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Jonathan Radcliffe (Australian National University)
Kojin Karatani’s Isonomia and the Origins of Philosophy
Karatani is a kind of heretical Marxist – and a very interesting one at that. He rereads economic history not as a series of developmental stages, but as four “modes” that occur and recur: gift economies, state formation, capitalism and a strange, rare “mode d”, which he associates with settler cultures. Examples of this “mode d” include ancient Ionia prior to the Persian conquest, mediaeval Iceland and settler America. In this short book Karatani concentrates upon Ionia and the pre-Socratics in a sort of bizarre extension of Deleuze and Guattari’s idea that early Greece was stateless and this is reflected in a hidden anarchist strain in Greek philosophy. Perhaps the whole theory is a little fantastical and lacking a bit of evidence, but it’s worth it just for the originality.
Peter Sloterdijk’s Not Saved: Essays After Heidegger
In recent years German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk’s books have finally been making the migration into English. Not Saved is a collection of some of his most challenging, provocative and thoughtful work. Most of this was written in the late 1990s, just before beginning his enormous three volume Spheres project. Some of the material included such as “Rules for the Human Park” and “Wounded by Machines” provoked a public outcry and debate in Germany twenty years ago. Sloterdijk doesn’t mince his words. He considers the understandings of technology expounded by the German Critical Theory tradition and Heidegger to lead to a hopeless Gnostic miserablism. He even goes as far as to claim that humanism and liberal education are entirely dead. He turns away from Being back to beings and attempts an optimistic embrace of phenomena such as transhumanism as a replacement for humanism. Plato’s Republic and its Guardian class are exhumed, but now as STEM technocrats shepherding human beings towards excellence. Expect to be shocked but enlightened by a very unique thinker.
D. E. Harding’s The Hierarchy of Heaven and Earth
This is an older book, one that was much praised by C.S Lewis for its efforts to try to reassemble a Christian cosmological experience for the twentieth century. Harding takes the reader on an incredible journey from the human body to the universe, convinced that the main cause of modern nihilism is a cosmological disconnect between the micro- and macro- levels of the world we dwell in. There are a lot of fascinating insights in here, from the contemporary remnants of the old angelic hierarchies to perhaps his most thought-provoking realisation of all: that there is a “law of the conservation of mana.” If cosmic hierarchies break down, then the immanent cannot help but become flushed with magic. Perhaps Harding has the start of an antidote to all the panpsychism, “new materialism” and vitalism that twenty-first century philosophy increasingly seems to be infested with. Definitely worth several reads.
Yuk Hui attempts to do for Chinese philosophy what Heidegger did for Western thought concerning the “forgetting of Being.” We are presented with a history of the relationship between the concepts of Qi and Tao and how, in Chinese attempts to copy the West since the nineteenth century, both have simply slid into technological and scientific power. Much of what Yuk Hui talks about is “cosmotechnics” – how technology is integrated into or alienated from the image of the world we live in. This is a very erudite book, but also extremely easy and fulfilling to read. I bought it online when I was just about to move house and had to have it sent to a friend’s address. He read it and didn’t want to give it back!
Giorgio Agamben’s The Kingdom and the Glory
Giorgio Agamben is perhaps the most prominent contemporary exponent of the history of “political theology” announced by Carl Schmitt. In this book Agamben traces the history of the term oikonomia, from the Aristotelian science of managing the house, through the church fathers’ use of it to mean the organisation of the trinity, down to mediaeval rulership and finally the birth of the modern “economy”. Sometimes dense, but very insightful. Much more work could be done on this topic.
Roberto Esposito’s Communitas
What does community mean? In this unique text Italian thinker Roberto Esposito goes back to the word’s root – that of munus – or the obligatory gift. Human societies, so he claims, develop strategies of immunitas, dispensation from having to give, because a totalising obligation to everyone would be impossible and stifling. Armed with this, Esposito then leads us through readings of some of the most influential thinkers of modernity, from Hobbes and Rousseau to Heidegger, Schmitt and finally Georges Bataille. Some of his observations are fascinating. The follow-up to this book, Immunitas, is also very much worth reading.
