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The Screwtape Letters: Annotated Edition

The Screwtape Letters: Annotated Edition

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The Screwtape Letters: Annotated Edition

évaluations:
4.5/5 (107 évaluations)
Longueur:
555 pages
4 heures
Éditeur:
Sortie:
Oct 8, 2013
ISBN:
9780062299086
Format:
Livre

Description

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of C. S. Lewis’s death, a special annotated edition of his Christian classic, The Screwtape Letters, with notes and excerpts from his other works that help illuminate this diabolical masterpiece.

Since its publication in 1942, The Screwtape Letters has sold millions of copies worldwide and is recognized as a milestone in the history of popular theology. A masterpiece of satire, it offers a sly and ironic portrayal of human life and foibles from the vantage point of Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to “Our Father Below.” At once wildly comic, deadly serious, and strikingly original, The Screwtape Letters comprises the correspondence of the worldly-wise devil Screwtape and his nephew Wormwood, a novice demon in charge of securing the damnation of an ordinary young man.

For the first time, The Screwtape Letters will be presented in full-text accompanied by helpful annotations in a striking two-color format. These annotations will give fans a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the popular book, providing background information, explanations of terms, historical significance, and excerpts from Lewis’s other works that more fully explain the ideas in this volume.

For both expert Lewis fans and casual readers, The Screwtape Letters: Annotated Edition will be a beautiful and insightful guide to a beloved classic.

Éditeur:
Sortie:
Oct 8, 2013
ISBN:
9780062299086
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a fellow and tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954 when he was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement.


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The Screwtape Letters - C. S. Lewis

Dedication

TO J.R.R. TOLKIEN*

Contents

Dedication

Introduction to the Annotated Edition

Works Cited

Preface to the 1961 Edition

Epigraph

Preface to the Original Edition

The Screwtape Letters

Letter 1

Letter 2

Letter 3

Letter 4

Letter 5

Letter 6

Letter 7

Letter 8

Letter 9

Letter 10

Letter 11

Letter 12

Letter 13

Letter 14

Letter 15

Letter 16

Letter 17

Letter 18

Letter 19

Letter 20

Letter 21

Letter 22

Letter 23

Letter 24

Letter 25

Letter 26

Letter 27

Letter 28

Letter 29

Letter 30

Letter 31

Screwtape Proposes a Toast

Acknowledgments

C. S. Lewis’s Ten Favorite Books

Further Reading

About the Authors

Books by C. S. Lewis

Credits

Copyright

About the Publisher

Introduction to the Annotated Edition

While working on a dramatization of The Screwtape Letters for Focus on the Family’s Radio Theatre, I became aware of two things. First, The Screwtape Letters is as relevant to the twenty-first century as it was to the twentieth. Second, though Screwtape is timeless in its perspectives, the writing is fixed in time and many of the references, words, and phrases have been lost to the generations since it was written. So I put it to Douglas Gresham, Lewis’s stepson, that someone ought to do an annotated version to help modern readers along.

He hated the idea. For him, the authors of annotated books too often try to interpret the material for the audience—and often get it wrong. I assured him that it was possible for an annotated edition to illuminate the material without attempting to interpret it. I believed that for readers to understand the classic works of literature or philosophical concepts Lewis referenced, as well as how Lewis explored ideas in his other works, they would have a richer experience with The Screwtape Letters.

To that, he agreed. And he gave me the honor of taking on the effort, though I am not, nor have I ever pretended to be, an academic. That wasn’t important to him. He wanted The Screwtape Letters to be accessible to as broad an audience as possible.

With that said, I should be clear that this book is not an interpretation of The Screwtape Letters nor of C. S. Lewis. Apart from the mandate from Doug Gresham himself, I wouldn’t attempt such a thing. Greater minds than mine have debated this work and its meanings since the book’s release. I have no interest in adding my opinions to the debate.

And I’m sensitive that Lewis himself loathed the practice of poring over an author’s life to discern some deep, inner meaning to a written work. In a letter dated January 19, 1948, Lewis wrote to the Reverend Roy W. Harrington in answer to a request for some background material about his life. Lewis stated, The only thing of any importance (if that is) about me is what I have to say. He went on to explain one of his favorite peeves:

I can’t abide the idea that a man’s books should be set in their biographical context and if I had some rare information about the private life of Shakespeare or Dante I’d throw it in the fire, tell no one, and re-read their works. All this biographical interest is only a device for indulging in gossip as an excuse for not reading what the chaps say, [which] is their only real claim on our attention. (I here resist a wild impulse to invent some really exciting background—that I am an illegitimate son of Edward VII, married to a chimpanzee, was rescued from the practice of magic by a Russian monk, and always eat eggs with the shells on.)¹

Yet Lewis himself, as a teacher of English literature, understood the importance of putting a work and its author into its historical context. His English Literature in the Sixteenth Century and The Discarded Image are only two of many examples where he does that very thing.

