Clive Staples Lewis, a man of many talents and contradictions. A writer of both children’s stories and theological treatises, a lifelong bachelor who married late in life, an atheist turned Christian, and a stern scholar with a wild imagination. And, just like the British weather, he was ever unpredictable, but that’s why we loved him.
His best chums called him Jack though…
Jack was a British scholar, novelist, and theologian, whose many achievements make the rest of us feel rather inadequate.
Born in Belfast, Ireland in 1898, he had the kind of adventurous life that was always bound to become a Sunday afternoon BBC biopic.
In his younger years, Lewis experienced quite the rollercoaster of religious beliefs. Raised in a Protestant family, he became an atheist in his teenage years, just to take a stab at originality, you know.
But after spending some time with his chum J.R.R. Tolkien at Oxford, he had a change of heart and became a Christian. Of course, Tolkien was probably just relieved that Lewis didn’t start writing about hobbits.
When it comes to Lewis’s literary career, it’s as if the man never slept. He wrote over 30 books in his lifetime. Most notably, Lewis is remembered for his seven-part children’s fantasy series, ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’. The series followed the adventures of various English children who, through the magic of an antique wardrobe, found themselves in a fantastical land where animals could talk, and children were asked to solve adult problems. An obvious metaphor for British politics, one would say.
Another one of his significant works was a triology of science fiction novels, collectively known as the ‘Space Trilogy’. Because why be a master of just one genre when you can dominate two? These books may be very favorites of all his work.
Jack’s work as a scholar often went hand in hand with his Christian beliefs. He taught as a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, for nearly 30 years. In 1954, he was awarded a chair at Cambridge University, but he still chose to live in Oxford. One might wonder if the tea was simply better there.
His Christian beliefs significantly influenced his non-fiction works as well. ‘Mere Christianity’ and ‘The Problem of Pain’ are among his most significant religious texts, where he essentially explained Christianity for people who found the Bible a bit too wordy.
As for his personal life, it had a plot twist worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster. In his fifties, he married Joy Davidman, an American divorcee, and former communist, who had converted to Christianity after reading Lewis’s works. Now there’s a fan who took things to the next level! Joy sadly died of cancer only four years into their marriage, but their love story would later be depicted in the 1993 film ‘Shadowlands’ – a must-watch if you’re in need of a good sob.
Of course, Lewis had to share the spotlight one last time. Jack passed away in 1963, on the very same day that President John F. Kennedy was shot, and his fellow British writer Aldous Huxley (author of Brave New World) died of cancer.
What’s undeniable about his work is that it continues to resonate with readers around the globe, providing a way for children and adults alike to escape to magical worlds, ponder deep philosophical questions, or simply give their dictionary a good workout.