Monday, February 07, 2011

Phantastes

If you like Chronicles of Narnia, this free book is a must read.

C.S. Lewis wrote, concerning his first reading of Phantastes at age sixteen:
"That night my imagination was, in a certain sense, baptized; the rest of me[,] not unnaturally, took longer. I had not the faintest notion what I had let myself in for by buying Phantastes." - Surprised by Joy
Lewis elaborates further in the foreward to an edition of Phantastes:

"It must be more than thirty years ago that I bought - almost unwillingly, for I had looked at the volume on that bookstall and rejected it on a dozen previous occasions - the Everyman edition of 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 flounder 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. Now Phantastes was romantic enough in all conscience; but there was a difference. Nothing was at that time further from my thoughts than Christianity and I therefore had no notion what this difference really was. I was only aware that if this new world was strange, it was also homely and humble; that if this was a dream, it was a dream in which one at least felt strangely vigilant; that the whole book had about it a sort of cool, morning innocence, and also, quite unmistakably, a certain quality of Death, good Death. 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. Their turn came far later and with the help of many other books and men."
You will quickly see just how much this book influenced Lewis. You will encounter allusions to the Wardrobe from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe as well as metaphors of human nature which will remind you of The Great Divorce.

This is also one of the four brilliant works that put me on the scent for discovering Faust.

If you have an e-reader, you can pick it up for free because the copyright has expired.

Once you've read it, I found an excellent essay written on the structure and conclusion. A beautiful symphony indeed.

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