In the introduction to her analysis of Shakespeare’s plays, scholar Marjorie Garber writes that “what is often described as the timelessness of Shakespeare…is perhaps better understood as an uncanny timeliness, a capacity to speak directly to circumstances the playwright could not have anticipated or foreseen.”1
Of all the ancient authors whose works have come down to us, perhaps none fits this description so well as Augustine. His Confessions depict a civilization and personages that seem immediately recognizable to us. From his religiously indifferent father to, to his pious mother not above prioritizing ambition for her son over Biblical teaching, to Augustine himself, a brilliant intellectual torn between lust and spiritual yearning, we feel that at, at various times in our lives, we have known modern equivalents of Augustine and his parents.
In the Confessions, written in his early 40s, Augustine tells us the story of his life from boyhood to his conversion at age 31. Readers interested in ancient history will find a vivid picture of life in the North African provinces during the final decades of the Roman Empire. Far more important, however, is Augustine’s examination of the spiritual meaning behind even seemingly insignificant events, such as the famous theft of pears from a neighbor’s tree by a mischievous boy Augustine and his fellow miscreants. Above all, and the explanation for its continuous impact on Christian readers since its publication in 400, the Confessions illustrates, through Augustine’s own life, the truth of the author’s words to God near the beginning of the book: “In yourself you rouse us, giving us delight in glorifying you, because you made us with yourself as our goal, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”2
On Friday, October 27 at noon, the Library Book Club begins its fifteenth season with a discussion of this essential work for all Christians. It is not necessary to complete the book to participate, and both Audible and Hoopla have free audiobook options for listening. For the complete schedule and link to register for in-person or video participation, see the Library Book Club homepage.
1Marjorie B. Garber, Shakespeare after All. (New York: Pantheon Books, 2004), 3.
2Augustine, Confessions, trans. Sarah Ruden (New York: Modern Library, 2017), 3.