Friday, January 05, 2007


This holiday season I've been reading book two of C.S. Lewis' space trilogy: Perelandra, also known as Voyage to Venus. Having passed the greatest chapter of fiction ever written (chapter three) and well into chapter six, I've been jotting down page numbers that will be worth going back to read again for their theological or spiritual profundity. Often I find fiction can capture things in ways systematics can not. There are several exerpts I could share here, but here's one that I read this morning.

Basically what you need to know is that the main character of the series, Ransom, has been transported to Venus (that part of the Deep Heavens known as Perelandra) and seems to have some sort of mission to accomplish. As he meets one of the two first inhabitants of this world he realizes that this may indeed be a place untouched by evil in the same way as Thulcandra, or earth (known by other worlds as "the silent planet"). After a crazy conversation with the naked green woman of Perelandra, Ransom notices a Presence in this world that he must come to grips with. Now here is the exerpt:

That sense of being in Someone's presence which had descended on him with such unbearable pressure during the very first moments of his conversation with the Lady did not disappear when he had left her. It was, if anything, increased. Her society had been, if anything, a protection against it, and her absence left him not to solitude but to a more formidable kind of privacy. At first it was almost intolerable .... later on, he discovered that it was intolerable only at certain moments--at just those moments in fact ... when a man asserts his independence and feels that now at last he's on his own. When you felt like that, then the very air seemed too crowded to breathe; a complete fulness seemed to be excluding you from a place which, nevertheless, you were unable to leave. But when you gave in to the thing, gave yourself up to it, there was no burden to be borne. It became not a load but a medium, a sort of splendour as of eatable, drinkable, breathable gold, which fed and carried you and not only poured into you but out from you as well. Taken the wrong way, it suffocated; taken the right way, it made terrestrial life seem, by comparison, a vacuum. At first, of course, the wrong moments occurred pretty often. But like a man who has a wound that hurts him in certain positions and who gradually learns to avoid those positions, Ransom learned not to make that inner gesture.


bcmatt said...

I myself was captured by this book just a couple months ago. Provoked alot of thought. I may have already mentioned it.

matthew a. wilkinson said...

Is "the greatest chapter of fiction ever written" the chapter where he describes the islands that move around like water? Where the land rises and falls?

'Cos that would certainly be a contender for my shortlist of best-ever chapters.

I think this is the great unappreciated Lewis novel.

Okay, all his non-Narnia novels are underappreciated. ''Till We Have Faces' anyone?

Coutts said...

haven't read that one, but i agree with you about his non-narnia stuff.

that is the chapter, yes. first time i read it it blew my mind.

bcmatt said...

Yes! Till we have faces. I love that one too. I have previously made a list of my top three Lewis Novels and they are as Follows:
1. Till We Have Faces
2. Perelandra
3. The Horse and His Boy

heheh, if anyone even cares.

matthew a. wilkinson said...

I care!

My top three:

1. Perelandra
2. Till We Have Faces
3. That Hideous Strength

Hey, did you know that Lewis actually began writing another Ransom story called 'The Dark Tower.' It was never finished, but it was published in a wonderful collection of his short stories. Its not very long; but still very intriguing. I haven't read it in a while.

Perhaps you knew this already.

Coutts said...

i have read it and wish it was finished. i'm not sure i liked that hideous strength all that much but perhaps need to give it another go. it seems i'll have to try til we have faces too. as for me i'd go:

the great divorce
out of the silent planet