CS Lewis: Fact And Fantasy

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CS Lewis is a household name and regarded as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. He is the author of more than 30 books, from the much-loved Chronicles of Narnia series to the influential “Screwtape Letters” (1942) and “Mere Christianity” (1952).

His books can still be found on my family’s bookshelves, but what do we actually know of the writer and theologian outside of Narnia?

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast on November 29, 1898. It was in December 1916 he received a scholarship to University College, Oxford. The following year, during the Great War, he served with the Somerset Light Infantry.

In 1925, Lewis tutored English Language and Literature as an English Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. It was during this time he met his great friend and colleague J.R.R. Tolkien, writer of the fantasy classics “The Hobbit” and “The Lord Of The Rings”.

Faith played an important part in Lewis’s life. He started off as an atheist, then became a theist (someone who believes in a god or gods), before converting to Christianity in 1931.

The classic decades

The golden period in Lewis’s writing were between the Thirties and Fifties, beginning with “The Pilgrim’s Regress” in 1933, his first notable work of prose fiction.

It wasn’t till October 16, 1950, that Lewis’s best-selling children’s fantasy book, “The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe”, was published. A further six books would feature Aslan the lion and the magical land of Narnia.

Lewis met American poet and writer Joy Gresham for the first time 1952. Two years later, he became the chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge.

Lewis and Joy were married on April 23, 1956. However, tragedy struck when Joy died of cancer four years into their marriage. The couple’s relationship is acutely observed in Richard Attenborough’s 1993 film “Shadowlands”.

On September 29, 1961, Lewis’s “A Grief Observed” was published, under the pseudonym N.W. Clerk. The book was a personal outpouring of Lewis’s emotions and experiences during his bereavement, including his anger towards God.

CS Lewis died on November 22, 1963.

Lewis possessed the gift of storytelling, and his books have sold millions of copies and been adapted into television and film.

Like the works of all great writers, I can’t help but think his stories will live for ever.

Here are some writing quotes from other great scribes.

For more from the “Friend” Fiction team, click here.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.