Je n'aime pas dans les vieux films américains quand les conducteurs ne regardent pas la route. Et de ratage en ratage, on s'habitue à ne jamais dépasser le stade du brouillon. La vie n'est que l'interminable répétition d'une représentation qui n'aura jamais lieu.

Confessions (1838) - Augustine, E.B. Pusey

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.

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