Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Vita Brevis: A Letter to St Augustine” as Want to Read:
Vita Brevis: A Letter to St Augustine
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Vita Brevis: A Letter to St Augustine

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  3,658 ratings  ·  259 reviews
A box of Ltin manuscripts comes to light in an Argentine flea market. An apocyphral invention by some 17th or 18th century scolar, or a transcrpit of what it appears to be - a hitherto unheard of letter to St Augustine to a woman he renounced for chastity? VITA BREVIS is both an entrancing human document and a fascinating insight into the life and philosophy of St.Augustin ...more
Paperback, 164 pages
Published October 5th 2000 by Phoenix (first published 1996)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Vita Brevis, please sign up.
Recent Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.67  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,658 ratings  ·  259 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Ahmad Sharabiani
Vita brevis: a letter to st. Augustine = Brief Life = That Same Flower, Jostein Gaarder
Vita Brevis: A Letter to St Augustine is a novel written by the Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder and originally published in 1996. Gaarder presents the text as written by Saint Augustines lover (who is mentioned, but not named, in his Confessions). In the introduction, Gaarder claims that he found the old manuscript at a bookshop in Buenos Aires and translated it. According to his plotline, it was written by
Feb 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nerdy-fun
I re-read this yet again for about the third or fourth time - it's an easy book to keep coming back to - especially as I've read it at very different times in my life.

It's hard to comment without really knowing for certain whether this is Gaarder's creation (which I continue to believe it to be) or actually a discovered text (which is possible) - however it certainly raises interesting rhetorical points in response to St Augustine's "Confessions."

I chose to re-read this as I have recently read
This book (or letter) was quite beautiful in its sadness. Floria's response to Saint Augustine's abandonment of her was incredibly powerful and timeless. This ancient feminist manifesto is a must read to see how far we have come and still how far we have to go as women. Ultimately, very moving indeed.
Oct 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
The idea of this book is so seductive, along the lines of Yourcenor's "Hadrian's Memoirs', of bringing to life history with a glimpse into the thoughts and private life of a 4th century woman. It seems to me somehow that the ideas she espouses are thoroughly modern however much I agree with them - I wonder if her arguments could conceivably have been argued by one of her situation and epoch. I am not particularly familiar with the era but enjoyed the glimpse of the cusp between the classical and ...more
Jun 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Well life is short indeed! I really liked the book. Looking forward to reading another book by Jostein Gaarder.
Kathryn Bashaar
May 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book has more than one title. The version I read was titled That Same Flower. I'm wondering if it has one title in English, and another title for all other languages. I have recently written a book on the same topic as this book: the relationship between Saint Augustine and his beloved mistress (The Saint's Mistress). So, when I found out about this earlier book, I was very eager to read it. Please indulge me: this review is long and consists mostly of comparing my book to Mr. Gaarder's.
Elvie Doll
Feb 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
You can find my review of Vita Brevis: A Letter To St. Augustine by following this link to Paperback Dolls.

This book is presented like it's simply a translation of an antique manuscript discovered moldering in an antique shop. Rather in the way that Memoirs of a Geisha is presented as a true autobiography of a pre-war Kyoto geisha. However, in the latter case, we know for a fact that Arthur Golden was exercising his imagination (and his research talents). Jostein Gaarder refuses to confirm or de
Nov 30, 2017 rated it liked it
A very beautiful and interesting book, Jostein Gaarder alway manages to make me see things in a different way.
Moira Russell
Less detail about her life (but I suppose that would have been all invention) and more harping on there not being any afterlife at all (not really a pagan viewpoint, that's a modern one.....anyway) than I wanted, but still a great conceit, and the Latin jokes explained via footnotes are great. Would've happily read a 200- or 300-page-long version of this idea. (Suzanne Wolfe is supposedly working on a novel told by "the concubine," but I'm not sure how good it might be.)

For those people allergic
Apr 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: minjam

That one word would be enough to describe the bishop from Floria Aemilia’s protestation should the story was true.

The letter contains Floria’s objections to what Aurel wrote on his confession. The love they had before was only mentioned as sensual lust and sinful desires. The letter shows Floria’s anger, disappointment and her betrayed feeling. Her love was real to Aurel and so did Aurel's to her. The fruit of love was once a living boy – St Augustine only child with Floria- but he wrote i
Jun 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: medieval, philosophy
Vita Brevis resonates the story of Abelard and Heloise in so many ways, and that is one reason I assume it to be a Gaarder's creation and a work of fiction. Floria's arguments sound very "post-Enlightenment", but this could be due to her classical education. Saint Augustine, on he other hand, is the representative of the medieval Catholic Church which does not allow matrimony among its clerks, and stands as an impenetrable bulwark between our two lovers. As I said, I see innumerable traces of th ...more
Maria Carmo
A "testimony" of the life of St. Augustine's companion, the one he dearly loved for many years and who bore him his son, but whom he abandoned for religion. A statement of love and of cherishing life, something the Saint seems to have forgotten.

