Widely regarded as the first modern autobiography, The Confessions is an astonishing work of acute psychological insight. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) argued passionately against the inequality he believed to be intrinsic to civilized society. In his Confessions he relives the first fifty-three years of his radical life with vivid immediacy - from his earliest years, where we can see the source of his belief in the innocence of childhood, through the development of his philosophical and political ideas, his struggle against the French authorities and exile from France following the publication of Emile. Depicting a life of adventure, persecution, paranoia, and brilliant achievement, The Confessions is a landmark work by one of the greatest thinkers of the Enlightenment, which was a direct influence upon the work of Proust, Goethe and Tolstoy among others.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born in Geneva in 1712. Abandoned by his father at the age of ten, he left the city in 1728 and from then on wandered Europe, searching for happiness. In 1732 he settled for eight years at Les Charmettes, remembered in his book Confessions. In 1741 he moved to Paris where he met Diderot, in the meantime fathering five children, all of whom he abandoned. His corwning achievement is his work of political philosophy, The Social Contract, which was published in 1762. He died in 1778. J.M. Cohen, a Cambridge graduate, was the author of many Penguin translations, including versions of Cervantes, Rabelais and Montaigne. He died in 1989.