The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner – James Hogg

If you’ve never heard of The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner before, you are not alone. Hogg’s strange narrative was not popular upon publication in 1824, and only saw a revival of interest in the mid twentieth century.

The novel follows two brothers, George and Robert, raised in different households, and whose lives though very different become increasingly tangled as the narrative progresses. Whilst in Edinburgh the brothers meet, and from that point onwards Robert becomes a disruptive presence in George’s life – he is tormented by suspicions that Robert is never far behind him, creating trouble in his wake. It appears Robert on the other hand is led by a mysterious figure to commit a series of crimes, and under the belief that he is one of the elected few who is predestined to be saved by God.

These ‘memoirs’ are “presented by an editor whose attempts to explain the story only succeed in intensifying its more baffling and bizarre aspects” [Oxford World Classics]. Hogg leaves the reader with an abundance of questions – who is the mysterious stranger? Is he merely a figment of Robert’s imagination or the devil incarnate? Whom should the reader trust?

To sum up The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner succinctly is incredibly difficult. It is a psychological mystery crime thriller, that also delves into religious fanaticism, delusion and sin, whilst simultaneously examining the composition of identity. And why anyone wouldn’t be intrigued by Hogg’s novel is beyond me – the whole thing is a fascinating read not to be missed.

 

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