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That Same Flower

Gaarder, Jostein

3,705 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0374253846 / ISBN 13: 9780374253844
Published by FS&G, 1998
Hardcover
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1st US edition. 1st printing. F+/F+. Bookseller Inventory # 28500

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Bibliographic Details

Title: That Same Flower

Publisher: FS&G

Publication Date: 1998

Binding: Hard Cover

Edition: First Edition

About this title

Synopsis:

Floria Aemilia, a concubine to St. Augustine for more than ten years prior to his spiritual awakening, challenges St. Augustine's view of women and love as described in his Confessions, in a passionate and occasionally erotic fictional letter addressing faith, doubt, and human relationships.

Review:

In his first and most famous novel, Sophie's World, the Norwegian Jostein Gaarder took on the entire history of Western philosophy, neatly sandwiching Socrates, Sartre, and everybody in between into a series of letters to a 14-year-old schoolgirl. This time around, Gaarder has again produced a philosophical novel in epistolary form. In That Same Flower, however, he narrows his focus to a single figure--St. Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, whose classic Confessions anticipated the current memoir boom by almost 16 centuries. The saint himself fails to get a word in edgewise. Instead, the book consists of a long, grief-stricken letter from his former mistress, Floria Aemilia (a figure whom the author has reconstructed from passing references in Augustine's own writings). This most articulate correspondent has a good many bones to pick with her former lover; he abandoned her on several different occasions, often at the behest of his 4th-century yenta of a mother, and kept her from the child they had together. Yet along with these personal matters (and perhaps inseparable from them) is Floria's critique of Christian dogma--particularly the ascetic tradition that Augustine embodied. Deriding his renunciation of all earthly pleasures, she reminds him of the good old precelibate days: "Can you still remember how you stroked me all over and seemed to tighten every bud before it opened?... And then you went away and sold me for the sake of your soul's salvation! What infidelity, Aurel, what guilt! No, I don't believe in a God who demands human sacrifices. I don't believe in a God who lays waste to a woman's life in order to save a man's soul." An erudite and intelligent argument on behalf of the senses, That Same Flower is also an oddly moving love story--or at least half of one--with an unmistakable feminist twist.

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