It was a tribute to his audience that Lewis never spoke down to them. He seemed to assume that his readers were as well read as he was. Perhaps they were then. Now, however, annotations are needed to help contemporary readers who haven’t been educated to the high standards of Oxford or Cambridge in 1941, or who know little or nothing about the world in which Lewis wrote.

Also buried in The Screwtape Letters are themes and ideas that Lewis had touched on in earlier works or would develop more fully later. For example, the phrase merely Christian is used by Screwtape in Letter 25 to describe Christians who embrace a mere Christianity—as opposed to Screwtape’s preferred "Christianity and . . . The concept of mere Christianity was actually explored long before Lewis adopted the phrase, as you’ll see in the annotation. And Lewis would later develop mere Christianity in a series of broadcast talks" he did for the BBC.² Those talks became his classic book Mere Christianity. That’s one example of how I hope these annotations will help.

Finally, in some cases, Lewis uses words and phrases that have fallen out of use or have changed meaning over the years, or over the Atlantic. Where possible, I give a simple explanation of what those words or phrases mean.

With all that said, my greatest hope is that the reader will find in this edition even more reasons to love and appreciate Lewis’s brilliant classic.

The Context for Screwtape

By the time C. S. Lewis had the spark of an idea for The Screwtape Letters in 1940, the world around him was changing dramatically.

In July, Germany’s war against Britain had taken to the skies as the German Luftwaffe hoped to decimate the Royal Air Force over the English Channel. Then, in September, the Germans changed their strategy and began bombing England’s cities. London was the main target. By the end of that month alone, over seven thousand people had been killed and nine thousand injured. The Blitz, as it was known, would last until May 1941 and would pervade Lewis’s consciousness while writing The Screwtape Letters.

That period would also prove to be a remarkable time for Lewis’s career. He was commissioned by publisher Ashley Sampson to contribute a book to the Christian Challenge series. The subject was pain. And from that commission came The Problem of Pain, published in the autumn of 1940.

The Problem of Pain was critically acclaimed, and Lewis was acclaimed for tackling such a difficult subject with honesty and clarity of thought. The book came to the attention of James Welch, the director of the BBC’s Religious Broadcasting department. On February 7, 1941, Welch wrote to Lewis with a couple of suggestions about a series of radio broadcasts they might produce together. An exchange of letters followed, leading to four broadcast talks given by Lewis called Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe. The following year he would write two more series and in 1944 yet another. Not long after that, all four efforts would wind up as the published Mere Christianity.

Between his published and broadcasting work, Lewis was becoming well known far beyond the walls of Oxford. Letters poured in from both an admiring and annoyed audience. More opportunities came his way. In June 1941, he delivered a sermon entitled The Weight of Glory. It would become one his most famous essays when published later.

Another duty Lewis performed was to serve as a Royal Air Force lecturer. Beginning in April 1941, he spent weekends traveling to RAF bases around the country speaking to young soldiers as well as their chaplains. This heightened his awareness of the topics—and spiritual battles—the average person dealt with.

All of these activities occurred while Lewis was still tutoring and lecturing full-time at Magdalen College in Oxford.

The Creation of Screwtape

The seed of the idea that would become The Screwtape Letters presented itself to C. S. Lewis in the summer of 1940. Lewis had been ill for several weeks, and as soon as he felt able, he returned to his local Anglican church—Holy Trinity, Headington Quarry—for the midday service. Rev. Arthur William Blanchett, the young curate, preached. But not very favorably, Lewis reported in a letter to his brother, Warnie,³ in July.

Before the service had ended, Lewis was struck by an idea for a book, an idea that he told Warnie might be both useful and entertaining. He initially wanted to call it As One Devil to Another as it would consist of letters from an elderly retired devil to a young devil who has just started work on his first ‘patient.’ He continued:

The idea would be to give all the psychology of temptation from the other point of view, e.g., "About undermining his faith in prayer, I don’t think you need have any difficulty with his intellect, provided you never say the wrong thing at the wrong moment. After all, the Enemy will either answer his prayers or not. If he does not, then that’s simple—it shows prayers are no good. If He does—I’ve always found that, oddly enough, this can be just as easily utilised. It needs only a word from you to make him believe that the very fact of feeling more patient after he’s prayed for patience will be taken as proof that prayer is a kind of self-hypnosis. Or if it is answered by some external event, then since that even will have causes which you can point to, he can be persuaded that it would have happened anyway. You see the idea? Prayer can always be discredited either because it works or because it doesn’t."

