’s more popular works – particularly The Confessions and The City of God. If, however, you can meet those criteria then O’Donnell’s book should be required reading. The author deconstructs the image of Augustine that has come down to us without denigrating the real, glimpsed through the prisms of his books, lett I can’t recommend Augustine: A New Biography to anyone who doesn’t have a good background in early Christian theology, late Roman history and at least a passing familiarity with Augustine’s more popular works – particularly The Confessions and The City of God. If, however, you can meet those criteria then O’Donnell’s book should be required reading. The author deconstructs the image of Augustine that has come down to us without denigrating the real, glimpsed through the prisms of his books, letters and sermons. This man can be vain, petty, and overly contentious, and he certainly had little sense of humor, but he was also a conscientious shepherd for his flock. Admittedly, he wasn’t a very good administrator and tended to ignore the more mundane functions of his see until corruption and scandal blew up in his face but that wasn’t because he didn’t care about the congregants. And there can be no denying that he was and remains one of the “giants” of intellectual history. No one would have predicted it at Augustine’s death in AD 430, but his theology came to define Western Christianity and all of his successors either built upon his work or had to form their theologies in response to it. Augustine was in the fortunate position of being the only Latin writer and brain of any ability of his era. He also had the advantage of not being very familiar with Greek learning (in The Confessions, the bishop recounts how little Greek he retained from his days as a student) and no exposure at all to the OT scriptures in their original Hebrew. Thus, his brilliance was largely unencumbered and innovative (though he would have been loath to admit it). For better or for worse (depending upon your philosophical leanings), Augustine’s brilliant mind was a terribly pessimistic one that often skirted the edges of Manichaean heresy (as opponents were all too eager to point out), and which often found itself backed into paradoxical corners by the logic of its positions. A case in point is the origin of the soul. Augustine considered four possibilities (p. 299): 1. God creates souls as each human being is born (or conceived). 2. God has created each soul in eternity and dispatches it to a body as it is created. 3. God has created each soul in eternity but they choose to fall into mortal bodies (the initial act of rebellion). 4. God has created a single soul of which “slices”inhabit each mortal body. None of these scenarios are without problems, and it’s a measure of Augustine’s intellectual dexterity that he managed to never adequately answer the dilemma and that support for the last two positions can be gleaned from selective readings of his work. O’Donnell describes two principles that emerge from Augustine’s ruminations (pp. 301-302): 1. God is all powerful, man is weak. The temptation of sin can theoretically be resisted but, in practice, almost never is. Salvation is a divine dispensation, and not human in origin. 2. The apparent salvation of the blessed “is not decisive.” No human can be sure that they are truly saved. As the author pithily puts it, “ wrestles with Paul’s pessimism and is decisively beaten by it” (p. 301). What, in the end, did Augustine do? O’Donnell suggests several things. First, Augustine was instrumental in making books the source of “wisdom.” This unique Western/Islamic conceit has only recently been challenged by changing technologies that have made books less central to intellectual development. (This is a thesis that is not fully developed in this book but it is intriguing.) Second, the bishop’s idea of God – a mixture of biblical and Platonic traditions – is with us still in all of the great monotheisms (Judaism, Christianity & Islam): “He may have died a hundred or more years ago, but he is with us still, the undead deity for whom the zealots of many cultures compete” (p. 329). Third, God keeps his distance from mundane politics. A view of God’s intervention in the world that will eventually give us the doctrine of church-state seperation, and no end of conflict between the secular and ecclesiastic powers of Western Europe. Fourth, religion is a “serious” endeavor, concerned with matters spiritual and sublime. Not the often sordid concerns of the here and now. Augustine would have been shocked at the tendency (at least in American churches) toward song and dance as part of a service – “Religion is solemn and serious business, arising out of the deep inner experience of some, a deep inner experience….” (p. 329). Fifth, set up the framework for Western Christianity’s struggle between its belief in freedom and the limits of that freedom (the illusion of self-control & predestination). Sixth, and last, “sex.” Not the act, of course, but the somewhat neurotic relationship Western civilization (including Islam) has with it. This is another thread of Augustinian thought that O’Donnell doesn’t spend much time with and points up what readers might find a serious flaw (or, at least, drawback) to the book and that is it doesn’t spend much time with Augustine’s works as such but rather attempts to situate the man and his words in the context of 5th century Roman Africa. At this, O’Donnell succeeds brilliantly, arguing, for example, that Augustine’s life can be seen as an attempt to enter the rarified heights of the imperial elite and failing. He even goes so far as to argue that much of the bishop’s animus toward Pelagius stemmed from the latter’s success in a similar endeavor. O’Donnell also shows how Donatism was by far the majority “flavor” of Christianity in Africa. It failed not on the merits of doctrine but because the Donatist church backed the wrong player in the internecine civil wars afflicting the empire, and the Western court came down like a ton of bricks on the (now) heretical clergy. (The author even goes so far as to suggest that the Roman church’s victory was pyrrhic in that the resentment and ill will it engendered made the later Muslim conquests all the easier.) Not a “definitive” biography and not for the general reader, Augustine: A New Biography is still a good read for the properly prepared, even if you can’t always whole-heartedly agree with its arguments.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of O'Donnell's facts, but his presentation was so off-putting that it undermined any pleasure or value this book might have had. Augustine reads like a Hollywood expose: filled with rhetorical questions, winks and nods. A lot of the Great Expert telling us what really happened, even after he admits we have no idea what really happened. You know, the inside "dirt." Maybe O'Donnell felt he had to "jazz up" his subject matter. I don't know. One shortcoming O'Do I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of O'Donnell's facts, but his presentation was so off-putting that it undermined any pleasure or value this book might have had. Augustine reads like a Hollywood expose: filled with rhetorical questions, winks and nods. A lot of the Great Expert telling us what really happened, even after he admits we have no idea what really happened. You know, the inside "dirt." Maybe O'Donnell felt he had to "jazz up" his subject matter. I don't know. One shortcoming O'Donnell couldn't overcome: his smirking disbelief of Augustine's beliefs. Such a disconnect immediately puts him at odds with Augustine's message. While a modern reader may not wish a hagiography, one would wish a bit more sympathy for the times and beliefs of those times. Oh, yes, O'Donnell carries on in great detail about who believed what, but it felt like a laboratory dissection rather than something more caring. For one who has made a career of Augustine's career, you'd expect better. Having said that, I encourage the potential reader to at least read the last chapters, especially "Augustine the Theologian." There one sees the feel and the value of O'Donnell's approach. It is hard today to have any clear picture of someone who lived 1600 years ago; doubly hard when that person has become a kind of gilded icon to one group of readers, and a demon to another. Augustine, of course, was neither.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Guy

