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Teresa of Avila: The Book of My Life [Paperback]

Mirabai Starr , Tessa Bielecki

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Book Description

July 8 2008
Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582) is one of the most beloved of the Catholic saints. In 1562, during the era of the Spanish Inquisition, Teresa sat down to write an account of the mystical experiences for which she had become famous. The result was this book, one of the great classics of spiritual autobiography. With this fresh translation of The Book of My Life, Mirabai Starr brings the inimitable Spanish mystic to life for a new generation, with contemporary English that mirrors Teresa's own earthy, vernacular Spanish, and that presents us with—four centuries after Teresa's death—someone we feel we know: a woman intoxicated with God yet filled with an overflowing love for the world.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starr, an adjunct professor of philosophy and religious studies at the University of New Mexico, is already known to fans of Saint Teresa of Ávila as the translator of the 16th-century nun's work The Interior Castle. Now Starr tackles Teresa's better-known autobiography, which has not seen a new English translation in four decades. Starr is the first woman, and one of the only non-Catholics, to translate the memoir. These vantage points give her a fresh perspective on the mystic, whose writings can be verbose and shrouded in overspiritualized language. (Thankfully, Starr has also cut almost all of the saint's self-annihilating statements about being a "wretched worm.") Crisp, contemporary language puts Teresa's famous passion for God in stark relief. Carmelite hermit and author Tessa Bielecki provides a brief but engaging foreword, while Starr pens a helpful introduction, highlighting Teresa's life and placing her work in historical context. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“A cause for celebration. Captures Teresa’s conversational enthusiasm most effectively.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“Crisp, contemporary language puts Teresa's famous passion for God in stark relief.”—Publishers Weekly

“Mirabai Starr’s translation is a work for our time. She has given Teresa a presence and a voice in a modern era.  Saint Teresa no doubt chose Mirabai, for her talent with language and Spanish translation is pure genius."—Caroline Myss, author of Entering the Castle and Anatomy of the Spirit

“Mirabai Starr’s translation makes totally accessible this most famous (and attractive) saint. The writing has such a delightful sparkle you can't help falling in love with Teresa.”—John Nichols, author of The Milagro Beanfield War

“Saint Teresa of Ávila has long deserved a far wider readership than existing translations have secured for her. She wrote, as she undoubtedly spoke, in an unapologetically vernacular Spanish—idiomatic, vivid, and informal—and Mirabai Starr’s rendering is all of that. The clarity and vitality of this new autobiography will bring a whole new generation of seekers into the blessed presence of ‘La Madre.’”—Carol Lee Flinders, author of Enduring Grace: Living Portraits of Seven Women Mystics and Enduring Lives: Portraits of Women and Faith in Action

“Saints’ lives are not always page-turners. But Mirabai Starr´s wonderfully fresh translation of the Vida of Teresa of Ávila captures the passionate spirituality, the talent for intimacy, the frankly fallible humanity that attracted her contemporaries to the woman Starr describes, in her introduction, as ‘not an obvious saint.’ Tessa Bielecki´s deeply-felt foreword is one inducement among many to take this welcome new translation to heart."—Cathleen Medwick, author of Teresa of Ávila : The Progress of a Soul

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  27 reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Depends on what you are looking for... Aug. 5 2009
By sobepeace - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a lively, fluid, immensely readable version of the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, a magnificent spiritual classic. Whether you will thrill to it as much as some reviewers here, or disdain the translator's choices, as have others, will have much to do with what you seek.

Any translation project is bedeviled by the twin aims of faithfulness and accessibility tangling with one another (not to mention the translator). The degree of priority given to one objective over the other will have varying impacts on different readers. One translation may touch you far more tenderly than another, yet leave your neighbor cold. Or it may affect the same person in different ways at different times. Indeed, reading more than one translation of spiritual texts is often beneficial, as each may tap distinct strengths of the original, leading to a richer composite.

I enjoyed the liveliness of this translation, and found it absorbing on a level that more exact renderings struggle to attain. I admit, though, that some of the translation choices "missed the mark" for me, at times making Teresa feel stifled--like having a phone conversation dotted with bursts of static. It also made me itch to uncover what lay hidden behind the at times hyper-contemporary idiom. In the end, upon finishing this version, I found myself aching to engage the saint without interference, and reaching for another version of the work in order to do so. Still, I don't regret the time I spent reading this translation.

