Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Great Divorce - C.S. Lewis: Praise from John Updike by Judy Joyce

The book notes for this read have a great deal to reveal about this masterpiece of fantasy and allegory by the world renowned C.S. Lewis.

As a Fellow and Tutor in English literature until 1954 at Oxford University, it is of no surprise that Lewis was unanimously elected to the chair of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge University. Lewis was arguably one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and most influential writer of his day.

Succinctly put by the L.A.Times
Lewis perhaps more than any other twentieth century writer, forced those who listened to him and read his works to come to terms with their own philosophical presuppositions.
John Updike adds his own thoughts about reading Lewis and penned on the cover of the paperback version that - I read Lewis for comfort and pleasure many years ago and a glance into the books revives my old admiration.

The Great Divorce is a one of a kind read:
Probing the depths of Hell and the heights of Heaven, Lewis commands the Divine Comedy (Dante) to stand aside.
Who among us has not met the devoted parent willing to forsake their own life for that of their child only to have the child imprisoned for life when that devotion proves to be self-centered. Indeed, a prison of it's own making when the child becomes adult.

Who has not seen or experienced the person so caught up in their own bitterness, their torment begs for mercy. What merciful person has not tried to oblige.

Lewis' exposes the duality of these personality gimmicks for the darkness they exude in an attempt to tarnish - if not dispel completely - those who dare to experience joy in their lives. Be amazed and surprised by Lewis' adept illumination of the meaning of Time in a way unique to his brilliant mind.

Time is a silver table that is layed for the chessmen representing earthly life. A ghost-like dwarf has been reduced to insect size as the time runs out to experience the joy of love and life. Lewis' Hell is not the eternal fire and blazing immensity of souls lost in an enormous pit for all eternity. Rather so small, a butterfly can swallow it all - in it's entirety - with a single nibble.

Those who inhabit hell are so turned in on themselves, they get smaller and smaller consumed by their own self-interest and pride. The entire eternal expanse of Hell is no more than an atom- sized pebble to be cowered at the mere sound of a birdsong.

For a damned soul is nearly nothing: it is shrunk, shut up in itself. Good beats upon the damned incessantly as sound beats on the ears of the deaf, but they cannot recieve it. Their fists are clenched, their eyes fast shut. First they will not, in the end they cannot, open their hands for gifts, their mouths for food, or their eyes to see.

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