    I read this book for the first time in galleys--the publisher shared it with me. And what I thought then I still think: this is the most remarkable book on Augustine I have ever read. And that's saying something; I teach him in a university. O'Donnell takes a man who is less a human than a literary monument, and turns him back into the brilliant, vain, anxious priest he was. The Augustine this book depicts will not win any prizes for charm, but he is much more full-blooded and real than in any o I read this book for the first time in galleys--the publisher shared it with me. And what I thought then I still think: this is the most remarkable book on Augustine I have ever read. And that's saying something; I teach him in a university. O'Donnell takes a man who is less a human than a literary monument, and turns him back into the brilliant, vain, anxious priest he was. The Augustine this book depicts will not win any prizes for charm, but he is much more full-blooded and real than in any other biography to date.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dan Snyder

    This is a helpful book for those overwhelmed (all of us) by the volume of Augustine of Hippo's writing. Many bring the African Bishop onto their side for the purpose of polemical expeditions concerning creation, soteriology, predestination and other concerns including historical theory. O'Donnell examines the developing career of the man, and ventures into intentionalism. Some interesting points include the tendency of the existentialist to 'self invent', and a superimposition of this tendency i This is a helpful book for those overwhelmed (all of us) by the volume of Augustine of Hippo's writing. Many bring the African Bishop onto their side for the purpose of polemical expeditions concerning creation, soteriology, predestination and other concerns including historical theory. O'Donnell examines the developing career of the man, and ventures into intentionalism. Some interesting points include the tendency of the existentialist to 'self invent', and a superimposition of this tendency is a surprise consideration applied to such a monument as Augustine. Augustine's repurposing of rhetoric is another story illuminated here, and there is much to think about in this stream. Rhetoric used for the purpose of consolidating belief in a world like Augustine's, where localism produced peculiarities of understanding and practice seems like the norm today where creeds apply to everything. Not always so... Finally, the bleary wondering if Augustine is relevant at all since modern science has thunk the 'soul' out of existence seems to be a queasy ad populum revelation of the author's own tendency to invent himself. I realized upon reading it that some people see Augustine as a 'self made man', and so he becomes understandable to the moderns who are largely empty fabricated people. One makes, the other are made. I do agree with O'Donnell that a good translation is necessary, since the original Latin of the master is brilliant and multivalent, forcing many translators to be more specific where the author was comprehensive.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    This is an infuriating book. For most of its pages, it’s distasteful, surprisingly mean-spirited, peppered with snarky asides, and unconvincing conjectures, radical and revisionist to the point of absurdity (Chapter VII the most egregious example). I was left to wonder whether I had ever read a biographer who had such palpable disdain for his subject. But then, in the final chapters, the tone shifted, offering keen insights into Augustine’s life, his theological views, and his long-term influenc This is an infuriating book. For most of its pages, it’s distasteful, surprisingly mean-spirited, peppered with snarky asides, and unconvincing conjectures, radical and revisionist to the point of absurdity (Chapter VII the most egregious example). I was left to wonder whether I had ever read a biographer who had such palpable disdain for his subject. But then, in the final chapters, the tone shifted, offering keen insights into Augustine’s life, his theological views, and his long-term influence on Western thought. It is as if there are two authors, one with an ax to grind against Augustine and Christianity in general, and the other with a finely nuanced understanding of human nature, faith and history. Unfortunately the latter shows up late in the book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Doug Raymond

    Fascinating history and insight into the life of an amazing thinker and writer. This is definitely not a theological book. O'Donnell takes a very detached, academic, and historical approach, but makes Augustine come to life as if he is your (eccentric) next door neighbor. Read "Augustine: A New Biography" as background and perspective for reading Augustine's own writings or other more theologically-oriented accounts. Fascinating history and insight into the life of an amazing thinker and writer. This is definitely not a theological book. O'Donnell takes a very detached, academic, and historical approach, but makes Augustine come to life as if he is your (eccentric) next door neighbor. Read "Augustine: A New Biography" as background and perspective for reading Augustine's own writings or other more theologically-oriented accounts.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jed

