A recent article by the brilliant Matthew Walther reminded me of the following passage of Saint Augustine’s City of God (II,20):
This is our concern [they say] that every man be able to increase his wealth so as to supply his daily prodigalities, and so that the powerful may subject the weak for their own purposes. Let the poor court the rich for a living, and that under their protection they may enjoy a sluggish tranquillity; and let the rich abuse the poor as their dependants, to minister to their pride. Let the people applaud not those who protect their interests, but those who provide them with pleasure. Let no severe duty be commanded, no impurity forbidden. […] Let the laws take cognizance rather of the injury done to another man’s property, than of that done to one’s own person. If a man be a nuisance to his neighbor, or injure his property, family, or person, let him be actionable; but in his own affairs let everyone with impunity do what he will in company with his own family, and with those who willingly join him. Let there be a plentiful supply of public prostitutes for every one who wishes to use them, but specially for those who are too poor to keep one for their private use. Let there be erected houses of the largest and most ornate description: in these let there be provided the most sumptuous banquets, where every one who pleases may, by day or night, play, drink, vomit, dissipate. Let there be everywhere heard the rustling of dancers, the loud, immodest laughter of the theatre; let a succession of the most cruel and the most voluptuous pleasures maintain a perpetual excitement.
In a moving essay on the great American-French novelist Julien (Julian) Green, Rick Yoder quotes many passages from Green’s autobiographical writings and diaries expressing his deep longing for God, and the insight that it gives him into the beauty and sadness of human life.
German translation of Les Étoiles du Sud
I had only read a little Green up to now. A friend of mine (who has had a struggle similar to Green’s) gave me an autographed copy of a German translation of Green’s late novel Les Étoiles du Sud (The Stars of the South). I found it strange and entrancing; a story of the antebellum South, which Green knew from the stories of his Southern mother, full of nostalgia for a time that never was. But I never finished it— partly because I wanted to read the prequel first, and partly because it seemed to me that German translation is not the best medium for reading historical novels about the American South. And, until now, I had not followed through with my intention of beginning Green again. But Yoder’s essay has given me a new stimulus. Continue reading