Maria Carmo,

Lisbon 01 June 2014.
Philip Coulter
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
I like the idea of this book, and the criticism of abstinence and the treatment of women by the later church is spot on. The character of Augustine (outside of the actual quotes) doesn't feel quite right to me though - plausible but not quite the personality of Confessions.
Gaardner has adapted the well-worn stylistic convention of an ancient historical figure writing a book (in this case a long letter) to both engage with the historical character and events, and also to frame a modern literary (and in this case philosophical) idea. In effect Gaarder takes the words of the fictional Floria Aemilia, modelled on the common law wife to St Augustine, and uses them to both argue for humanistic values and reject the asceticism, the hypocrisy and the arrogant religiosity ...more
Jostein Gaarder is one of my favourite authors, so I'm torn on what to think of this book- one that carries his name, but is allegedly not written by him. I don't believe the letters are real. Gaarder gives a little tongue-in-cheek mention at the end about the truthfulness of these leters:

And indeed, it was incredibly naive of me not to ask the Vatican Library for a receipt at least!

This is basically his way of saying, sup guys, this is just a fictional story, like Sophie's World and The Solitai
Athul Domichen
Dec 22, 2015 rated it liked it
'Vita Brevis: A Letter to St. Augustine' is a short novel written in the format of a long letter from a woman named Floria Aemilia, supposedly the lover of St. Augustine that he forsook for religion and soul salvation, in the insistence of his mother, St. Monica. The novel begins with Jostein Gaarder telling the readers that he 'stumbled' upon this letter in an antique shop among forgotten manuscripts and is publishing it. At first, I thought that it was real. I did a google search and found tha ...more
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is...pure magical to me! I mean, I feel blessed to have been recommended reading this book by a special mentor of mine, and I just wondered the way this Codex has traveled through time, the journey I have been through my life to finally get this in my hand and read it....a collection of my recent thoughts, questions, dilemmas & some of my attitudes in life, the way I liberate myself to live every MOMENT & enjoy every beauty God has blessed us with...not to fear God but to feel ...more
Nov 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was very young when I read this book. I actually read it before Sophie's World. It was more than ten years ago but I remember like it was yesterday how amazed I was that Flora never played a victim, the poor thing left alone and rejected. She is always trying to challenge her former partner now an important leader at the Catholic Church, Flora often reminds him of how the past could have been if he showed more compassion, more consideration. If his feelings were a bit more consistent. The fact ...more
Jo Everett
Nov 28, 2015 rated it liked it
What I did like about this book was its structure and the range of analysis that it offers itself to. Firstly, I like the premise of the book, that this may or may not be an authentic love letter to St Augustine from his secret lover Floria Aemilia. The layout of the book, with the translated letter on the right page and footnotes on the left page, beautifully captures the mix of academic research and fictional narrative that the book straddles. Secondly, I enjoyed the depth of the narrative. I ...more
Apr 12, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: religious
Bought Jostein Gaarder's "Vita Brevis" at Fully Booked the other day and I must admit that I’m very much disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, I very much admire Gaarder's works...but this work proved to be misleading. I’m still not finished reading it (bogged down with writing e-mails of English lesson corrections to my students) so maybe it might be able to redeem itself by having a good here's hoping.

The book promises the following:
In a second-hand bookshop in Buenos Aires, Jostein G
Jan 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scandinavia
My bookcrossing review:

As the title says, this book is mainly a letter written by Floria to Augustine, many years after their love affair had ended. According to the introduction, Gaarder found a copy of this letter (the copy made in the 1600s) in an antique bookshop in South America. I don't know half as much about Augustine and this time in history as I probably should.

So, is the letter genuine? To be honest, I think it's a creation of Gaarder's mind. I think in part it's been an interesting p
Aug 06, 2012 rated it liked it

i couldn't care much for floria's statements at first. she sounded like the usual scorned lover who was too assuming - and too spiteful of the idea that abstinence was preferred to her. however, the last few chapters were (if indeed the letter was real) insightful. first was the violence against floria - aurel beating her for tempting him into succumbing to his lust (present day rape victims blamed for wearing provocative clothes come to mind). second, i want to quote a particular sentence: 'I s
Bart Van Loon
Aug 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, at-home
What a delightful little book. It really left me wondering if Jostein Gaarder is pulling a trick here or if it is genuine. I guess I hope that it all is real.

