Mystical Perelandra: My Lifelong Reading of C. S. Lewis and His Favorite Book, by James Como (Winged Lion Press, 172 pp., $24.99)
The year 1941, a truly ominous year in the struggle between civilization and barbarism, apparently prompted an obscure Oxford scholar — C. S. Lewis — to think more deeply about the problem of evil in the world, to great literary effect.
There was a lot to think about. Great Britain had survived eight months of a Nazi bombing campaign against London and other strategic cities, but at the cost of 43,000 civilians killed and 1.1 million homes damaged or destroyed. In April, Germany invaded Yugoslavia and Greece, the latest states to be absorbed by Hitler’s blitzkrieg in Europe. In every state controlled by the Nazis, deportations and massacres of Jews became a routine occurrence. In May, Germany invaded the Soviet Union, sending 3.5 million troops across a front stretching 1,800 miles. It was the largest military operation in history, and it caught the murderous communist regime of Joseph Stalin completely off guard. In November, Isoroku Yamamoto, admiral of Japan’s Imperial Navy, issued Top Secret Order No. 1, the plans for the attack on Pearl Harbor. Within a month, Japan was at war with the United States.
Amid the chaos and suffering of the Second World War, Lewis began writing a sequel to his first science-fiction novel, Out of the Silent Planet (1938). Perelandra picks up the story of Elwin Ransom as he travels to Venus (Perelandra), a planet that, in biblical terms, has not experienced a fall from divine grace. Ransom’s mission is to prevent a satanic figure from luring an Eve-like character into a fatal temptation. In a letter to his friend Sister Penelope, dated November 9, 1941, Lewis explained what he was attempting.
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