I previously read a translation of Augustine’s ground-breaking auto-biography/theological treatise from 1961 by R.S. Pine-Coffin. I said at the time that I thought I’d pick up another one at some point and I’ve finally gotten around to it. This translation is over a hundred years older than Pine-Coffin’s and it shows in ways both good and bad. The language here is a lot more poetic and is pretty clearly written to mimic the style of the King James Bible. Pine-Coffin’s version was shooting for a more modern vernacular with equally mixed results. Pine-Coffin’s version was sometimes a lot more visceral than Pusey’s version, as in the section about Augustine’s conversion, but it was also frequently pretty stilted. Pusey’s version is, on the whole, a lot more beautiful and, ironically, an easier read, but it does lose some of its emotional intensity. I think these are perfect examples of why you should read multiple translations of a work; they’re very different and complementary in some interesting ways. Pusey brings a more graceful and beautiful prose, but Pine-Coffin ratchets up the intensity. As to the work itself, I’ve talked about it before and my reaction here is much the same: it’s compelling as both a story and a character study, but it could use some tightening. I’m giving this one exactly the rating I gave Pine-Coffin’s translation, but for different reasons. Oh, by the way, is there some rule about only people with silly names being allowed to translate Augustine? First, we had a Pine-Coffin and now we have something that might show up in a diss track: E.B. Pusey. Weird. I look forward to I.M. Gay’s translation. 3 stars.
tl;dr – older translation of Augustine’s compelling text is more poetic than some, but it also loses some of the immediacy of new translations. 3 stars.