    Whoa! What an amazing work of scholarship and what a joy to read. Once I started reading excerpts to my partner while he was driving, I didn't know where to stop. Not a hagiography, but still leaves one with a profound respect for what Augustine accomplished. There's a hysterical comparison between Augustine and Quixote. That alone makes it worth the effot to read. Whoa! What an amazing work of scholarship and what a joy to read. Once I started reading excerpts to my partner while he was driving, I didn't know where to stop. Not a hagiography, but still leaves one with a profound respect for what Augustine accomplished. There's a hysterical comparison between Augustine and Quixote. That alone makes it worth the effot to read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    vittore paleni

    This is a "critical" biography, with a sharp emphasis on critical. In his acerbic polished prose, hardly anything of Augustine, as we have come to know him, remains from the acids of objective "explanation." O'Donnell is a virtuoso practitioner of the hermeneutics of suspicion. Augustine is never, without exception, given the benefit of doubt or taken at face value. His book, the Confessions, are subjected to thorough deconstruction, and is shown to be a master of self-fashioning to achieve his This is a "critical" biography, with a sharp emphasis on critical. In his acerbic polished prose, hardly anything of Augustine, as we have come to know him, remains from the acids of objective "explanation." O'Donnell is a virtuoso practitioner of the hermeneutics of suspicion. Augustine is never, without exception, given the benefit of doubt or taken at face value. His book, the Confessions, are subjected to thorough deconstruction, and is shown to be a master of self-fashioning to achieve his own worldly purposes. I do not mean to portray O'Donnell as a tabloid crank. He makes sensible historical judgements throughout and his footnotes and interpretations cannot be shirked-off with a wave of the hand, as he displays his mastery of the primary and secondary sources (not to mention his being the editor of the definitive 3-volume Oxford edition of the Confession, its latin text and following commentary). This volume is worthwhile, despite the unrelenting jabs, for its relentless evaluation of the Augustines readers get from the Confessions alone, or supplemented by Peter Brown's monumental biography. For this reader it made the experience of reading this biography of constant discomfort and unease (but that probably says more of my reverence of the subject matter). It is anti-hagiography at its best (or worst, depending on your angle). If this were your first biography of Augustine, I doubt you would pick up another, or anything he has written for that regard. But as a second movement, following Brown or Chadwick, it's performs a nice balancing act, one that cannot be ignored.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    James J. O’Donnell provides unique insight into the cultural history of late antiquity and life of Saint Augustine in Augustine: A New Biography. O’Donnell expands on other biographies and contemporary perceptions to deconstruct how we view Augustine by focusing on his ambitions, image, and his relative importance both during his life and now. This biography offers a close analysis of Augustine’s writings, key arguments and disputes, and the cultural environment of his life. O’Donnell’s perspect James J. O’Donnell provides unique insight into the cultural history of late antiquity and life of Saint Augustine in Augustine: A New Biography. O’Donnell expands on other biographies and contemporary perceptions to deconstruct how we view Augustine by focusing on his ambitions, image, and his relative importance both during his life and now. This biography offers a close analysis of Augustine’s writings, key arguments and disputes, and the cultural environment of his life. O’Donnell’s perspective proves useful to any historian or theologian who seeks to understand the context of Augustine’s life and writings with a dose of skepticism. Augustine: A New Biography lives up to its title of being a “New Biography” and should be included in the library of anyone who is interested in the life and influence of Saint Augustine. The book should be read, not as a sole source, but with the understanding that O’Donnell’s interpretation can provide a nuanced perspective to complement previous studies and other biographies. The frequent critical skepticism that pervades this book grew tiresome but was also useful for the author to emphasize his message. It would have been interesting to see the book expand more on the concept of Augustine’s influence on enfolding diverse religious traditions; however, the incorporation and analysis of the various cultures that both influenced and were influenced by Augustine were particularly interesting. This book is a noteworthy contribution to the study and understanding of Saint Augustine and will be satisfying to both the scholar and the casual reader.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Richey

