A Monk's Confession is the first completely new English translation of Guibert of Nogent's remarkable memoirs in over seventy years. Written around the year 1115, they offer an unparalleled look at the life of a monk in the Middle Ages. Guibert, who lived his entire life in northern France, called these memoirs his book of monodiae, or solitary songs. Many scholars consider them the first Latin autobiography in the West after Augustine's Confessions. Readers will be stirred and surprised by Guibert's intense preoccupation with the sinfulness of his soul, his visions of demons and necromancy, and his frank struggle to come to terms with his sexuality. But Guibert is also a valuable witness to his age. In addition to his personal history, his memoirs give a brief chronicle of the abbey of Nogent--where he served as abbot for some twenty years--and a vivid account of the bloody uprising of the Laon Commune in 1112. His observations give precious insight into education, monastic life, and the beginnings of the great medieval towns.Paul J. Archambault's translation successfully renders Guibert's Latin--at times stylish, at times rustic--into lively, modern English. He consulted Edmond-Rene Labande's authoritative 1981 Latin edition with French translation. He provides a complete introduction and annotation that help situate Guibert within the history and literature of the Middle Ages while permitting readers to judge for themselves how to interpret this fascinating voice from the past. ... Read more
Customer Reviews (1)
Memoirs of a Monk along with Local French History
Guibert (born 1055, died 1125)was born a noble, but followed his mother's lead in abandoning his wealth.He joined a monestary and excelled in his studies, dedication to the Christian faith, and in politics, so that he rose through the ranks and was appointed to run a monestary at Nogent, France.Paul Archambault, the translator and editor, is a professor of French at Syracuse University.
Guibert's "Confessions" is divided into three parts. In the first part, he tells the story of his life--the low character of his father, the goodness and saintliness of his mother, a harsh education under a beloved tutor, the hedonistic lifestyle he lead after his tutor left to join the monestary, his own decision to join the monestary, his work as a monk, and his eventual election to run the Monestary at Nogent.Part one ends with several stories of divine punishment (through lightning, etc.) of sinful monks.
The second part of the book is the shortest and concerns itself with the history of the Monestary at Nogent.Like the previous division, this section ends with anecdotes concerning divine punishment for sinners.
The third division of the book is a lengthy account of the Laon serf's revolt from Guibert himself, a man who lived in the area and was personally aquainted with the principals of this revolt.He gives first-hand testimony of and second-hand accounts of the characters involved in this revolt including Enguerrand de Boves, Saint Anselm, Biship Gaudry, and Gerard de Quiezry.He knows the political intrigues, who hates/is allied with who, and the secret motivations of powerful persons.It makes for an interesting historical read.Guibert follows his established pattern as he finishes this book citing examples of divine judgment for various sins.
Guibert of Nogent's book is an important contribution to both French political history in the 1000s and 1100s as well as ecclesiastical history.Guibert gives important details about French politics (including the role of bribery) and the mechanics of revolutionary riots.This book is also useful for one who wants to grow in their knowledge of the Church.Guibert shows how one might join a monestary, what monks actually did, how they rise in influence, and how that influence might be wielded.Most intersting of all, the reader can see the degree to which church politics influences state politics and vice versa.
Paul Archambault has translated this book from its original Latin.I'm not in a position to critique the accuracy of his translation, but since the previous (1970) edition contained many archaic words (thou, thee), this readable translation is appreciated.Archambault's footnotes (which give brief biographies of people Guibert mentions, defends difficult translations, cites Bible references, and gives other general information) was very helpful to this reader.His 40-page introduction clued this reader into themes, set the historical scene, and gave a personality sketch of Guibert of Nogent himself.
In all, this is a recommended book for those interested in this period of European or Ecclesiastical history.
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