[LILITH - Artist: Limor Nesher]

"It must be more than thirty years ago that I bought... Phantastes. A few hours later I knew that I had crossed a great frontier. I had already been waist deep in Romanticism, and likely enough, at any moment, to founder into its darker and more evil forms, slithering down the steep descent that leads from the love of strangeness to that of eccentricity and thence to that of perversity... What it actually did to me was to convert, even to baptise (that was where the Death came in) my imagination. It did nothing to my intellect nor (at that time) to my conscience... the quality which had enchanted me in his imaginative works turned out to be the quality of the real universe, the divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic reality in which we all live."

Foreword by C. S. Lewis to Lilith by George MacDonald

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Nomad said...

'Lilith' is a book I have never yet read and this makes me want to read it all the more.
Thank you for reminding me.

Iambic Admonit said...

Has anyone done a study on the structure, threads, themes, etc. in Lilith as a kind of guide to the dense, synctillating images and allusions? It's a beautiful book, but not an easy one.

Here's part of an excellent essay by Kirstin Jeffery Johnson on one way (perhaps the best way) to approach Phantastes, and the principles assuredly apply to Lilith

Unraveling Phantastes
Few early Victorians were privileged enough to own many books, and a book was not simply read once and set aside. It was read and reread, the reader engaging with the text ever more deeply, each reading revealing new connections and presenting yet another journey…. Phantastes, like all books before it, expects a long-term relationship with the reader.
...The more one reads MacDonald, the more familiar one becomes with his primary themes, and the easier it is to follow their relations to each other, as well as to the books alluded to in the tale….
...C. S. Lewis wrote that a first read reveals the plot and characters; it is in the experience of rereading that we find wisdom and strength. But be forewarned; rereading Phantastes did change his life.
—Kirstin Jeffrey Johnson