New Translation and Introduction
By Mirabai Starr
"Teresa of Avila. She was the last person anyone would have expected to become a nun, yet she became one of the most famous nuns of all time. She was a brilliant administrator in a world where such vocations were all but closed to women. And above all she combined an astonishing proclivity for ecstatic union with God with down-to-earth practicality and good humor. Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) is one of the most beloved of the Catholic saints. Her texts of spiritual instruction, such as The Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection, speak so plainly and eloquently about the interior life that they have become undisputed classics, studied by people of many faiths. In 1562, at the request of the Spanish Inquisition, Teresa sat down to write an account of the mystical experiences for which she had become famous. The result was this book, one of the great classics of spiritual autobiography.
"With this fresh translation of The Book of My Life, Mirabai Starr brings the inimitable Spanish mystic to life for a new generationwith contemporary English that mirrors Teresa’s own earthy, vernacular Spanish, and that presents us withfour centuries after Teresa’s deathsomeone we feel we know: a woman intoxicated with God yet filled with an overflowing love for the world."
Shambhala Publications web site
“IN THE SPIRITUAL LITERATURE OF THE PAST, rarely are the saint and the human being found together under the same cover. However, in Teresa of Avila: The Book of My Life (New Seeds, 2007) translated by Mirabai Starr that is precisely what we find, someone of profound holiness who is also profoundly humandoubts, foibles, fears and all. And personally, I find this much more satisfying than the traditional depictions of saints in all their perfection.”
from a review in Spectrum: A Journal of Renewal Spirituality, July 2007 (complete review in PDF form)
by Netanel Miles-Yepez, Executive Director
The Reb Zalman Legacy Project www.rzlp.org
“A joumey to the world of Saint Teresa of Avila's interior castle can be transcendent. It was for her. Teresa was a 16th century Spanish mystic, canonized by the Catholic church only 35 years after her death. As a young nun, Teresa received a vision of a crystal-like castle ,with seven mansions or dwellings, where the soul resides and a true seeker such as Teresa may encounter the divine.”
from a review in LA Yoga, July/August 2007 (complete review in PDF form)
by Julie Deife
“Starr is the first woman, and one of the only non-Catholics, to translate the memoir. These vantage points give her a fresh perspective on the mystic. Crisp, contemporary language.”
Publishers Weekly (complete review)
"Although there are many translations of Teresa's major writings (most by men), Myss prefers those by women scholars, including Mirabai Starr, whose new translation of Teresa of Ávila: The Book of My Life is being published next month by Shambhala's New Seeds imprint. An audio book read by Carmelite nun Tessa Bielecki also is being released in February."
Religion BookLine (complete review)
"Any occasion to renew on's aquaintence with St. Teresa of Avila (1515-82) is a cause for celebration: who would have imagined that a Doctor of the Church would have been such good company, in her remaining writings, to so many Admired and studied by theologians, literary crutics, feminists, and the devout, Theresa wrote this memoir at the direction of the Spanish Inquisition and it mixes her account of her own life and career in the Church with advice on the spiritual life. Starr's translationis the first new translation into English for 40 years and the first by a womanand its easy fluency captures Teresa's conversational enthusiasm most effectively. Highly recommended."
Library Journal (see Q&A)
Radio Interview w/ Kate Byrd:
Listen! KRZA; February 7, 2007; 29 minutes
In the Footsteps of the Mystic
feature article from the Taos News
February 8, 2007
"Starr, an adjunct professor of philosophy and religious studies at the University of New Mexico, is already known to fans of Saint Teresa of Avila as the translator of the 16th-century nun’s work The Interior Castle. Now Starr tackles Teresa’s better-known autobiography, which has not seen a new English translation in four decades. Starr is the first woman, and one of the only non-Catholics, to translate the memoir. These vantage points giver her a fresh perspective on the mystic, whose writings can be verbose and shrouded in the overspiritualized language. (Thankfully, Starr has also cut almost all of the saint’s self-annihilating statement’s about being a “wretched worm.”) Crisp, contemporary language puts Teresa’s famous passion for God n stark relief. Carmelite hermit and author Tessa Bielicki provides a brief but engaging foreword, while Starr pens a helpful introduction, highlighting Teresa’s life and placing her work in historical context."
September 20, 2006
The latest spiritual guru gracing bookstore shelves isn't an Eastern sage, a New Age self-helper, or even an evangelical preacherit's the 16th-century Spanish Carmelite nun and saint, Teresa of Ávila. And it's not just Catholics or even Christians who are writingand buyingbooks about her. In fact, none other than bestselling author Caroline Myss has been inspired by this mystic's spirituality. Her latest book, Entering the Castle: An Inner Path to God and Your Soul (Free Press, Mar.; starred review in this issue) borrows Teresa's imagery of the "interior castle" to show people how to find life's answers deep within their own souls.
"She's a hot mystic right now, and I consider her my personal patron saint," said Myss, who is already conducting sold-out workshops on the topic. "People are looking for the experience of God now, not just a capacity to discuss God. So they turn to people like Teresa who are masters of that route. And like a classic mystic, she breaks through the bonds of her tradition with a message that is truly universal."
