Widely regarded as the first modern autobiography, The Confessions is an astonishing work of acute psychological insight. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) argued passionately against the inequality he believed to be intrinsic to civilized society. In his Confessions he relives the first fifty-three years of his radical life with vivid immediacy - from his earliest years, where we can see the source of his belief in the innocence of childhood, through the development of his philosophical and political ideas, his struggle against the French authorities and exile from France following the publication of Emile. Depicting a life of adventure, persecution, paranoia, and brilliant achievement, The Confessions is a landmark work by one of the greatest thinkers of the Enlightenment, which was a direct influence upon the work of Proust, Goethe and Tolstoy among others.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Part I of Rousseau's "Confessions" is one of the greatest autobiographies I've read with the author plumbing the depths of his soul to recount his deepest desires, loves, emotions and disappointments. Unfortunately, I thought that much of Part II disintegrates into a mere gossipy retelling of his alienation from his friends and society and doesn't have the same force as the first part. I continue to think that Nabokov's "Speak Memory" is the greatest autobiography ever written (and I'm quite sure that he was inspired by Rousseau) but "Confessions" is a very close second. Incidentally, my other favorite autobiographies include:
Stefan Zweig, The World of Yesterday Elias Canetti, The Tongue Set Free Walter Benjamin, Berlin Childhood Around 1900 Abbie Hoffman, Soon to be a Major Motion Picture Edward Said, Out of Place Andre Aciman, Out of Egypt
The Confessions will not appeal to everyone, but if you are like me who likes to temper my everyday reading with history and historical figures you will do well to tackle this one by the great Jean-Jacques Rousseau. I say "tackle" because it is quite a formidable size and took me some weeks to complete, and I at some stage almost gave up! However I am glad I persevered because I can now claim to know something of this man and more importantly, something of this period. Published after Rousseau died, it was, like all of his works, written in the eighteenth century so it is a little difficult to grasp the vernacular of that period to begin with but once accustomed to the idiom it sings along and regardless of your opinion you DO get to know him with all his foibles. I liked him. I think he was a gentle genius albeit a little paranoid at times and certainly not always "timid of heart" as he continually professes to be. The upper echelons of...
This book is a revelation as it seemed to me a portrait, or perhaps a mask, of the heightened sensibilities of the interior monologue of a genius. "Since my name is certain to live on among men, I do not want the reputation it transmits to be a false one." Indeed, his honesty is remarkable as he writes about the abandonment of his children, his relationship with lovers and his intimate proclivities. Rousseau's life was a fascinating study of an extraordinary and innovative mind. He dined "sometime with princes at noon and supped with peasants at night." Musically self-taught, he invented an alphabetical code for writing music and wrote an opera performed with it in "The Village Soothsayer." His "Social Contract" inspired constitutions in nations struggling with revolution against monarchies to become democracies which earned him threats of sedition and cruel acts of political scorn. His books were burned, the church sought to excommunicate him, his house was stoned and he escaped in...
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