The truth about St Augustine's sex drive

Augustine’s Confessions: A Biography, Garry Wills, Princeton University Press/Footprint Books, HB, 174pp, $29.95

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison: A Biography, Martin E. Marty, Princeton University Press/Footprint Books, HB, 287pp, $38.95

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St Augustine’s classic text, Confessions, written at the end of the fourth century, is presented by Garry Wills, a bestselling author of several books on religion and on American history, including the Pultizer Prize-winning Lincoln at Gettysburg. He has also written a biography of Augustine and published a new translation of the Confessions.

Wills challenges many of the dominant views erroneously held about the Confessions, such as Augustine being a terrible sinner before his conversion, that he was obsessed with sex, and fixated on his mother.

The final chapter of Wills’s book is devoted to ‘The Book’s Afterlife’ and traces its reception and interpretation over time. Briefly, while it was important when first published, the Confessions was less significant than many of Augustine’s other works until the Romantic era, when it was embraced among the great autobiographical writings then in vogue. Wills considers this a misunderstanding of its true genre.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor in Germany who was imprisoned and executed for his role in a plot to kill Hitler. His posthumously published collection, Letters and Papers from Prison, was one of the most influential religious texts of the 20th century, among Christians ranging from Catholics to evangelicals, and even among anti-apartheid campaigners and Marxists. Former prime minister Kevin Rudd has spoken and written about how important Bonhoeffer has been for his own beliefs regarding politics and religion.

The study is the work of Martin E. Marty, professor emeritus of religious history at the University of Chicago, whose more than 50 books include The Christian World: A Global History.

FULL REVIEW: Augustine's Confessions: A Biography & Dietrich Bonheoffer's Letters and Papers from Prison: A biography (Kevin Mark / Kairos Catholic Journal)


Augustine’s Magical Decade (Gary Wills / New York Review of Books)

Augustine's Confessions by Garry Wills (Facebook)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (English home page)

Martin E. Marty Home Page

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