    I do not believe that I had previously read a biography in which the author showed such disdain and contempt for his subject as O'Donnell shows for Augustine. I was not looking for a hagiography, but O'Donnell's portrait reads more like a hack job. O'Donnell pictures him as a Don Quixote fighting windmills (an image he uses at length in the book) because he does not believe in Augustine's God and does not see anything of importance in the theological issues at stake. O'Donnell clearly has an axe I do not believe that I had previously read a biography in which the author showed such disdain and contempt for his subject as O'Donnell shows for Augustine. I was not looking for a hagiography, but O'Donnell's portrait reads more like a hack job. O'Donnell pictures him as a Don Quixote fighting windmills (an image he uses at length in the book) because he does not believe in Augustine's God and does not see anything of importance in the theological issues at stake. O'Donnell clearly has an axe to grind with the Christian faith and this makes large portions of this book almost unreadable. His approach to the Confessions is to try and get to what Augustine did not confess; looking for the worst of ulterior motives that he can conjure up. I do not doubt the scholarship of this work and there were some sections that were helpful in understanding Augustine's life and his thought. I would also credit the author with writing well with an engaging style. Overall, however, the author's unveiled contempt for Augustine and his God made this read a less than enjoyable one and made it difficult to see the author as a fair commentator on his life and works. I gave it two stars because it has some value, but it deserves less.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Kukwa

    This irritated me beyond all reason. I can't stand the thematic organization, the endless stage of characters I couldn't keep trach of, and the confusion about whether or not this is a biography or a psycho-analysis or a philosophical reflection. There is a staggering amount of research and information present, and many diamonds to find...but you have to swim through an endless sea of peanut butter in order to find them. This irritated me beyond all reason. I can't stand the thematic organization, the endless stage of characters I couldn't keep trach of, and the confusion about whether or not this is a biography or a psycho-analysis or a philosophical reflection. There is a staggering amount of research and information present, and many diamonds to find...but you have to swim through an endless sea of peanut butter in order to find them.

  12. 5 out of 5

    James Shearer

    Augustine...a must read Not just a biography, more lesson in CHRISTIAN history. The authors thought provoking commentary, whether you agree or not, is the most valuable component of this book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Reza Nasirzadeh

    Good

  14. 4 out of 5

    Derek Shouba

    I adored this book because it’s so much more than a simple biography. It’s a thesis about the origins of Christianity and the nature of late antiquity. It’s also relentlessly clever and erudite and original. I love St. Augustine, and guess the author does too, but it’s wonderful to see the often self-fashioned mythology of the man get systematically dismantled.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michael Hitchcock