So, if you seek to encounter the vibrancy and style of this grand, wild, fabulous saint in a compelling and readable translation of her autobiography, the eloquence and immediacy of this edition will be most welcome. If you prefer to meet Teresa on her own terms, in her original context and expression, without learning Spanish (with a sixteenth century twist, at that), then you will likely find greater profit in the more precise translations (by Peers or Kavanaugh, for example). But, if you choose according to your disposition, the vigor of St. Teresa will penetrate idiosyncrasies and come alive for you. The woman faced down the Spanish Inquisition--she can stand up to a gaggle of translators!
37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spiritual Value July 29 2007
By Netanel Miles-Yepez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In another review, this book has been accused of being "false and misleading." Thinking about this accusation, I am reminded of a passage in Teresa's autobiography where certain confessors attempt to convince Teresa that her mystical raptures and visions are of an unholy origin. After some judicious consideration, Teresa decided that this couldn't be so---they were most certainly from God. After all, she reasoned, would the Devil really give such gifts as these which have only served to intoxicate her more and more with her Beloved Sovereign and which seem to have had such a salutary effect upon her character? And following this line of thought, I would suggest, as someone who has read and thoroughly enjoyed this translation, that a translation can never be anything but an interpretation, but the true mark of its success is in its transformative effect upon the reader. And though I am no stranger to spiritual literature, I often found myself awed by Teresa's spiritual mastery, her holy audacity and deep humility while reading this work. So I feel as if I must conclude that whatever material differences may exist between the original Spanish and this English translation, the sense and spirit have been translated in such a way as to have affected this reader quite profoundly. To my mind, Teresa of Avila: The Book of My Life by Mirabai Starr is a book of beauty and profound spiritual value, a true spiritual classic. I highly recommend this translation to anyone, Christian or otherwise, who seeks to deepen in spiritual practice, especially the practice of contemplative prayer, or to any who are simply looking for good models of holiness in the past still relevant for us today.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Exquisite Translation July 12 2007
By Brian Emo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Mirabai Starr's inspired translation invokes a living voice for Teresa that vividly expresses her profound wisdom, incomparable wit, commonsense worldview, and uncompromising honesty. I felt as though Teresa was speaking directly to me in present time ... as if we were sharing an intimate conversation.

What emerges is a multidimensional portrayal of Teresa as a woman, nun, intrepid reformer, teacher, mystic, and saint.

This is the fascinating story of a soul whose trajectory to sainthood was often impeded by struggle, self-recrimination, doubt, and frustration -- which gives us all hope for our own progress. Teresa was a force-of-nature, deeply pious and humble, and yet fiercely determined to deliver her message.

Ms. Starr's translation is a true work of scholarship that animates Teresa's life with remarkable realism and humanity. Teresa's powerful teachings are deftly translated in all their authentic splendor, rendering them accessible and eternally relevant.

This is not a wooden translation that obscures the humanity of its subject. It is an engaging read about one of the most charismatic mystics of all time.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the book of All Our Lives July 29 2007
By Robert Thompson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Mirabai Starr is a genius once again. Having read her previous translations, "Dark Night of the Soul" by John of the Cross, and Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila--I expected "The Book of My Life" to be compelling. But I didn't expect it to knock my socks off. Teresa's Book of Lives paints a portrait of a mystic in the making, and over time we begin to see where Teresa is headed---the unitive state.

With one eye on precise translation and the other on the meaning behind every word--Starr sees clearly not only what Teresa was saying but also the mystery to which her words point. Starr introduces us to a Teresa who is down to earth but capable of soaring, nevertheless. Through her open translation Miabai Starr opens the eye of our understanding as to the unitive state toward which Teresa is headed. When Teresa longs for the unitive state, Mirabai Starr helps us get in touch with that longing.

This ability to bring Teresa close, to make her live, to make her breathe, to ask her what it means to be human--to find ourselves in Teresa and find her in us--this is the greatest gift of "The Book of My Life."
28 of 38 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Story of Who St. Teresa Was NOT... Sept. 6 2008
By Barrett R. Bates - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As a 30-year student of comparative religion, Eastern philosophy, Judaism and Christianity, I was appalled at this flippant and superficial updating of Saint Teresa's profound spirituality, vibrant sensuality, shrewd expression of courage and feminine shakti. Mirabai Starr styles herself as a seeker of spiritual truth but is clearly just a refugee from her own religious roots. Along the way, she has found that she, like her husband Ganga Das (AKA Jeff Little), can make a decent living by becoming a lay preacher. Ms. Starr asserts that her translation of Teresa's Life aims to revitalize its appeal to the modern world; instead, she eviscerates its passion, attenuates its complex psychology and effects a childishly relativistic, "now-ist" dismissal of its important semiology. Ms. Starr decides that the concept of sin should be amoralized as error ("missing the mark"...as if murder were merely an incidental miscalibration), that the value of practicing obedience to promote humility is valueless (she changes Teresa's formal address of superiors to simply "you") and that Teresa's self-deprecations are just regrettable sublimations of low self-esteem. Finally, the oppression of women by men in the 16th Century was a fact, but not a relevant one in Teresa's life of love and service.

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