Saint Augustine of Hippo, Author, Of Hippo Augustine, Author, Garry Wills, Translator . Viking $23.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-670-03127-6

In this second volume of The Confessions ("Confessiones") of St. Augustine, the author of Papal Sin continues his work of translating one of Christianity's great classics. Augustine of Hippo, whose conversion is often credited to the prayers of his saintly mother, Monica, wrote The Confessions at mid-life in the form of a conversation with God. Memory includes Book 10, which Wills considers a key to the work's other 12 books in that it links Augustine's accounts of his life before and after his baptism in 387 A.D. He also has added Book 11, in which Augustine reflects on time. Wills's translations are very readable, though they occasionally lose the poetic beauty of earlier versions. For example, Augustine's famous lament, rendered in Sheed's 1943 familiar translation as "Late have I loved Thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new; late have I loved Thee!" emerges in Wills's work as "Slow was I, Lord, too slow in loving you. To you, earliest and latest beauty, I was slow in love." Also, in Augustine's meditation on the flesh's urges, Wills uses "alcoholism" to describe what others have translated as "drunkenness," a debatable point since even those who do not suffer from the disease of alcoholism can be guilty of excessive drinking. Because such revisions breathe new life into the Confessions, Wills's work may attract additional readers to Augustine. Purists, however, will prefer Sheed's and others' more classic translations to this contemporary update. (Nov. 11)

Forecast:Fresh from his successful autobiographical apologia Why I Am a Catholic (#5 on PW's September Religion Bestsellers list), Wills's name is a powerful draw, even for a scholarly work such as this.

Reviewed on: 10/28/2002
Release date: 12/01/2002
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