The Book Meme Challenge: Favorite book of your favorite writer
It was suddenly borne in upon him that her purity and peace were not, as they had seemed, things settled and inevitable like the purity and peace of an animal – that they were alive and therefore breakable, a balance maintained by a mind and therefore, at least in theory, able to be lost.
Given the 33 Lewis books on my shelf, it must be understood that discussing Perelandra is somewhat arbitrary – but only somewhat. Not only does it contain Lewis’s familiar style and his mode of addressing situations, but also many different elements which appear here and there in his other works. Generally, this second book of the Cosmic Trilogy portrays what an unfallen world might look like, how temptation might be met (and must be fought) there, and what becomes of the fighters – but behold what we can discover upon examination of particulars:
The fictionalized version of Lewis, fighting “the barrage” on his way to Ransom’s cottage, sets out the real man’s thoughts (also met in Mere Christianity and The Four Loves) about what one feels when a relative or loved one is lost to them, or when one finds oneself on the inside without meaning to enter, or the distaste one may have for the good. Ransom’s first experiences of the planet, like several other books, show Lewis’s talent for depicting a place as well as catching the quality of it, on which he places so much importance in “On Stories.” Weston’s description of Death and what comes after bears a deep resemblance to Screwtape’s description of one’s ultimate fate in Hell. The speech of Weston/Un-Man, wherein words are twisted in an attempt to reconcile opposing ideas, harkens to The Horse and His Boy (and probably The Abolition of Man or other books as well). The cave is reminiscent of The Silver Chair’s Underland; the mermaids of Lucy’s meeting in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; and the establishment of Perelandra (with its pairs of animals, its man and wife, its laughter, and its declaration that nobler animals shall be made hnau) of Narnia’s beginning in The Magician’s Nephew. The whole book may be taken as both a reflection on loving and obeying God, as well as the medieval model of the heavenly spheres (which we meet in The Discarded Image).
And yet for all that, Perelandra is not simply the cobbling together of themes Lewis thought important, or some sort of monomyth, or a vindication of pleasure. It is a lovely examination of all sorts of questions: what would it mean to be in perfect communion with God? What is hatred for, and what does charity look like? What is it like in Other Place?
To what extent is the world physical or spiritual? That was one dichotomy I was pleased to see broken down; spiritual warfare, indeed, is physical warfare as well. Food may indeed give knowledge, but not always for evil. So may God give knowledge, and the idea that one grows older as one learns more has given me much to consider in thinking of childhood, adulthood, and what lies between.
It is difficult to imagine a perfect world, but Lewis does a quite passable job. The discussions between Ransom and The Green Lady (sorry, Tinidril will never quite roll off my tongue), and even the temptations of the Un-Man, open my mind to think of how it might be to live unsundered from Maleldil. The descriptions of the planet, the violent pleasures thereof, and the benedictions near the end, all add to the coppery image of Venus, resplendent, and giving praise to the God of Deep Heaven.
Blessed be He!