Readers of The Screwtape Letters will recognize how Lewis used this idea in Letter 27. The letter to his brother also serves as a good example of how Lewis’s mind was already working through the foundational aspects of what the collection of letters would be.

Lewis was a subscriber to The Guardian, a weekly Anglican newspaper (not to be confused with the current British newspaper). In fact, it was the only periodical he received. After completing all thirty-one letters, he offered them to the editor, who had already agreed to publish Lewis’s essay The Dangers of National Repentance.⁵ A deal was struck, with The Guardian offering to pay him two pounds for each letter. (Lewis refused to accept the money, opting instead to have the total dispersed to various widows and orphans, a practice he would continue throughout the rest of his life.)⁶ The first letter appeared on May 2, 1941.

The letters were hugely successful, causing even nonsubscribers to seek out The Guardian just to read the weekly installments. Watching the success of the letters, publisher Ashley Sampson saw a bestseller in the making. By this time, Centenary Press had been bought by Geoffrey Bles Publishing, and Sampson suggested to the editors that they grab up The Screwtape Letters before another publisher beat them to it. They agreed and the book was released in England in February 1942. It appeared in the United States several months later.

Like all his other books, Lewis wrote Screwtape in longhand⁷ and Warnie typed it into a final draft. Normally Lewis would then burn the original longhand version. But because of the German Blitz on London, Lewis was afraid the original typed manuscript might be destroyed in an air raid. He sent the longhand manuscript for safekeeping to his friend, Sister Penelope, an Anglican nun at the convent of the Community of St. Mary the Virgin at Wantage.⁸ After the war, Sister Penelope offered to return the manuscript. Lewis suggested that she sell it, if possible, and put the money to good use. Eventually she sold it to the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library and used the funds to restore the convent’s chapel.

Writing Screwtape, as Lewis readily admitted, was an unpleasant experience as it forced him to take on the deeply cynical view of a demon who tempts and perverts. It distressed him to write so much, and so easily, from that perspective. Biographer and friend George Sayer surmises in his Jack:C. S. Lewis and His Times that it may not have been coincidence that around this time Lewis turned to the Cowley Fathers—the Church of England priests of the Society of St. John the Evangelist—for spiritual direction, confession, and advice. This was a practice he continued for many years after Screwtape was but a memory.

The Screwtape Letters also utilizes a particular literary approach, uncommon for Lewis at that time, which presents a negative point of view to lift up the positive—an approach Lewis suggested would give a fresh, even comical perspective on the subject and attract readers who might not normally think about such things. In 1947, Lewis refused permission for a scholar to create an index for The Screwtape Letters because "part of the success of that book depends on luring the ordinary reader into a serious self-knowledge under pretense of being a kind of joke. Lewis stated that a subject index would turn the joke into something to be taken seriously. Of course, this would not deter readers like you, he wrote. But it is the worldly reader I specially want to catch."¹⁰

Catching readers—both worldly and otherwise—was something at which C. S. Lewis excelled, as you’ll see in these pages.

—Paul McCusker

Colorado Springs

April 2012

Works Cited

Grateful acknowledgment is made to the publishers and copyright holders for permission to reproduce the following material. Because there are so many editions of these titles, I do not provide page numbers but defer to chapters, dates of letters, or other means to source the quotes used.

Allegory of Love.

C. S. Lewis. The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1936; New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1960.

Arthurian Torso.

Charles Williams and C. S. Lewis. Arthurian Torso, Containing the Posthumous Fragment of the Figure of Arthur by Charles Williams and a Commentary on the Arthurian Poems of Charles Williams by C. S. Lewis. London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1948.

At Breakfast.

C. S. Lewis. C. S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table and Other Reminiscences. Edited by James T. Como. New York: Macmillan, 1979.

Brothers and Friends.

W. H. Lewis. Brothers and Friends: The Diaries of Major Warren Hamilton Lewis. Edited by Clyde S. Kilby and Marjorie Lamp Mead. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1982.

Christian Reflections.

C. S. Lewis. Christian Reflections. Edited by Walter Hooper. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1967; Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans, 1967.

Collected Letters II.

C. S. Lewis. The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Vol. II: Books, Broadcasts, and the War 1931–1949. Edited by Walter Hooper. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2004.

Collected Letters III.

C. S. Lewis. The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Vol. III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950–1963. Edited by Walter Hooper. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2007.

Discarded Image.

C. S. Lewis. The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Cambridge Univ. Press, 1964.

English Literature.

C. S. Lewis. English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954; New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1954.

Experiment in Criticism.

C. S. Lewis. An Experiment in Criticism. Cambridge Univ. Press, 1961.

Four Loves.

C. S. Lewis. The Four Loves. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1960; New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1960.

