Confessions of Augustine - Sarah Ruden Translation

Sarah Ruden's 2017 translation of St Augustine's The Confessions is delightfully colloquial and precise, modern and meticulous. It's a showcase for what she describes as Augustine's paradoxical self-deprecation: "His purpose is always to show human worthlessness extravagantly blessed with gifts from God .... It's necessary, in this schema, for the author to denigrate his own expressive genius even as he parades it, and he makes this reversal many times with considerable wit and charm."

In her Introduction Rudin explains her key linguistic and stylistic decisions, including the word "Master" rather than "Lord" for Dominus, and "Slave" rather than a gentler term for Servus. She notes, "This imagery, with its reminders of American plantation slavery, may be harsh and off-putting, but a translator must govern her distaste and try to make her author's thought and experience as vivid and sympathetic as it plainly was to his contemporaries. Otherwise there can be no limits to the demands of a condescending, manipulative, and anachronistic political correctness." Likewise Rudin notes with honesty:

As a partly folksy, sometimes smirking writer—or just as a man of his time—Augustine sometimes commits himself where his translators have wished he wouldn't, and this has led them to gloss over what he does plainly express. He speaks, for instance, contemptuously of women as women .... And Augustine really does talk about the embarrassment of nocturnal emissions for a man called to celibacy (book 10, chapter 41). He can't have meant his readers in any language to chew a fingernail and ask, "Could he be saying—that?" Yes, he's saying it. But I would have had trouble picking this up from even the best current translations on their own.

Ruden herself is Augustinian in her lithe footnote-asides, with gems such as:

Augustine shines via Ruden's words. Confessions – or more accurately, as she notes, Testimonies – is thoughtful, humorous, and moving in its celebration of God's timelessness and perfection, despite humanity's sinfulness and fallibility. Yes, sometimes it's over-the-top, quibbling, doctrinaire. But overall Augustine's public prayer is a showcase for the Universe's beauty and the eternal truth of love.

(cf Bearing Witness (2002-01-17), Unsystematic Theology (2002-03-15), Kenosis (2008-09-21), O (2012-12-24), Help, Thanks, Wow (2013-02-25), ...) - ^z - 2021-09-23