Perelandra

Click on the link to listen to the BBC's 'Perelandra' in 18 episodes

"Perelandra" continues the sometimes thrilling, sometimes mystical, but always sublimely evocative adventures of Dr.Ransom first explored in “Out of the Silent Planet”. In this second volume of C.S.Lewis’ acclaimed Cosmic Trilogy, Ransom is called to the beautiful paradise planet of Perelandra, or Venus, which is in grave peril from his old adversary Dr.Weston. Ransom encounters floating islands and bubble trees as well as an all-powerful female ruler, an Eve figure who undergoes temptation at the hands of a Satan figure in the form of Weston. Ransom must engage with Weston in a desperate struggle to save the purity of Perelandra.

“Perelandra” was first published in 1943, and again demonstrates the matchless imagination of the man who was later to create the Narnia books in delivering an exhilarating adventure which also attempts to answer some of life’s great mysteries. Lewis’ evocation of alien landscapes is rich and brilliantly imagined, demonstrating his flair as a craftsman of classic science fiction. The Cosmic Trilogy was inspired by Lewis’, then in his late thirties, involvement with an informal writing group known as the Inklings, which included his lifelong friend and fellow Oxford academic J.R.R.Tolkien. Not only are these books where Lewis first explored many styles to which he would return in his later, better-known fiction – from religious allegory, to the similarities between certain Venutian aliens and Narnian characters – but it is arguable that a cross-pollenation of ideas took place between Lewis and Tolkien: for example, the eldils could be said to be cousins to the elves of “The Lord of the Rings”.

“Out of the Silent Planet” received high praise on its publication in 1938. Hugh Walpole said in his review: "Here is a very good book; it is of thrilling interest as a story, but it is more than that; it is a kind of poem, and it has the great virtue of improving as it goes on. It is a unique thing, full of stars, cold and heat, flowers of the planets and a sharp sardonic humour." Of “Perelandra” Edwin Muir said: “Brilliantly managed … the description of Venus, in its endless age of innocence, is delightful”. With his Cosmic Trilogy, Lewis showed he was a pioneer in science- as well as children's fiction. For example, its influence can be seen on Ray Bradbury's better-known "The Martian Chronicles" and arguably Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy.

1 comment:

Roger R. said...

A quote and comment:

I don't know much about what people call the religious view of life,' said Ransom, wrinkling his brow. 'You see, I'm a Christian. And what we mean by the Holy Ghost is not a blind, inarticulate purposiveness.'

'My dear Ransom,' said Weston, 'I understand you perfectly. I have no doubt that my phraseology will seem strange to you, and perhaps even shocking. [...] But [...] believe me, we are talking about exactly the same thing.'

'I'm not at all sure that we are.'

'That, if you will permit me to say so, is one of the real weaknesses of organised religion -- that adherence to formulae, that failure to recognize one's own friends.'


But quickly enough, it becomes obvious that it is only Weston's body that is present; Weston is clearly no longer human, being totally possessed by the Evil One himself.

'But this is very foolish,' said the Un-man. 'Do you not know who I am?'

'I know what you are,' said Ransom. 'Which of them doesn't matter.'

'And you think, little one,' it answered, that you can fight with me? You think He will help you, perhaps? Many thought that. I've known Him longer than you, little one. They all think He's going to help them -- till they come to their senses screaming recantations too late in the middle of the fire, mouldering in concentration camps, writhing under saws, jibbering in mad-houses, or nailed on to crosses. Could He help Himself?' -- and the creature suddenly threw back its head and cried in a voice so loud that it seemed the golden sky-roof must break, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani.'

And the moment it had done so, Ransom felt certain that the sounds it had made were perfect Aramic of the first century. The Un-man was not quoting; it was remembering. These were the very words spoken from the Cross, treasured through all those years in the burning memory of the outcast creature which had heard them, and now brought forward inhideous parody; the horror made him momentarily sick.