God in the Dock.

C. S. Lewis. God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics. Edited by Walter Hooper. Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans, 1970.

Last Battle.

C. S. Lewis. The Last Battle. London: Bodley Head, 1956.

Letters to an American Lady.

C. S. Lewis. Letters to an American Lady. Edited by Clyde S. Kilby. Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans, 1967; London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1969.

Letters to Malcolm.

C. S. Lewis. Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1964; New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1964.

Lewis: A Complete Guide.

C. S. Lewis. C. S. Lewis: A Complete Guide to His Life and Works. Edited by Walter Hooper. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1996.

MacDonald: An Anthology.

George MacDonald. George MacDonald: An Anthology. Edited by C. S. Lewis. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1946; New York: Macmillan, 1947.

Medieval and Renaissance Literature.

C. S. Lewis. Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Edited by Walter Hooper. Cambridge Univ. Press, 1966.

Mere Christianity.

C. S. Lewis. Mere Christianity. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1952; New York: Macmillan, 1952.

Narrative Poems.

C. S. Lewis. Narrative Poems. Edited by Walter Hooper. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1969; New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972.

Preface to Paradise Lost.

C. S. Lewis. A Preface to Paradise Lost. Oxford Univ. Press, 1942.

Problem of Pain.

C. S. Lewis. The Problem of Pain. London: Centenary Press, 1940; New York: Macmillan, 1962.

Reflections on the Psalms.

C. S. Lewis. Reflections on the Psalms. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1958; New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1958.

Screwtape Letters.

C. S. Lewis. The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast. New York: Macmillan, 1961.

Surprised By Joy.

C. S. Lewis. Surprised By Joy: The Shape of My Early Life. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1955; New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1956.

Surprised By Laughter.

Terry Lindvall. Surprised By Laughter: The Comic World of C. S. Lewis. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996.

Weight of Glory.

C. S. Lewis. The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses. Revised and Expanded Edition. Edited by Walter Hooper. New York: Macmillan, 1980. Five of these essays originally appeared in Transposition and Other Addresses by C. S. Lewis (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1949) and The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (New York: Macmillan, 1949).

World’s Last Night.

C. S. Lewis. The World’s Last Night and Other Essays. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1960.

Preface to the 1961 Edition

*

It was during the second German War¹ that the letters of Screwtape appeared in the (now extinct) Guardian.² I hope they did not hasten its death, but they certainly lost it one reader. A country clergyman wrote to the editor, withdrawing his subscription on the ground that "much of the advice given in these letters seemed to him not only erroneous but

