This forum was closed on October 1st, 2010. However, the archives are open to the public and filled with vast amounts of good reading and information for you to enjoy. If you wish to meet some Wardrobians, please visit the Into the Wardrobe Facebook group.

Surprised by Lewis

The man. The myth.

Surprised by Lewis

Postby Sven » 15 Mar 2010, 22:40

I just finished a reread of a book I had last read back in the 70s, Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Inferno was their third collaboration as science fiction writers. It's basically an attempt to update the first book of Dante's Divine Comedy with images from the 20th century. They published a sequel a little over a year ago, and before I read the sequel I decided to reread the original. The used copy I picked up was one that included an authors' note at the end, talking about how they came to write the novel in the first place. When they began to kick around ideas, they wondered how they could make the theological ideas in the book translate for a modern readership, most of whom probably hadn't read Dante. The following excerpt is pertinent to this forum:

Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle wrote:Jerry immediately said, "Suppose we look at Dante as C. S. Lewis might have? Lewis's The Great Divorce looks at an entirely different geography of Hell, but it certainly provides a consistent philosophy." We continued the discussion, and before the night was over we had the beginnings of a novel, including the main character, Allen Carpenter, a somewhat pretentious but successful science-fiction writer modeled on a composite of several people we knew. We had also determined the theme of the book: Carpenter is dead, and in the Inferno, but he does not believe in Heaven and Hell. The book is about his efforts to discover where he is, and why. Our Inferno would employ Lewis's theology and Dante's geography.
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
User avatar
Sven
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 2873
Joined: Aug 1996
Location: Greenbelt, MD, near Washington DC

Re: Surprised by Lewis

Postby Sven » 16 Mar 2010, 19:44

I just finished the sequel, Escape from Hell, and it has even more Lewis in it. For starters, it's dedicated to him: "To C. S. 'Jack' Lewis". Then, a sizable part of the first few chapters is taken up with a conversation between the narrator and the shade of Sylvia Plath in the Wood of Suicides, during which Plath discusses Lewis and his thinking quite a bit.
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
User avatar
Sven
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 2873
Joined: Aug 1996
Location: Greenbelt, MD, near Washington DC

Re: Surprised by Lewis

Postby cyranorox » 16 Mar 2010, 20:37

Sequel??? whoo hoo. Loved Inferno, never knew there was a sequel. And with Plath! going to get it forthwith.
Apocatastasis Now!
cyranorox
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 274
Joined: Dec 2007
Location: a garret over a moonlit street

Re: Surprised by Lewis

Postby Nerd42 » 18 Mar 2010, 17:14

I must get this
Nerd42
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 160
Joined: Jul 2009

Re: Surprised by Lewis

Postby Nerd42 » 18 Mar 2010, 21:53

I am listening to the unabridged audiobook of Inferno now. Best line so far: "It's been Hell here since Dante published that book."

It's a very entertaining book, but I think it's depiction of Hell is terribly cartoonish and am disappointed that it takes more influence from Dante than from Lewis.

(later edit) Finished Inferno last night, listening to Escape from Hell now

(later later edit) These books annoy me. They seem to totally disregard Lewis's radically different imagery about hell and instead try to set our ideas of justice back to those of the 14th century. (Yes, I know Lewis was a classicist, but this is going way too far) It seems to bring up all the problems about hell again when The Great Divorce has already dealt with them so spectacularly and totally ignores the progress that was made on the issue in that book, while at the same time giving it lip service. I was hoping to find an updated Great Divorce but have instead discovered a horror novel that tries to drag The Great Divorce back down to the level of Dante. Lewis was certainly influenced by Dante but took it in a whole different direction, which I think was much closer to the right way, but these guys seem to be trying to bend it back again, which I find frustrating. But I'm only halfway through Escape from Hell at this point so they may fix it in the end. Still, very entertaining books full of interesting characters. It has all the famous bad people you didn't get to meet in The Great Divorce because they either hadn't died yet or else because Lewis was trying to avoid naming names. It needs Hitler though ... the lack of a Hitler cameo stinks throughout the plot.

I think the thing that really frustrates me about it is that we've established in The Great Divorce that hell needs no external punishments because the people in it make themselves miserable and the doors are locked from the inside. But with the imagery in these books, the people there could easily be there for eons by someone else's cruelty despite wanting to get out. The feeling one gets from these books is that all the people in Hell could easily end up in some random bad place for something they didn't even do. It's cartoonish and doesn't make sense. This seems like a very sloppy job in many places.
Nerd42
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 160
Joined: Jul 2009

Re: Surprised by Lewis

Postby Nerd42 » 26 Mar 2010, 01:39

Ah, SPOILER ALERT
Spoiler:
The brief Hitler and Stalin cameo finally occurs at the very end of Escape From Hell.
Reading these books was like watching Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead back-to-back. I don't recommend them if you want Lewis-style stuff ... I'd recommend the "Journeys to Fayrah" series by Bill Myers if you want a C. S. Lewis style story.
Nerd42
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 160
Joined: Jul 2009


Return to C. S. Lewis

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered members and 2 guests