Jean-Pierre Dupuy’s Economy and the Future
Dupuy is a leading populariser and developer of the ideas of the anthropologist Rene Girard. In Economy and the Future he looks closely at contemporary liberal attitudes to economics and their theological underpinnings. No stone is left unturned, from Hayek’s “rational actor” and the inability of competitive human beings to find the free market economy “fair”, to a reinvestigation of Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. The latter is particularly interesting. Dupuy repurposes the argument as a more general metaphor for the dissonance between the idea that the market will simply solve social problems of its own accord, and the idea that one must work for one’s “salvation”.
Wayne Cristaudo (Charles Darwin University)
I unhesitatingly recommend Martin Malia’s Soviet Tragedy, Russia under Western Eyes, and History’s Locomotives. They are brilliant analyses of how bad ideas create living hells. No one reading Malia can accept the myth that Marx can be salvaged after the Soviet experience.
Ewan Mawdsley provides a compelling account in The Russian Civil War drawing out the complex array of forces involved and their respective reasons. Again, it is a nail in the coffin for the simplistic mythology that it was the good socialists versus the bad autocrats.
I have also been rereading Oakeshott’s Rationalism in Politics. It is a book that all students off political science should read, especially in a time where ‘rationalism’ and hence inexperience infects so much of what passes itself off today for political comment/thought.
For those unfamiliar with the novelist and journalist Joseph Roth, read his The AntiChrist, What I Saw: Reports from Berlin 1920-1933, and Joseph Roth: A Life in Letters. They all chronicle a world about to enter hell. He was an uncanny observer of the blindness around him.
Richard Avramenko (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy
A first-person look into the world that turned away from their labor roots and voted for Trump and the Republicans
Philip Hamburger’s The Administrative Threat
A simple explanation of what’s wrong with the deep state, i.e., what Trump voters voted against.
Mark Lilla’s The Once of Future Liberal
An appraisal of the Trump victory by a liberal.
Brendan Purcell (University of Notre Dame, Australia)
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s March 1917: Book 1: riveting account of political dystrophy, particularly of cultural and political elites, works as a diagnosis of equivalent contemporary dystrophies in U.S., Western European, and Australian societies.
John McNerney’s Wealth of Persons: Economics with a Human Face: a thorough exploration of an economics grounded in the human person, by an author drawing on Voegelin, Lonergan, economists of the Austrian and Bologna schools of economics, and contemporary Christian applications of the Gospel to an “economy of communion.”
Jonathan Allen’s & Amie Parnes’ Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign: a sustained working out of one of Voegelin’s favorite categories, Apperzeptionsverweigerung, the refusal to perceive reality—of the candidate’s own self, of the campaign’s disconnect with Evangelicals’ and practising Catholics’ non-negotiable values of religious freedom and pro-life issues, and of the suffering of the U.S. white working class.
Jessica Hooten Wilson (John Brown University)
A couple of novels that I’d recommend for Christmas reading:
George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo
Get the Audible book because the novel reads like a Shakespearean drama. It takes place during the time of Lincoln’s presidency, when he lost his son. The story occurs among dead souls in the bardo, the Eastern version of limbo, where people have not moved on to the afterlife. It explores what it means to be human, the purpose of life, and makes one think about the decisions we make and their eternal consequences. And, it’s hilarious!
Eugene Vodolazkin’s Laurus
This book will outlive us all. It is a story of a holy fool in medieval Russia. Recently I heard Russell Moore advise us, “We should constantly be asking ourselves what has become normal to us that is abnormal in a Gospel context?” This book asks that question by overturning all our normal assumptions and showing a life lived by Gospel truth.
One book of literary criticism worth a read:
Michael Bruner’s Flannery O’Connor’s Subversive Gospel
After studying O’Connor for a decade or more and writing my own book on her, I consider myself well versed in this scholarship: this is the best book that I’ve read on O’Connor. It explains the heart of her work and why it matters and is written in a style accessible to those outside of the academy. I highly recommend this book.
Lee Trepanier (Saginaw Valley State University)
J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy
A starling and insightful account of poor white America: its dysfunctional culture, the lack of economic opportunity, and how one person was able to escape it to go onto Yale Law School, only to learn what a different world it is compared to Kentucky and Ohio.
Paul Beatty’s The Sell-Out
“Who am I? And how may I become myself?” is the theme of this satirical novel of an African-American who attempts to reclaim his town of Dickens in southern California by reinstituting slavery and segregation. A gem to read with satire and irony packed in each sentence as Dickens tries to get back onto the map.