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  • (4/5)
    A senior devil gives advice on tempting humans to his nephew, a junior devil
  • (4/5)
    enjoyed it although it was hard for me to get through it
  • (5/5)
    A "what not to do" guide for Christians. Gotta love it.
  • (2/5)
    A am slightly embarrassed to admit I did not finish this book. I read it before essays and what I like to call 'intellectual fiction' were interesting to me, so I never finished it. I plan on getting back to it... but if you don't like to read essays, it will most likely bore you.
  • (3/5)
    Fun, easy to read, and classic Lewis. Helps give great insight into the devil that sits on your right shoulder whispering bad things for you to do.
  • (4/5)
    I really liked this book overall, but I would have liked it even more if it weren't for Lewis's doctrinal differences. The major difference is that Lewis apparently believed people could lose their salvation. This belief drives the plot of the book. (The devils are trying to get the Christians to lose their salvation.)
  • (5/5)
    Written from the POV of a devil tempting a Christian. Very witty and funny, even if you're not a Christian, but sometimes you need some Christian background to be able to understand what he's talking about.
  • (4/5)
    For a bit of 'inspirational' reading this Christmas, I picked up The Screwtape Letters. I've read some of the Narnia series as well as Mere Christianity by Lewis and I knew the basic gist of Screwtape, but still wasn't 100% sure what was in store for me.The book is a series of letters written by the demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood. Both are demons of Hell and the letters are discussions of the practices used to tempt humans and lead them down to Hell rather than letting them make it to Heaven. Wormwood is a junior demon working on tempting a human man in 'contemporary' (to Lewis...~1940s) London. Screwtape is a senior demon no longer doing field work but now in a higher administrative role and full of good advice for the young Wormwood.The book is often humorous as you read about the follies of humans from the point of view of these immortal and immoral tempters. The humorous anecdotes are also subtly invasive as you realize just how true to life these comments are.Screwtape advises Wormwood to take advantage of the foibles of human nature to lead the man down the path to Hell while all the while letting him believe he's on his way to Heaven. The subversive realities these demons try to persuade the human to believe are strangely familiar to the social norms of the world in which we live.Screwtape admonishes that, unless the man is truly vile, Wormwood shouldn't try to push him away from religion but rather let him get puffed up in his religion to the point of self-exhaltation based on his own interpretations. The demons are wary of the truly penitent but are grateful for the many who go through the motions of religion for perception only.There are many good lessons to be learned through the book. Many poignant passages softly chastising humble pride, valueless bravery, hopeless nostalgic dreamers and others.It's a great satire on the state of the world.What was most sad and scary to me is that ~50-60 years later, not much has changed. The same subtle lies are being whispered through the world and countless humans (myself included at times) are believing them and gently paving our own way to Hell.Two other things I found very interesting in this book:
    1. This edition included a short epilogue from C. S. Lewis. In it, he discusses the difficulty of writing from the point of view of a devil. He wrote of the darkness he felt in trying to shed all semblance of goodness in order to portray such a viewpoint. Perhaps one of my favorite themes in the book was that of Screwtape trying to understand "God's Love." He just couldn't believe that God truly loves us and that it is that Love that is at the heart of his motivations. I think Lewis truly threw himself into the role of Screwtape and did a great job embodying the demon. I don't envy him that difficult task.
    2. This edition also included Lewis' one follow up to the Letters. It was a short work called "Screwtape Proposes a Toast" and the setting is a graduation commencement for novice demons just out of training and ready for assignments. Screwtape is giving the commencement speech and toast. His language and themes were again very relevant and honest satires on the world we live in. A few paragraphs really caught my attention...He talked about the education system of humans and ways they (the demons) might undermine it. He talked of standardized testing and lowering the scale to the least common factor such that the most inept student could succeed (only with that bare minimum) while the average and excellent students will leave school with no educational increase. He talked about undermining the true study and learning by replacing it with rote memorization of facts and figures to the point that any ability to truly think would be diminished and thus humans would not be able to see through the flimsy temptations. Sadly, a lot of the language in this section sounded far too similar to the No Child Left Behind legislation and other similar practices in the school system today. How sadly prophetic Lewis was on this front
    I'd be interested to find some analysis of it that helps break out different letters into their themes...maybe I'll work on one. Something that could be used to pull out passages about some of the different temptations: Love/Romance/Sex, Religion, Pride, Nature, etc.Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. There were a few sections that really seemed to drag on but generally it was a lot of fun to read and it left me in a state of deep thinking afterwards. Give it a try.****4 stars
  • (5/5)
    This book addresses certain qualities of mankind. The focus is (of course) on the seven deadly sins, as well as ignorance of history, materialism and general quirks of mankind. All of these focuses are directed towards how they can cause a person to fall into sin and end up in Hell. C.S. Lewis probably meant these warnings from a religious viewpoint. But I was actually able to look at them and find a non-religious aspect to them. From the first page I saw details that can relate to our time today. E.g. people falling into materialism or letting themselves become dumb with novelties and “incompatable philosophies dancing around”. This novel delves into all kinds of beliefs and questions them for the purpose of helping the reader find where they want to be. How does it fit into search for self? (Aside from the previous sentence) The first aspect to answering this question is to address the effect of The Point of View in the novel. As the title states, the novel is composed of Screwtape’s letters. He is not searching for himself, but instead is trying to help his nephew direct a human’s search for self in the direction of Hell. The human, who remains unnamed because that is not important to the point of the novel is tugged by demons and angels alike, both sides trying to direct him towards Hell or Heaven respectively. The man is searching for which side he believes himself to be on. This is the example of search for self. I reccomend this book to anyone religious or not because it has a message we all can take away.
  • (5/5)
    A very clever way to look at Christianity. What kinds of things or attitudes would a devil look for in you that would help him to tempt you? Each letter is a quick read but very thought-provoking ... and humorous!
  • (5/5)
    One of the great works of moral instruction of the past, or any century. Lewis' fame as an explicitly Christian apologist, has led to him being tremendously neglected as a moralist. He understands how our vices from ourselves, how easily we can be swept up in selfishness and pride ourselves on the flimsiest virtues. If you are reading this book honestly, you will at times find it very painful. It is also often very funny. Highly recommended, perhaps even more so for non-Christians (like myself).2.25.09"In the heat of composition I find that I have inadvertently allowed myself to assume the form of a large centipede."
  • (5/5)
    “The Screwtape Letters” was my first foray into the mind of C. S. Lewis and I found it interesting and timeless. Written at the height of WWII in 1942, Lewis’s warnings about the false hope and change of “social justice” and “self-esteem” (then referred to as parity of esteem) have unfortunately become fulfilled predictions. In “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” (added twenty years later) Lewis again points to the then (1962) disturbing trend of everyone being equal, this despite obvious and significant differences. No one can be – or at least can be thought of as being – better than another, and he goes on to reinforce the notion that salvation of Democracies (free people) lies in the salvation of the individual – not the collective. A very refreshing, enlightening and timeless read.
  • (4/5)
    The Screwtape Letters was a stimulating read from both a spiritual and an intellectual view. It is a series of letters sent by a Demon, Screwtape, to his nephew Wormwood (a junior tempter). The letters give a detailed description of the sort of temptations which demons try to side track humans, specifically Christians.This book fits into our English genre of Finding The Self very well. From a Christian perspective, it makes the reader think about how Satan is tempting each of us individually in our own lives. When Screwtape describes a scenario in his letters, the readers begins to think about similar situations in their own lives and how, perhaps, their choices might replicate what Screwtape is describing. That process makes the reader think about themselves, the actions they have done, the choices they have made, and what they will do in the future.I think that this is a must read for any Christian. However, that does not mean non-Christians should be wary of the book. It provides many good messages on morality which non-Christians can and should take to heart. And while the book is not something you would read simply for the enjoyment of the story, it is none-the-less good because of its intellectual nature.
  • (4/5)
    A very good book for all those who want to understand, or to embark on a journey of spirituality. Many books have been written from the perspective of God, but not too many have been written from the perspective of demons.As an alternative manner of thought, it provides a delightful read, and poses many questions for us to think about
