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Considered to mark the emergence of a new literary form, the unvarnished autobiography, Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau was first published in 1782, four years after his death. The philosopher and educationist whose political philosophy is credited with having inspired the French Revolution, Rousseau was a man of immense wit, talent and depth of thinking. His skill in art, music, literature and cooking along with his magnificent body of work in philosophy, politics, education and sociology have made him a legendary figure. However, through Confessions, he aimed to present a complete picture of himself, exposing all the unsavory and shameful incidents in his private life as well as the public persona. Confessions deals with the first fifty-three years of his life and he completed it in 1769 and conducted many public readings of extracts before his death in 1778. This is an extremely thought-provoking book and its ideas remain as fresh and stimulating as they did more than two centuries ago. The entire book consists of two volumes of six books each and Rousseau apparently planned a third which he could not undertake. Though two previous autobiographies, by Saint Augustine and Saint Theresa, had been written earlier, both of them had focused more on their religious experiences. Rousseau writes in the opening lines, “.... the man I shall portray will be myself,” thus vowing to be honest and sincere. And truthful he proved to be. The dark side of his personal life, his affair with a house-maid and the children that were born and given away to protect his honor are faithfully chronicled alongside his brilliant thoughts on education, freedom, social inequality, the general will and common interest of society, collective sovereignty and the supreme importance of individual freedom. For those interested in the foundations of modern European thought, Confessions is indeed an interesting read.
This reader was so slow, over-pronouncing every single word, he sounded like a spook from beyond the grave. He might be good reading ghost stories.
This reader, Martin Geeson, is the best I've ever heard. I'm sorry that I've never read Rousseau's most famous work before now.