Michel Houellebecq’s Submission
Hilarious and simultaneously frightening, this novel imagines what would happen to France if a Muslim were elected president in the near future. Less an indictment against Islam, Submission condemns the moral and spiritual emptiness of a secular West in depictions that seem all-too-familiar and a future that could be possible.
Tilo Schabert (Erlangen University)
Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone
J.G. Farrell’s The Siege of Kirshnapur
Eno Trimҫev (Greifswald University)
Daniel Mahoney’s De Gaulle
A fine example of classical scholarship that may help add to your list of World War II’s fallible heroes. And with the added bonus of an almost three page Forward by Pierre Manent, it delivers exactly what it promises.
Lutz Seiler’s Kruso
I am still reading it, but this is a contemporary novel in the best German tradition. It takes place in that finest of years 1989 in the old DDR, but it is the farthest away from where the action and the TV cameras were. Well-crafted and thick, perfect for Christmas.
Luigi Bradizza (Salve Regina University)
Thomas G. West’s The Political Theory of the American Founding
This might well be the book of the year. West persuasively argues that the Founders wanted a regime dedicated to both natural rights and virtue.
David Sedaris’ Holidays on Ice
At its best, comedy mocks disorder as a way of directing us toward a properly ordered existence. Sedaris’s brand of comedy falls in this fine tradition. He is a small cultural treasure. He excels at mordant and detached observations of middle class life, and brings to our awareness disorders to which habit and custom have blinded us. And he is very funny.
Jürgen Gebhardt (Erlangen, emeritus)
An excellent assessment of a subject that usually is dominated by ideological bias.
Ian Johnson, The Souls of China. The Return of Religion After Mao
An in depth study of Xi and the emerging patriotic synthesis of Mao and Confucius providing the symbolic fundamentals of the Chinese claim to power.
Barry Cooper (University of Calgary)
Apart from the Voegelin Reader, which we all store by our bedsides, I’m sure, may I recommend Bebe Bahrami’s Café Neandertal, Sam Bawlf’s The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake, and Michael Lewis’ The Undoing Project?
Grant Havers (Trinity Western University)
George Hawley’s Making Sense of the Alt-Right
This is a very readable and informative account of a mass movement that first gained national attention during the Trump insurgency. Hawley does a fine job of documenting its unique nature as an American movement on the far Right that rejects not just mainstream American conservatism but Christianity and traditional mores along with it.
The author provides an illuminating analysis of Americans on the Right who have viscerally opposed free market capitalism, including the antebellum Southern aristocracy, the Agrarians, the paleo-conservatives, and even a few neoconservatives.
Tim Labron’s Wittgenstein’s Religious Point of View
Contrary to the popular portrait of the later Wittgenstein as an anti-intellectual fideist, Labron persuasively shows that Wittgenstein’s mature defense of religious belief is utterly biblical in its thoughtful repudiation of idolatrous misrepresentations of faith.
Sara MacDonald’s and Barry Craig’s Recovering Hegel from the Critique of Leo Strauss: The Virtues of Modernity
MacDonald and Craig incisively defend Hegel against the Kojèvian-Straussian charge that he is a relativist and historicist while reminding readers of the massive debt that thoughtful liberals and conservatives owe to his defense of self-government, freedom, and Christianity.
Brayton Polka’s Modernity Between Wagner and Nietzsche
The modernity “between” Wagner and Nietzsche ultimately comes down to the choice every thoughtful modern must make between death and life. Polka brilliantly shows that Wagnerian opera dramatically manifests the nihilistic celebration of death that Nietzsche, after his break with Wagner, utterly repudiates in his last works. In the final stage of his philosophical journey Nietzsche embraces the biblical “will to truth” that says “yes” to life (and “no” to Schopenhauer and Wagner).
Arpad Szakolczai (University College Cork)
Agnes Horvath’s and Arpad Szakolczai’s Walking into the Void: A Historical Sociology and Political Anthropology of Walking has just been published by Routledge. It is also directly available in paperback. It offers a view of much of world history, starting from the Palaeolithic, through walking, focusing on the giving up of walking culture through settlement, and various returns to walking – including Plato, Christianity, and modern “Romanticism.” It is also based on four pilgrimages and various mountain trekking trips, of about 3000 kms, we did together. People around me who read it said it was great fun – though of course that is a special audience!