  • (3/5)
    The Screwtape Letters is a collection of letters from Screwtape, an experienced, senior level demon, to his nephew, Wormwood, on how to tempt his 'patient' away from God. Each of Screwtape's letters offers advice to his nephew on the using the human mind and logic to turn his patient to "Our Father Below". All of the letters analyze the actions and thoughts of humans. Screwtape is the master of reverse theology; however, he doesn't have much patience. This novel connects to our theme because it shows the journey the patient is going thorough as Wormwood tries to destroy his Christianity. In the background of the correspondence between Screwtape and Wormwood, there is the saga of one man’s spiritual battle. He is attempting to find God while dealing with the many temptations presented by Wormwood. His search for himself is the main focus of the two main characters. Overall, The Screwtape Letters was a good book. It presented many interesting ideas and made me think about my own actions and the motivations behind them. However, I found it tended to slow down and drag on at certain points. If you want to see a different perspective on spiritual struggles, then I would recommend this book.
  • (4/5)
    Lewis adopts the old epistlatory technique to serve his ends of Christian apology, and with delightful results. Whether or not one accepts and agrees with Lewis's theology, his style and method win the reader's approbation.Screwtape is a senior demon in Hell writing advice to his protege on the front lines here on Earth. As Lewis himself remarked, once one hits upon the concept, the execution is fairly easy. Simply take standard moral advice and turn them inside out, upside down, or backwards.
  • (5/5)
    The Screwtape Letters was written by C.S.Lewis in 1942 with WW2 as the backdrop. This is a series of letters (epistolary style literary work) written by Screwtape to his young nephew, Wormwood, advising him on how to secure the soul of 'the patient'. It also contained the sequel, Screwtape Proposes a Toast in which Screwtape addressed the graduating class of tempters. This was published in 1959 and addresses the politics of the post war world. C.S.Lewis uses this satirical format to address the Christian life. Many of the chapters discuss love. Letter 19 addresses God's love for humanity. Letter 26 addresses courtship. I also very much enjoyed the letters on time, reality, music and noise. There is so much in this little book that rereading it many times would not exhaust the nuggets of truth.
  • (4/5)
    A senior devil gives advice on tempting humans to his nephew, a junior devil
  • (5/5)
    A wonderful perspective on man and Satan.
  • (5/5)
    what a reflection! shows how easily we are manipulated into wrongdoing.
  • (3/5)
    "Junior tempter" Wormwood receives excellent instruction in the art and science of ensnaring an unsuspecting human soul in this epistolary theological classic. Wormwood's human "patient", a young British man living through the dark days of World War II, is a new Christian. Wormwood's Uncle Screwtape believes that despite this man's conversion, he could still be brought back into Satan's camp through the proper combination of trying circumstances and demonic manipulation. To this end, the old devil tutors his protege in the exploitation of human weaknesses, such as gluttony, lust and pride.Some find Screwtape's letters witty, even humorous, but I found this short book heavy going at times.
  • (4/5)
    A good book that I would suggest to anyone. The premise of the book is a set of letters that Screwtape (a demon in the administrative department of hell) is writing to his nephew Wormwood (who is a demon new to the tempting job). At first the introduction of it made me wonder exactly how Lewis wrote these letters since it made me think that he did not write them himself at all but instead derived them from some outside source, this was not the case though. The letters were great to read and touched on every small aspect of temptations and the Christian life. There were many times I could see how these things have played themselves out in my life and made me want to re-evaluate many things. Along with the book being an easy read while still personally challenging it had many quotable quotes found within the pages. About every other letter there would be one line that would just jump out at me. Looking back I wish I had of written each of these down since they encapsulated the major points in the book to me at least. For instance, one set of advice Screwtape gave was "do not allow your patient (which was how they talked about the man to whom Wormwood was assigned) to pray in a fashion of not to who I think you are but to who you know you are". That's very fuzzy and I cannot quite get my words down in the way I would want them to be said. Secondly on the second part of the book, Screwtape proposes a toast, this was written several years after the letters and was included in the book I have. It was short, only a few pages long in the edition I have, but if I skipped it I do not feel as though I would have lost any value in reading the book. So if you do read this book and you are tired at that point, I would recommend not reading that part simply because I did not see much value in it and found that Lewis was trying very hard just to get something out on paper. Lastly in the way it was written, you will know that it was written in an old British proper language, but this did not hinder my ability into being able to read and understand the book
  • (5/5)
    Amazing book which tells how the Devil thinks and how he manipulates us in order to try to keep us away from God.
  • (3/5)
    If not for the fact that this is a satire in earnest, it would serve as a powerful absurdist invective against humanity. This book improved my view of Christians in general, but only because it points out that all the faults conspicuous in the rabidly faithful are equally well-represented in the uninformed agnostic, if less readily apparent.The sharp weapon of Lewis's rhetoric tears down humanity through all its self-righteous hubris, denial, misdirected hopes, and easy mistakes. However, one begins to develop the impression, slowly at first, that Lewis has nothing to offer in return. There are scarcely words of alternatives, let alone improvements.Lewis does give us a house which disgusts the devils and redeems the sinful, but this perfect representation of Christian values is just a lack of badness, not a profusion of goodness. It is 'suffused' by some sort of magical glow which infects the cat, but magical glows do not a life philosophy make. I got the impression that Lewis hoped to fill in the good parts later, but couldn't think of any.Human beings have a cognitive bias for avoiding punishment, even to the point where they will avoid a small punishment rather than seek a great reward. Perhaps this fear consumed Lewis, as it does so many people. That would explain why his books seem more concerned with avoiding small errors instead of seeking out grand achievements.Lewis said writing these letters was more difficult than any of his other books, and that he could not bring himself to write a sequel. I find little surprise in this, because one can see how, as the book goes on, Lewis more and more recognizes the failures of mankind but when he tries to express what makes him or his faith any different, cannot find anything to say.The 'suffusing glow' becomes a metaphor for Lewis's own righteousness, but whenever Lewis isn't basking in his own self-righteousness, he is ridiculing someone else's. Lewis' rhetoric is most deficient when he scorns one of man's many faults, then calls it a virtue in the next chapter.For example, the book begins with the demon advising that humans should be encouraged to think of things as being 'real' without ever questioning what that means. The term 'real life' is meant to act as a self-justification for assumptions, not as an introspective view. This is 'bad' because 'real' has no meaning beyond the opinion of the user, and hence it can be used to justify anything.Then Lewis begins to talk about how the Christians should make sure to follow what is 'natural', but fails to define what 'natural' is supposed to mean. Like 'real', 'natural' can be used to justify any idea or position, but Lewis does not turn a skeptical eye to himself.This can hardly surprise, as Lewis maintains a philosophy of Duality. Dualism presents the 'with us/against us' ideal by which any two groups may grow to hate one another despite the fact that they have relatively few differences. As long as one defines the other as bad, there is no need to define the self as good, as in the Dualistic system, there is only good and evil, and you are either one or the other.Lewis often falls back on this defense, showing how some men are bad, how he is different from them, and then assuming 'different' equals 'better'. He uses rational, skeptical argument to show how flawed his opponent is, but tearing down others is not the same as raising yourself up.That being said, it would still be refreshing to meet a believer who had put as much thought and work into attempting to understand and explain themselves. It is rare to find thoughtfulness and skepticism, believer or no. Atheists and scientists can be just as troubled, flawed, and deluded as anyone else.The lesson I will pull from this is that it is important for me to concentrate on myself and my own growth, because worrying about everyone else didn't help Lewis, and it isn't going to help me, either. I must not simply tear down those who are different from me, since this doesn't prove that I am right, any more than a bully proves his superiority by his insults and threats.
  • (4/5)
    I don't know where to start with reviewing The Screwtape Letters. Perhaps with the fact -- probably already well-known to people who get my reviews in their inbox -- that I am not a Christian, but a Unitarian Universalist. But I do love reading C. S. Lewis' work: I think he was very good as using cool intellect and reason to examine himself in his faith (not just the faith of others, which would likely be unbearably holier-than-thou), a process myself and other UUs tend to value highly. He was ready to think about his faith, and seek answers -- or understanding, at least -- of things others deem unfathomable, the whys of things.

