Confessions – St Augustine


Confessions – St Augustine
Translated by Benignus O’Rourke
Darton Longman & Todd – £12.99

Yet, I chose to steal.
I stole, not because of poverty or need,
unless the lack of a sense of justice
counts as a need.
I stole because I was bored of doing right,
and had a greedy love of doing wrong.
For the things I stole I already had in plenty,
and were of better quality.
I had no desire to enjoy what I stole.
What I wanted to enjoy was the actual stealing,
and the sin itself.

‘Bored Of Doing Right’

It’s not often one reads such hyper-honesty as that pronounced, or should I say, confessed above; especially the line: ”I stole because I was bored of doing right/and had a greedy love of doing wrong.”

Indeed, who in their right mind would to admit to such subliminal darkness? Other than the likes of Jack Nicholson and perhaps Johnny Cash, there aren’t many who would confide such reflective openness.

There again, St Augustine wasn’t of the sort you’d stumble across everyday, which is what partially accounts for Confessions being as disturbing yet as vibrant as it is; of which this particular rendition, published by Darton Longman & Todd, rally does need to be looked into. In the words of the author of Into The Silent Land, Martin Laird, this is ”a daringly original contribution to the history of English translations of Confessions.”

And one can understand why.

According to many, not only is the latter ”a canticle to God and full of psychological insights which might have been written yesterday, the Confessions is ”the story of a soul, and also the story of God and how he is constantly at work seeking us.”

For me personally, it’s the underlying meaning and varying text(s) to which I am fundamentally drawn, because it is nigh impossible to open almost any of these 394 pages (excluding the Foreword by Laird, Introduction and Notes) and not be touched in some literal or theological way:

Now that I had begun to understand
that what is incorruptible
is better than what is corruptible,
I tried to explore further

‘The Highest and Most Perfect Good’

So I joined a group of men who,
though calling themselves philosophers,
were mainly slick talkers,
very sensual and proud to the point of madness.

‘Closer To Me Than I Was To Myself’

Do the last two lines not sound resoundingly familiar? Do they not resonate with all the trajectory a charade of middle management at a marketing convention?
Either way, Confessions makes for top-notch, provocative and enlightened reading.

As if you didn’t already know!

David Marx


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