    We are, each one of us, multiple people. As we move through time and space, in different situations, and in different company we change. In each of us is a multitude of us's. And why should St. Augustine be any different? We are, each one of us, an individual. There are changes over time and different aspects of us become more prominent in different situations, but what is essential about each of us never changes. An eternal I. And why should Aurelius Augistinus son of Patricius of Hippo Regius b We are, each one of us, multiple people. As we move through time and space, in different situations, and in different company we change. In each of us is a multitude of us's. And why should St. Augustine be any different? We are, each one of us, an individual. There are changes over time and different aspects of us become more prominent in different situations, but what is essential about each of us never changes. An eternal I. And why should Aurelius Augistinus son of Patricius of Hippo Regius be any different? Both contradictory views are true at once in all people in all times, but one further paradox about humans nature is always in play: Though we know this about people, we, all of us, have a tendency to take the first aspect of a person, and assume we have grasped their essential nature. Augustine made his life work the understanding of himself and his world through his God. In his Confessions, in which he basically invents the idea of autobiography, he shares that work with everyone, hoping that, by his example, he can bring many people back to the one and only true God, where they belong. His Autobiography was so widely read and translated and shared and talked about- passed down over the generations, and so very influential, that the Augustine Augustine wrote about is still the Augustine we know today. As is so often the case, by having had the first word, Augustine also has the last word. For the first few chapters of O'Donnell's book, I wondered why he seemed to hate Augustine- why he wanted to tear him down so much. I mean, the first chapter calls him a "social climber" and paints a very unflattering picture of him. But what is important to remember when reading this biography is, "that's true too." Think of how it is to speak to a friend about a mutual friend who annoyed you. You both have that history and context to know you are talking about someone you love and admire. But if you were to have an eavesdropper, they, too, would think you were speaking about an enemy. That is what this biography is- it is one friend of Augustine telling another friend about some of the annoying, shocking, or terrible things Augustine did or said. If you refrain from judgement and continue to read- the author comes back to that essential eternal Augustine we know from his books, and we are richer for having gone that way. All of this, and yet, a great man. This biography paints Augustine's time as alive and full of conflicts and important intellectual movements that would be meaningless to us now without the author's guidence. O'Donnell does a wonderful job making the times and place accessible to us, these 1,600 something years removed, and in knowing the times and place better, we can know the man. After establishing the time and place, and the important ideas of the time- as Augustine was a man of ideas, and then tearing down Augustine's legend some, O'Donnell, builds him up again, this time as a real human being, with facets and layers, far more and less at once than his legend and his autobiography have made him out to be.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    Writing a biography about Augustine, whose massive literary output essentially provides the backbone behind Christian (regardless of denomination) dogma, is a daunting task. Augustine has become mythologized himself, making the writing of a biography sure to be offensive to some people. That said, O'Donnell clearly is a scholar of Augustine the material and Augustine the man. The understanding of Augustine's influence is NOT the purpose of this biography. For that, readers would be much better s Writing a biography about Augustine, whose massive literary output essentially provides the backbone behind Christian (regardless of denomination) dogma, is a daunting task. Augustine has become mythologized himself, making the writing of a biography sure to be offensive to some people. That said, O'Donnell clearly is a scholar of Augustine the material and Augustine the man. The understanding of Augustine's influence is NOT the purpose of this biography. For that, readers would be much better served will Pelikan's magisterial history of the development of Christian doctrine. O'Donnell's purpose is Augustine the man, his motivations and actions, in the context of the world in which he lived. In this goal, O'Donnell has very successfully succeeded in his goal. O'Donnell paints Augustine as a would-be philosopher in the classic Greek model. Living the life of a provincial noble, his actions were less than admirable. He fell in with a fairly kindred spirit in Ambrose during his travels, and becomes attached as the Bishop of Hippo in North Africa due to a deathbed bestowal of that office. These are events that Augustine is clearly not in control of, but is clearly influenced by. Augustine loved to write, and this gives us his greatest gifts. He went picking fights and public discourses, first with the majority Donatists (ultimately winning the day for the Caecilianists), then with Pelagius, and then Julien. He harassed Jerome into a correspondence, aimed at getting his name more publicity in the finest political sense. All of these actions allow O'Donnell to easily paint Augustine as an ambitious social climber. Theologically, O'Donnell paints Augustine as an extremist, who never really threw off the shackles of his Manichean past. In this, O'Donnell lands a few fair punches, but his opinion, I don't think, would be shared by the mainstream of today precisely because Augustine's thought has been so ingrained in Christian thought that it is largely still mainstream. Despite the sometimes hostile attitude that O'Donnell takes towards Augustine, the biography is a very worthy read to anyone wishing to get a different perspective on Augustine the man. I learned much from this biography despite having read much about Augustine already.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Paul Moyer