    The Screwtape letters is a fictional frame for more of that work, really. He examines the ways that people are lead away from their faiths, not just through large sins like unchastity but through being proud of humility, for example... And the way he puts this makes it not only an examination of Christian goodness, but general moral goodness.

    Definitely worth a read for that, and amusing in it's own way, as well -- old Uncle Screwtape's unfortunate transformation, for example.
  • (4/5)
    This short little book (160 pages)took me 5 days to read. That isn't because I wasn't interested but I found I had to read some passages two or three times to grasp what Lewis was saying. At other times his writing was very easy to understand and I enjoyed his sense of humour. The idea of the book is that a senior devil, Screwtape, is giving pointers to a junior devil, Wormwood (you have to love the names given to the devils), about how to encourage a young English man to sin in order that his soul will belong to the devil upon his death. The time is during the Second World War and this young man has recently started attending church. For a while it looks like Wormwood will succeed as the young man falls in with a crowd who are "thoroughly reliable people; steady, consistent scoffers and wordlings who without any particular crimes are progressing quietly and comfortably towards" Hell (our Father's house as Screwtape refers to it). Then the young man falls in love with a Christian woman ("...such a Christian--a vile, sneaking, simpering, demure, monosyllabic, bread-and-butter miss") and the plans start to unravel. Screwtape gets so exasperated with Wormwood at one point that he turns into a large centipede. As the book proceeds a clear picture of the struggle between good and evil is drawn. "It does not matter how small the sins provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts." C.S. Lewis was an atheist who converted while at college and described himself as "the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England". That may be but he went on to write some wonderful books that illuminate thoughts decades later. If you ignore the references to the Germans the time could almost be now with war in Iraq and Afghanistan and many other places. Even if you are an atheist (or an agnostic as I am) you can't help but worry about where our world is headed. As another Englishman, Edmund Burke, said "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing."
  • (4/5)
    A thoroughly enjoyable read even for the non-Christian. The Screwtape Letters provide an insightful look at the human tendency to undermine ourselves morally and psychologically. Lewis describes clearly, in plain understandable terms, all the little ways in which we justify and hide our own inadequacies, making ourselves ever more unhappy even in the pursuit of happiness. The book is food for thought even if you don't agree with all the Christian dogma - whether the goal is the salvation of an immortal soul or the attainment of a truly happy and balanced life here on earth, the details are ultimately much the same. What I took away from the book was the idea that no human impulse is inherently good or bad, but each can be shaped by circumstance or will into one or the other. By achieving a clearer awareness of ourselves, and openly acknowledging both our weaknesses and strengths, we are better people for it than if we merely try to smother our weaknesses and pretend to strengths we do not have.I suspect I will return to this book in the future when I need to put life in perspective. Lewis's argument that human beings are ultimately a good bunch and that it is indeed possible to stop screwing yourself over is reassuringly convincing.
  • (1/5)
    I'm really not sure what the author was going for but this was not fun to read. It was not funny or clever or even especially original. There was a point when I though Lewis was going to use a plot twist to improve the story (when Screwtape start apologizing for his excessive language) but that patched itself up too nicely.

