Professor Suzanne Wolfe, Writer-in-Residence in the English Department, has this to say about her new novel:
“The Confessions of X is the story of St. Augustine of Hippo’s concubine told in her own voice. I first came across her in religion class at my English convent school when I was 12. I remember raising my hand and asking Sister Bernadette who this mysterious woman was in Augustine’s Confessions—the woman he referred to as Una, the One. She replied: “No one knows. She is lost to history.” That phrase “lost to history” stuck with me. I thought: so many great women are lost to history, eclipsed by the lives of the men they loved. So, forty years later, I decided to go looking for the concubine so she could tell her story.
“My research and the writing of this novel took me eight years. I traveled to Tunis in North Africa, the site of ancient Carthage, and to Ostia and Rome. I read Augustine’s extraordinary Confessions, his letters and sermons and other works, in order to catch his “voice” and the shape of his mind and soul. I also read secondary texts—biographies of Augustine’s life, books on the fifth century and Africa Province and the late Roman Empire. This gave me an extraordinarily complete picture of Augustine and his time but a blank for the concubine. So I imagined her character, her life, her family, her background. It seemed to me that only an equally remarkable woman would fall in love with a man as remarkable as Augustine.
“As a writer of historical fiction, I find that, when all the research is done, what remains is to locate beneath the differences of dress, of culture, of social custom, the beating heart of the person who lived so long ago. Then, through a fictional narrative, place the reader’s hand on that beating heart.
“I will be reading from The Confessions of X at Elliott Bay Books in Seattle on Saturday, February 6th at 7pm. I would love to see you there.”