Daniel J. Mahoney (Assumption College)
Leon Kass’ Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times. Leon Kass is a national treasure, a scholar and thinker who embodies the full range of the intellectual and moral virtues. These luminous essays explore the various domains in which human beings find meaning in their lives (in fulfilling work, in love and family life, in love of country and public service, and in seeking the truth about human beings and the world). And Kass continues to persuasively argue and demonstrate that the efforts to provide a “technological fix” to the problems of human finitude through assisted suicide and euthanasia leads to nothing but nihilism and dehumanization. The culmination of the book is a series of searching explorations of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, the Ten Commandments, and Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. As Kass so richly illustrates, in Athens, Jerusalem, and Gettysburg, one finds the ideas and ideals of human excellence, beauty, righteousness and mercy, and the disciplined practice of constitutional self-government, respectively. Those are the ultimate sources of individual and collective lives worth living.
The Eric Voegelin Reader: Politics, History, and Consciousness, selected and edited by Charles R. Embry and Glenn Hughes. This book provides an inspired and remarkably accessible selection of Eric Voegelin’s writings over many decades. I was most impressed by how such remarkably lucid essays such as “Industrial Society in Search of Reason” (1963) and “In Search of the Ground” (1965) provide a rich and capacious account of noetic reason. Voegelin shows how highly developed forms of efficiency and pragmatic rationality are fully compatible with a high degree of irrationality—and ideological deformation—in the sphere of noetic reason. As Voegelin so richly demonstrates, the terrible ideologies of the twentieth century are all rooted in the willful denial of the “in-betweenness” of man and of human participation in transcendent Reason as the source of the life of reason. The wide-ranging selections in this volume are indispensable for reflecting on the complex relations between philosophical and revelatory truth in Voegelin’s political and philosophical reflection. The thoughtful reader cannot help but ponder how Voegelin conjugated philosophy and Christianity and whether his work is one of the preeminent examples of philosophical Christianity in our time (as I am predisposed to think) or if he finally distinguished subtly but firmly between these two modes of perceiving truth. There are good arguments on both sides.
Seeking the Truth: An Orestes Brownson Anthology, edited by Richard Reinsch II. This volume is a gem. It traces Orestes Brownson’s (1803-1876) remarkable odyssey from pantheist, gnostic, and humanitarian thought to a Catholic constitutionalism and republicanism after 1844. The mature Brownson took aim at both “political atheism” and theocratic tendencies in Christian thought even as he defended constitutionalism and a robust conception of religious liberty on both philosophical and Christian grounds. He took aim not a democratic self-government itself but at the “democratic principle” emancipated from all natural and divine restraints and grounded in nothing but the human will. The book is very ably introduced by Richard Reinsch who has done so much to show the enduring relevance of Brownson’s insights on religion, politics, and constitutionalism.
Charles Péguy’s Temporal and Eternal, translated by Alexander Dru, Foreword by Pierre Manent. The great French Catholic poet, essayist, and philosopher Charles Péguy thought deeply about the intersection of the temporal and the eternal and of the meaning of human “communions” worthy of the name. He was a great Christian friend of the Jewish people and a defender of Dreyfus’s innocence during the Dreyfus Affair that tore France apart at the turn of the twentieth century. But in “Notre Jeunesse” (“Memories of Youth”, 1910), he took aim at the victors in the struggle who had then begun to persecute the Catholic faith in the name of a new secularist and “republican” demagoguery. He defended the true “mystiques” of the Christian faith and the French republic against their degeneration into politiques without soul or inspiration, or concern for truth. A critic of the “modern world,” Peguy warned Christians against “despising the temporal” even as if defended the legitimate places of heroes and saints in human communities worthy of the name. Alexander Dru’s translations nicely capture Peguy’s rhythm and eloquence and Pierre Manent’s insightful “Foreword” gets to the heart of Peguy’s challenging thought.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Red Wheel: March 1917, Node III, Book 1, translated by Marian Schwartz. This volume continues the greatest literary–historical project of the twentieth century: a determined effort to uncover the sources of the greatest cataclysm of the twentieth century. Solzhenitsyn artfully portrays riveting street scenes where nihilistic violence was abundant, the ineptitude and stupefying inaction of Tsar Nicholas and his leading officials, the demagoguery of the liberal and socialist forces in the Duma, in a Russia about to collapse into the revolutionary abyss. The old regime needed to be saved and reformed but the one official who represented this possibility (Stolypin’s protégé Aleksandr Rittikh) did not have a major position of responsibility. The “Red Wheel” continues to churn relentlessly as the February revolution (hardly a liberating or welcome event in Solzhenitsyn’s account) prepares the way for Red October. Marian Schwartz’s translation beautifully conveys the chaos and the human stakes at work in Petrograd at the beginning of an exceedingly consequential revolution for Russia—and the world.