    Got me on the edge of my seat, moreso than a Cowboys game! Really. Honest. Revises and opens up much about the life of this beloved putz, one of my faves, who seems to become closer to me as the years pass. It incorporates the newly discovered sermons and letters much more effectively than Peter Brown's recent re-vamp of his flawed yet still classic "Augustine of Hippo." O'Donnell has a deft touch of style and of scholarship. It manages to critically interrogate and profoundly respect the self wh Got me on the edge of my seat, moreso than a Cowboys game! Really. Honest. Revises and opens up much about the life of this beloved putz, one of my faves, who seems to become closer to me as the years pass. It incorporates the newly discovered sermons and letters much more effectively than Peter Brown's recent re-vamp of his flawed yet still classic "Augustine of Hippo." O'Donnell has a deft touch of style and of scholarship. It manages to critically interrogate and profoundly respect the self which Augustine at turns lays bare, conceals, and invents as if he were somehow in the very dark of the room with us and 16 centuries distant in the same instant. A big part of me still wants to be St. Augustine when I grow up. Except for maybe the part about being on my deathbed as my city is being beseiged by Vandals... ...but then again that does sound pretty cool... ...and the way things are going these days...

  18. 5 out of 5

    John Laliberte

    I wasn't sure whether to call this a non-fiction or theology book? Quite interesting in several ways (background, relationships Augustine had, his theology and theological concepts that formed much of what we call Christian and Catholic) and was a times dense and overly wordy (odd coming from me!) In some parts the book was really hard to follow - what was the point of that section? But in others, it was brilliant, insightful and even witty. Augustine has always been an intriguing historical figu I wasn't sure whether to call this a non-fiction or theology book? Quite interesting in several ways (background, relationships Augustine had, his theology and theological concepts that formed much of what we call Christian and Catholic) and was a times dense and overly wordy (odd coming from me!) In some parts the book was really hard to follow - what was the point of that section? But in others, it was brilliant, insightful and even witty. Augustine has always been an intriguing historical figure. This book has open new insights into the man, his life, and his relationships - all of them providing insights into what he wrote. And write he did. Can you imagine dictating and scribes wrote on papaya scrolls an equivalent of 300 pages of printed material (by today's standards) every year for almost 40 years!? Amazing. I recommend it. But, don't try to read it in bed...

  19. 5 out of 5

    Eddie Weingart

    This was a little thick for me, and I'm quite a theology buff. However, it was quite gripping and gave me a new understanding of Augustine as well as answers to several unanswered questions. Would definitely recommend to anyone with an open mind and a passionate interest in early Christian history and theology. This was a little thick for me, and I'm quite a theology buff. However, it was quite gripping and gave me a new understanding of Augustine as well as answers to several unanswered questions. Would definitely recommend to anyone with an open mind and a passionate interest in early Christian history and theology.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Adam D.

    This book reads like an anti-Augustine polemic. The author wants to be sure the reader dislikes the main character, and, in doing so, fails to tell a story or argue any particular point. If you want to learn about Augustine's life, this is the wrong book. This book reads like an anti-Augustine polemic. The author wants to be sure the reader dislikes the main character, and, in doing so, fails to tell a story or argue any particular point. If you want to learn about Augustine's life, this is the wrong book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Mason-D'croz

    A pretty interesting book exploring the life and legend of Augustine. It is quite educational though often the narrative of the biography is not super compelling, which can make it a bit boring at times. Nevertheless, it is a good book for those who are interested in the history of western culture

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nathanial

    Favorite quote: "We don't laugh enough at Augustine." Favorite emphases: Augustine's contemporary culture of late-antiquity, and continued (mis)readings of his self-constructed persona(e). Favorite quote: "We don't laugh enough at Augustine." Favorite emphases: Augustine's contemporary culture of late-antiquity, and continued (mis)readings of his self-constructed persona(e).

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gaetano

    Outstanding.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    Suffered through this one. Not very interesting or great.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dolores Despiau

    The enormous influence this Saint has had on western society.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Frank Spencer

    By a former president of the American Philological Association - the other APA.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Hiromi

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sonia Wilson

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mark Reid

  30. 5 out of 5

    Paul Møyer

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...