    There was really no conflict or antagonist (or even protagonist, for that matter). All in all it was a dull book that came of more like a poor man's sermon than viable literature. Truly disappointing!
  • (5/5)
    READING THIS FOR MY C.S. LEWIS CLASS!!OMG this is my favorite CS Lewis book of all-time!!! *fangirly time*Seriously, this book is incredible, eye-opening, memorable, a little creepy, and very insightful! If you like CS Lewis, or are interested in reading some of his more "grown-up" books, please please give this one a shot! I promise you, you'll never read anything else like it again.
  • (3/5)
    I enjoyed reading this book, especially because it took on such a different view of Christianity. CS Lewis does a great job at really contrasting God and the Devil. In church I have come to hear God referenced as 'Our Heavenly Father' and the devil as 'The enemy.'. This book shows it from the point of view where God has now become the enemy. I had never thought about in that way before. Just as God desires for humans to resist the temptations and sins given by demons, the demons desire for humans to cling to this temptation. While God is viewed as one who cares about others, the devil is one that only cares about himself. He feels that God has an alternate plan that he has not disclosed and the devil wants to find out what it is. He doesn't believe in hope or even love, only sin, desire, and selfishness. I felt that this was a really good book to read for someone who feels strong in their beliefs and can really take the time to analyze and think about this book.