Although there are many translations of Teresa's major writings (most by men), Myss prefers those by women scholars, including Mirabai Starr, whose new translation of Teresa of Ávila: The Book of My Life is being published next month by Shambhala's New Seeds imprint. An audio book read by Carmelite nun Tessa Bielecki also is being released in February.
Starr, an adjunct professor of philosophy and religious studies who describes herself as a "Jewish Buddhist/Hindu," has translated Teresa's message into contemporary language that makes it more accessible to today's readers. "Teresa was a contemplative and an activist, and I think we are all called to find that balance in the world," Starr told RBL. "She represents, especially for women, that balance of action and contemplation that's so needed today."
Even more accessible is fiction, and a new novel of Teresa's life blends fact with fiction to tell the story of a young Jewish convert who ended up becoming a powerful founder of convents and church reformer during the tumultuous times of the Spanish Inquisition. Sister Teresa (Overlook, Mar.) is by Georgetown Spanish literature professor Barbara Mujica, the author of the Frida (Overlook, 2001) about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
Mujica also sees Teresa as a teacher. "She certainly is a heroine for our times. She was a CEO before the word was invented," said Mujica. "Her spirituality is an interior spirituality that doesn't hang on ritual but rather teaches people to find God within. And in this time of sectarianism, Teresa is a person who reaches across cultures and religions. She speaks to everyone."
by Heidi Schlumpf
Religion BookLine -- 1/24/2007
Interview with Mirabai Starr
Recently, Library Journal had an opportunity to speak with Mirabai Starr, translator of the new forthcoming version of the autobiography of the Spanish saint, Teresa of Avila. Starr’s interest in the great mystic is part of the growing trend toward cross-denominational and even cross-faith investigation of the roots of religious practice and spiritual living. Starr is an adjunct professor of religion at the University of New Mexico at Taos. We reached her at her office there.
LJ: Ms Starr, how did you discover Teresa of Avila? what attracted you to her and to this project?
Mirabai Starr: I was drawn to Teresa against my will. I was in love with her protegé, John of the Cross, whom I considered to be the Rumi of Spain. As I worked on a new translation of his Dark Night of the Soul, John gently led me into a deeper appreciation of his beloved mentor, Teresa. Dark Night of the Soul came out the day my teen-aged daughter was killed in a car accident. Translating The Interior Castle during that subsequent year saved my life. Teresa was so much more than I had imagined. Her deep compassion for the suffering of humanity, grounded in her own experience of physical pain and emotional anguish, combined with a warm sense of humor and earthy practicality, made her accessible, comforting, and inspiring. I couldn't wait to take on her autobiography after that. I wanted to see what made this woman who she was.
LJ: Why do you think you are the first woman to translate Teresa of Avila's *Life* into English?
MS: Frankly, I'm amazed more women haven't translated Teresa of Avila. She has so much to say to women across cultures and throughout the centuries: How could we not have claimed her as our own?
And yet, her message transcends gender. She speaks to anyone on a serious spiritual path -- anyone who is looking for a deeper experience than the kind of feel-good spirituality being marketed by pop culture. I am approaching this work as a woman, using a woman's voice to speak a woman's heart. And because I am not a Catholic, or even a Christian, I find that I am able to both connect with and convey something essential about Teresa's humanity that might not be as evident in the more literal and more orthodox versions previously offered by men.
LJ: You have met with some adverse criticism for reinterpreting some theologically freighted words in earlier translations for modern audiences. Have you felt a need to make similar alterations in the Life? How do you respond to those criticisms?
I do search for more inclusive language. For instance, instead of the word "sin," I use the original Hebrew translation, "missing the mark" or "error." In place of a personified "devil," I use "the spirit of evil." Mainstream critical reviews have been uniformly positive. Many Catholics have expressed gratitude that I have made their own saints more available to them by making their teachings more flowing and accessible. Non-religious readers seem to appreciate the perennial wisdom Teresa and John have to offer, a wisdom as relevant and useful today as it was five centuries ago. Criticisms of the work tended to come from strict Christians who would prefer the familiar and more orthodox religious terminology. These objections only serve to reinforce my sense that I am reaching a broader audience than the traditional readership already familiar with these great saints.
LJ: For a woman who claimed to have very little ambition for herself, Teresa has enjoyed a remarkable posthumous fame--she was celebrated by the English poet Crashaw, and is perhaps the only Doctor of the Church to appear in a modern opera (Virgil Thomson's Four Saints in Three Acts). Most of all, she is one of the most revered women in Catholic devotion and theology. What does she mean to non-Catholic Christians, and even to non-Christians?
MS: There is something universally appealing about Teresa of Avila. I can think of no other saint of the Catholic Church, except for Francis of Assisi, who so easily transcends the boundaries of institutionalized religion and reaches directly into the heart of the human experience. She not only offers potent teachings on spiritual growth, but also practical advice on navigating the treacherous waters of human relationships. Her love of God is so passionate and poetic, one does not even need to be a believer in God to appreciate Teresa's stunning intimacy with her invisible Beloved.
“Spiritual Living” Column
Jan 1, 2007