Book Chats: Perelandra by C.S. Lewis
by Rachel Robinson
In the wilds of an English degree, it can be frustrating – perhaps even futile – finding time to read things which are not assigned in class. The same could occasionally be said about things which are assigned, but that’s a different story, no pun intended! Nevertheless, if you are feeling the need for some Unstructured Book Appreciation, check out C.S. Lewis’ (Yes, he of Narnia fame) Space Trilogy- especially Perelandra.
Perelandra or Voyage to Venus as earlier editions are called, was published a year after Lewis’ Preface to Paradise Lost came out. Those who have studied Milton will see many similarities between the two works. The protagonist, Arthur Ransom, is sent to outer space to prevent a great evil- in fact, to combat Evil itself. The book mixes philosophy and science fiction in extremely imaginative ways. Despite the fact that some basic scientific data is flawed, considering that it was published in 1943, the questions it raises are uncomfortably contemporary. Though Perelandra is indisputably science fiction, and good-quality sci-fi at that, its style is quite discursive, so consider yourself warned – it is not altogether a light read!
This recommendation is not really fair; Perelandra is the second in the trilogy. To properly understand it, you will have to read Out of the Silent Planet. It is very well worth reading, but not as powerful as Perelandra. However, Perelandra is well worth any trouble that you take to read it. Lewis’ creative and analytical powers are both fully displayed in this novel, leaving you with plenty to ponder.
“I was young yesterday,” she said. “When I laughed at you. Now I know that the people in your world do not like to be laughed at.”
“You say you were young?”
“Are you not young today also?… a night is not a very long time.”
She thought again, and then spoke suddenly, her face lightening. “I see it now,” she said. “You think times have lengths. A night is always a night whatever you do in it, as from this tree to that is always so many paces whether you take them quickly or slowly. I suppose that is true in a way. But the waves do not always come at equal distances. I see that you come from a wise world … if this is wise. I have never done it before – stepping out of life into the Alongside and looking at oneself living as if one were not alive. Do they all do that in your world, Piebald?”
Rachel Robinson is a third year English Honours student, Vice-President of the ESA and Editor for The Garden Statuary, The UBC Undergraduate Journal of English.