Stephen H. Conlin (Independent Scholar)
David Ray Griffin’s God Exists But Gawd Does Not. From Evil to New Atheism to Fine-Tuning
This is a superbly clear attempt to discuss various issues in contemporary theology from a Whiteheadian perspective. It is also, incidentally, a remarkably good exposition of Alfred North Whitehead’s thought in general and, although Griffin doesn’t refer to Voegelin directly, many interesting parallels to Voegelin’s thinking are very apparent. I think readers of Vv would find it engaging and useful.
Edward F. Kelly, Adam Crabtree, and Paul Marshall, eds., Beyond Physicalism. Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality
A cutting-edge study of the borderlands of the physics/metaphysics debate with many interesting facets which provide something of a scientific take on subjects well beyond the reductive “scientistic” thinking so generally prevalent. A very interest study and the follow-up to their earlier “Irreducible Mind,” which is also well-worth reading.
Michael Henry (St. John’s University)
David Walsh’s Politics of the Person as the Politics of Being
A profound meditation on the cosmic and theological meaning of personhood.
Jennifer A. Doudna’s and Samuel H. Sternberg’s A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution
A detailed account of the development of the new gene editing tool called CRISPR by one of its inventors (Doudna). It provides an understanding of what gene editing could be capable of in the future, both for good and for ill.
A thorough analysis of the reasons why Darwinism does not fully explain how we got here.
The author explains how he figured out how to communicate with a number of people who were considered completely unconscious but were actually fully conscious but “locked in.” It’s a good example of what can be done with modern technology, imagination, and a drive to find a solution to a problem.
Claudia Franziska Brühwiler (University of St.Gallen, Switzerland)
Political commentary and reporting has becoming deafeningly shrill in tone and often lacks the kind of critical distance I would appreciate. This year, H.L. Mencken has become again an antidote with his cynical eye on the “carnival of buncombe” and his snark for all sides: “I am completely neutral. I’m against them all.” Great collections of his writings include On Politics, edited by Malcolm Moos and his own A Mencken Chrestomathy.
Tom Darby (Carleton University)
In 2015 I spent a couple of months reading for the second time the Fagles translation of Homer’s Odyssey which hatched the idea of suggesting to my Ph.D. students that those who had not read the epic should do so and that those who had should review it, this as a preparation for taking a third of the required Ph.D. seminar to read Joyce’s Ulysses. This we did by tacking on four additional meetings in May and June. Eight were registered in the course and seven others attended and participated. This was an extraordinary experience. Here I’m listing a few books and poems that I have been reading during the past couple of years which will reveal how Homer and Joyce have set the course for some of my reading and re-reading choices as a preparation for writing and just thinking.
Themed reading but not good holiday choices: 1) Virgil’s Aeneid; 2) Dante’s The Divine Comedy; 3) Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; 4) Milton’s Paradise Lost; 5) Shakespeare’s The Tempest; 6) Bunyan’s The Pilgrims’s Progress; 7) Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels; 8) McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, The Crossing, Cities of the Plain, and The Road.
On the same theme but good Christmas holiday choices:
Daniel Mendelsohn’s An Odyssey: A Father, A Son and an Epic
C.P. Cavafy’s Complete Poems, trans. Mendelsohn. My favorite, so far (the book is huge), for some time now has been taped to the wall near my desk and computer. It is “Ithaca” which begins:
“When you set out on your journey to Ithaca
pray that the road is long . . ”
Blasco Sciarrino (Central European University)
Leo Tolstoy’s Resurrection
A moving journey of atonement and a searing indictment of privilege.
