The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila: A Biography

Princeton University Press
Free sample

The life and many afterlives of one of the most enduring mystical testaments ever written

The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila is among the most remarkable accounts ever written of the human encounter with the divine. The Life is not really an autobiography at all, but rather a confession written for inquisitors by a nun whose raptures and mystical claims had aroused suspicion. Despite its troubled origins, the book has had a profound impact on Christian spirituality for five centuries, attracting admiration from readers as diverse as mystics, philosophers, artists, psychoanalysts, and neurologists. How did a manuscript once kept under lock and key by the Spanish Inquisition become one of the most inspiring religious books of all time?

National Book Award winner Carlos Eire tells the story of this incomparable spiritual masterpiece, examining its composition and reception in the sixteenth century, the various ways its mystical teachings have been interpreted and reinterpreted across time, and its enduring influence in our own secular age. The Life became an iconic text of the Counter-Reformation, was revered in Franco’s Spain, and has gone on to be read as a feminist manifesto, a literary work, and even as a secular text. But as Eire demonstrates in this vibrant and evocative book, Teresa’s confession is a cry from the heart to God and an audacious portrayal of mystical theology as a search for love.

Here is the essential companion to the Life, one woman’s testimony to the reality of mystical experience and a timeless affirmation of the ultimate triumph of good over evil.

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About the author

Carlos Eire is the T. L. Riggs Professor of History and Religious Studies at Yale University. His many books include the bestselling memoir Waiting for Snow in Havana, which won the National Book Award for nonfiction; Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450–1650; and A Very Brief History of Eternity (Princeton). He lives in Guilford, Connecticut.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jun 11, 2019
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Pages
280
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ISBN
9780691189376
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Religious
Religion / Christian Theology / General
Religion / Christian Theology / History
Religion / Christianity / Catholic
Religion / History
Religion / Mysticism
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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In his 2003 National Book Award–winning memoir Waiting for Snow in Havana, Carlos Eire narrated his coming of age in Cuba just before and during the Castro revolution. That book literally ends in midair as eleven-year-old Carlos and his older brother leave Havana on an airplane—along with thousands of other children—to begin their new life in Miami in 1962. It would be years before he would see his mother again. He would never again see his beloved father.

Learning to Die in Miami opens as the plane lands and Carlos faces, with trepidation and excitement, his new life. He quickly realizes that in order for his new American self to emerge, his Cuban self must "die." And so, with great enterprise and purpose, he begins his journey.

We follow Carlos as he adjusts to life in his new home. Faced with learning English, attending American schools, and an uncertain future, young Carlos confronts the age-old immigrant’s plight: being surrounded by American bounty, but not able to partake right away. The abundance America has to offer excites him and, regardless of how grim his living situation becomes, he eagerly forges ahead with his own personal assimilation program, shedding the vestiges of his old life almost immediately, even changing his name to Charles. Cuba becomes a remote and vague idea in the back of his mind, something he used to know well, but now it "had ceased to be part of the world."

But as Carlos comes to grips with his strange surroundings, he must also struggle with everyday issues of growing up. His constant movement between foster homes and the eventual realization that his parents are far away in Cuba bring on an acute awareness that his life has irrevocably changed. Flashing back and forth between past and future, we watch as Carlos balances the divide between his past and present homes and finds his way in this strange new world, one that seems to hold the exhilarating promise of infinite possibilities and one that he will eventually claim as his own.

An exorcism and an ode, Learning to Die in Miami is a celebration of renewal—of those times when we’re certain we have died and then are somehow, miraculously, reborn.
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