I was unfamiliar with Saint Augustine before starting this booklet, let alone his Confessiones. Nevertheless, it is quite easy to follow and remains interesting to read. I was just a bit disappointed in the middle section when I lost track of what point the narrator Floria was trying to make. She just kept on repeating the same things and f
Jan 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Presented as a translation of an old manuscript letter, called the Floria Codex, written to Saint Augustine from his only concubine Floria, this book is definately a passionate read.
Whether fact of fiction (the opinions vary, but personally I would say fact), you discover the ideas and life of a 4th century "free" woman, put in her own exquisite words. The main plot is her reaction to St Augustine's Confessions, ten volumes of thoughts on his own life (of which there are many, many citations), a
Aug 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
I have been really excited to read this book and now that I am finished, I dont know what to think. In St Augustine's Confessions, I was struck by all of his questions he had about God and his journey to go and live in Faith. I really identified with that.
In this book, Floria (or Jostein) points out that Augustine maybe went to far (Augustine believed that Abstinence was the most pure thing and he gave up all pleasure of any kind) and questions whether God wouldnt want us to enjoy life and love.
May 13, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scandinavian
This is the sort of book that's criminally easy to write. Pick a historical figure whose philosophy you disagree with; psychoanalyze him; choose a narrating character from that person’s life (who thinks oddly like a modern) to attack him; and graft onto the target's life certain horrific episodes that you've invented out of whole cloth. In the end, this is a rather angry little book that demonstrates little knowledge of theology, ignores central elements of Augustine's thought, and is yet anothe ...more
Le Matt
Sep 27, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A rather atypical book from Gaarder. Gone are the mystery, the meta-story-within-story, the overlap of prose and reality. Instead, Vita Brevis comes across as a disaffecting diatribe on Platonism and early Christianity (which lauded and championed the immutable, eternal "true" world over the sensual).

While such a critique is certainly welcome, the presentation becomes repetitive from Chapter 3 onward. The spiteful vitriol, written from the viewpoint of St Augustine's alleged concubine, suffers f
Aug 17, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: my mom
Shelves: 6-out-of-10
hmm.. this is tricky.. I like the story behind the letter.. I can understand Floria's abandoned love (or, passionate love?) and her feeling towards her lover's decision to leave all physical matters and choose to serve the Abstinence. Yet all those feelings, are they really suitable to have those pages as the outlet? I mean, I don't know, 10 pages would be enough I think.

it is a good thing though Floria ended up with a 'Farewell!', a letting go, after all those pages she has written. at least it
Isabelle Lacerda
Jan 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The letters written by Flora are full of wisdom, and somehow they do not have bitterness or jealousy or sorrow in them. It's the contrary, we have a woman who faced a hard time when she had to accept the love of her life was meant for something else. She wants to remind him though, of certain things he left behind that do not necessarily seem to make sense according to her point of view. Flora does not complain about silly aspects of a woman left lonely. She'd rather talk about how confusing or ...more
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

First of all the subsistence of this letter is just incredible! This is her confession to his ‘Confessions’, their very last alive and (kind of) common ‘conversation’.

The letter is so intimate, full of soul, love, passion, anger, rage, despair, ‘yes’ and ‘no’ at the same time.

It made me think and feel how fragile love is… One good/bad moment is enough to slip it away. Forever.

Seems that human nature has not changed a bit since the 4th century…

I think (and deeply hope) finally she was able to
« previous 1 3 4 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Add/change info 1 12 Sep 03, 2018 12:37PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Negeri Senja
  • اكنون ميان دو هيچ
  • Mereka Yang Dilumpuhkan
  • Sastra dan Religiositas
  • In the Wilderness (The Master of Hestviken, #3)
  • Manusia Menjadi Tuhan
  • Olenka
  • Mangan Ora Mangan Kumpul
  • Pintu-pintu Menuju Tuhan
  • Mahabbah Cinta Rabiah Al-Adawiyah
  • Kau Memanggilku Malaikat
  • Tanah Tabu
  • Paradigma Islam: Interpretasi untuk Aksi
  • Snø vil falle over snø som har falt
  • Saint Augustine
  • The Gnostic Scriptures: Ancient Wisdom for the New Age
  • Cecilia
  • Nietzsche
See similar books…
Jostein Gaarder is a Norwegian intellectual and author of several novels, short stories, and children's books. Gaarder often writes from the perspective of children, exploring their sense of wonder about the world. He often uses meta-fiction in his works, writing stories within stories.

Gaarder was born into a pedagogical family. His best known work is the novel Sophie's World, subtitled "A Novel a
“Не вярвам в Бог, който разрушава живота на една жена, за да спаси душата на мъжа!” 1 likes
“ایرلیوس، تصورش را بکن اگرآسمانی بر فراز ما نباشد و اگر زندگی و دنیای دیگری غیر از این زندگی و دنیایی که در آن آفریده شده ایم وجود نداشته باشد، آن وقت چه؟
اگر چنین باشد، امیدوارم روح ما تا ابد بر فراز رودخانه آرنو معلق بماند. مگر در فلورنتیا نبود که فلوریا شکوفه کرد؟
و مگر در آنجا نبود که در پرتو آفتاب کم فروغ غروب، پیشانی ایرلیوس همچون طلا می درخشید؟”
More quotes…