Jon Savage’s Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture
A fascinating account of how, between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, youth became a social phenomenon and a business.
Christian Caryl’s Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the Twenty-First Century
An informed analysis of a watershed year in history, the legacy of which is still affecting us.
Carol Browning Cooper (University of Houston)
1) For Advent: Eugene Vodolazkin’s Laurus, translated by Lisa Hayden.
A novel of the journey of the soul towards God, facilitated by the birth of a child, thus perfectly suited for this time of year. Viscerally medieval (set in 15th-century Russia) yet joltingly familiar, it’s an experience of a world in which the normal barriers of time and space, reality and unreality, nature and the supernatural, have become permeable. Trippy, enchanting, astounding, convicting, imperfect, but infectiously effective.
2) For the week between Christmas and the New Year: Annie Dillard’s For the Time Being
The feasts of St. Stephen and the Holy Innocents break the sentimentality of the season. How appropriate, then, is Dillard’s wide-ranging meditation on being and consciousness, which begins by considering the existence of birth defects. “For the world is as glorious as ever, and exalting,” she writes, “but for credibility’s sake let’s start with the bad news.”
3) For the New Year: Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places
If your New Year’s resolutions include any version of “put the screen down and go outside more often,” this is the book you need in your pocket when you go.
Richard Bishirjian (Yorktown University)
I used to avoid self-promotion, but a review of The Conservative Rebellion published in August, but which I discovered only now, reminds me that my book has merit in the eyes of some of my colleagues. I also think that Grant Havers excellent review places this work in context and for that I am very grateful. My next book will appear in St. Augustine’s Press catalog shortly and be in print in late December, it’s provocative subject makes it quite timely: The Coming Death and Future Resurrection of American Higher Education.
Alan Bailey (Stephen F. Austin State University)
Yuri Slezkine’s The House of Government
Victor Sebestyn’s Lenin
Kenneth Woodward’s Getting Religion
Frank Trentman’s Empire of Things
George Makari’s Soul Machine
John von Heyking (University of Lethbridge)
Ian Johnson’s The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao
Ian Johnson says China is undergoing a spiritual awakening comparable to that experienced by the United States in the nineteenth-century. It’s not just that but his study of Christians, Buddhists, Daoists, and the return of “folk religion” reflects what David Walsh calls the politics of the person. A compelling read that I reviewed recently for Voegelinview.
Liu Xiabo’s No Enemies, No Hatred
The 2010 Nobel Price winner died last June in Chinese custody. This volume of his essays and poems not only shows why the government feared him, but also displays his range and vision. It’s also a good analysis on the spiritual state of post-totalitarian China.
Madeliene Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing
This novel by a Canadian author is a good illustration of how three generations in a Chinese family and their circle of friends cope with the ideological lie, or what Voegelin calls the secondary reality, the Cultural Revolution imposed them. In a Confucian manner, music is presented as the means by which reality is either recaptured or not.
Charles Embry and Glenn Hughes, eds., The Eric Voegelin Reader: Politics, History, Consciousness
Those new to Voegelin, including undergraduates and their teachers, now have a one-stop-shop for introducing Voegelin’s life and thought. The editors are to be congratulated for figuring out a way of representing different aspects of Voegelin’s thought with such ample breadth and depth.
It is always a good time to remind oneself why committing injustice without getting punished is the worst of all evils. This dialogue is not so much about politics as the precondition of politics. A regime that depends on persuasion needs to absorb its lessons.
Let’s not forget the meaning of Christmas. David Bentley Hart’s new translation of The New Testament captures its rustic language. This is a far cry from the magisterial King James. This New Testament is of the streets where Jesus preached, and jars the reader to read it in new and unfamiliar ways. The language is rough, forceful, and vulgate. The reader feels himself on the street getting roughed up by the Holy Spirit.
Sarah Ruden has made numerous notable translations. She is currently working on her own translation of the New Testament but her most recent one is of Augustine’s Confessions. Just as Hart’s translation of the Gospels rough up the reader, so too the reader of Ruden’s Confessions gets pushed around with Augustine as he moves back and forth amidst the paradoxes and perplexities in his search for God, whom Augustine addresses not as the conventional “Lord,” but instead Ruden translates Dominus as “Master.”
Readers will need to hang on for a rough but illuminating ride when they read Hart’s and Ruden’s translations.