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Historia Calamitatum

Peter Abelard

Book Overview: 

Autobiographies from remote historical periods can be especially fascinating. Modes of self-presentation vary greatly across the centuries, as of course does the very concept of Self.

Peter Abelard, the medieval philosopher and composer, here gives a concise but vivid survey of his notoriously calamitous life. The work is couched in the form of a letter to an afflicted friend. Abelard’s abrasively competitive, often arrogant personality emerges at once in the brief Foreword, where he informs his correspondent: “(I)n comparing your sorrows with mine, you may discover that yours are in truth nought.. and so shall you come to bear them the more easily.”

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .As a single episode of passion it is not particularly distinguished except for the appealing personality of Héloïse; as a phase in the development of Christian philosophy it is of only secondary value. United in one, the two factors achieve a brilliant dramatic unity that has made the story of Abélard and Héloïse immortal.


Often the hearts of men and women are stirred, as likewise they are soothed in their sorrows, more by example than by words. And therefore, because I too have known some consolation from speech had with one who was a witness thereof, am I now minded to write of the sufferings which have sprung out of my misfortunes, for the eyes of one who, though absent, is of himself ever a consoler. This I do so that, in comparing your sorrows with mine, you may discover that yours are in truth nought, or at the most but of small account, and so shall you come to bear them more e. . . Read More

Community Reviews

This is a great little autobiographical book of a mediaeval philosopher who, though with an extremely healthy ego, suffered some horrendous misfortunes, thus his 'calamitous history'.

Abélard is most famous for two things- his long-lasting love affair and letters with Héloïse, and the tragedy laid up

Peter Abelard was not well loved by his contemporaries - they were afraid of his new scholastic approach to analyzing fine points of scripture; they resented the brilliance and creativity of his mind; they were furious at his popularity with the young students at the University in Paris. Of course,

I found Abelard to be egotistical and obnoxious. He has a real victim complex and really pats himself on the back for totally taking advantage of Heloise, who has a totally different version of things.

Having exercised more self-control than Abelard apparently did in his entire life by not making lewd comments about the whole Abelard-and-Heloise thing, I can only observe that Abelard was insufferable, smarter than everyone in the room and knew it, gifted with an invective that would have made him

You know, some guys interpret the warning of taking “Heaven by storm” as an incentive to their aspirations. Such a one was Peter Abelard.

And so, alas, was I - to the point of imperilling my health.

Abelard, though, crossed A Bridge Too Far, by crossing the family of the noble young lady whom he was

Isaiah was sawed to death in his equator. Jonah was swallowed by a fish. Habakkuk travelled through the air suspended by his hair. Amos got his teeth pulled out one by one for "talking too much". St. Ignatius of Antioch was eaten by lions. St. Lawrence got toasted. St. Hyppolitus was torn apart by h

This autobiography has a little about Abelard's childhood, a lot on his college years and early years as a teacher, his relationship with Heloise, and his years as a monk. He wrote it when he was about 53 years old. I found it irritating how he was constantly paranoid that others were out to do him

Funniest twelfth-century book ever. I'm an obvious Abelard-devotee (despite being an atheist, who cares) and love him and his work to bits, but this book really is extremely underrated. It's bitter and angry, but that just makes it rather hilarious. Anyone with knowledge of all the great twelfth-cen

I've never understood why the story of Abelard and Heloise is considered romantic. Abelard was a self-centered whiner who seems to have had no reservations about violating his monastic vows and the trust of his employer. He finagled a teaching position with the plan of beating his student so that sh

Persuasive,emotional and beautiful..

Reading this book was like getting a family pack ice-cream(my flavor is vanilla,by the way) after eating plain bread for a month. It had everything that a book needs-a good story,interesting characters and beautiful writing style. Abelard sounded arrogant at time

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