Read The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis Online


A stunning edition of this timeless allegory of heaven and hell, repackaged and rebranded as part of the C.S. Lewis Signature Classics range.C.S. Lewis’s dazzling allegory about heaven and hell and the chasm fixed between them, is one of his most brilliantly imaginative tales which will appeal to readers of all ages. Lewis communicates deep spiritual truths through the sheA stunning edition of this timeless allegory of heaven and hell, repackaged and rebranded as part of the C.S. Lewis Signature Classics range.C.S. Lewis’s dazzling allegory about heaven and hell and the chasm fixed between them, is one of his most brilliantly imaginative tales which will appeal to readers of all ages. Lewis communicates deep spiritual truths through the sheer power of the fantastic.In The Great Divorce the writer in a dream boards a bus on a drizzly afternoon and embarks on an incredible voyage through Heaven and Hell. He meets a host of supernatural beings far removed from his expectations and comes to significant realisations about the ultimate consequences of everyday behaviour. This is the starting point for a profound meditation upon good and evil. “If we insist on keeping Hell (or even Earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell.”...

Title : The Great Divorce
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ISBN : 9780007461
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 146 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Great Divorce Reviews

  • Mike (the Paladin)
    2019-04-16 02:08

    One of my favorite (if not my favorite) C. S. Lewis works (and I am a C. S. Lewis fan). The insight in this book about God and man's relationship with Him is wonderful.I suppose that many who read this will already know that I'm a Christian. I won't belabor it, if you're interested I'm happy to discuss if you don't want to I won't push my thoughts on you.This is a very readable book and while I suppose the Christian aspects will be obvious it is also possible to simply read the book as a novel. There are some overt "teaching sections" but the book is constructed as a fantasy story told from a narrator's point of view. I've read novels from the point of view of other religions and didn't suffer or find myself suborned into some belief against my will, so I don't think non-Christians would necessarily have a problem with the book. As to Christians I believe most will enjoy this book and find an (strangely when some of it is considered) uplifting story that is also thought provoking, enlightening and even instructional. If you are a non-Christian or even irreligious you might try it and see if you can approach it as a fantasy...that is up to each reader of course.On the religious and philosophical front, the title is a response to Blake's, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and though the book isn't a direct answer to this work it provides a contrasting and opposed view. Blake's work was written long before this one (1793) and is not as well know as this book. It's not at all necessary to have read it to enjoy this work. I only include this piece of information because I know some will be curious about the title. Finally (and again), yes this is a Christian book and if you are a Christian and approach it so I believe it's possible to get much from this short read. In studying the Triune-God and wanting, hoping for even a little more understanding about His plan for us and the provision He has made this book was/is (for me) amazing. C.S. Lewis was a wise man and close to God, and he left us an abundance of that wisdom (from God)in his writings.Highest recommendation.

  • Anne
    2019-03-24 01:15

    I LOVE reading everything C.S. Lewis. I read this book a few years ago and I couldn't put it down. The section of the book that stands out most to me is when the main character observes a conversation between two people (one who lives in heaven and one who is just visiting to see what it is like). The one who lives in heaven had killed someone while he was living on earth and the person visiting could not believe that the murderer had actually made it to heaven-The visiting man basically decided that he didn't want to go to heaven if this man was going to be there...and so he left and returned to hell. I thought it was very thought provoking especially at that time in my life where I was working through trying to know if I "should" try to forgive a certain someone in our family who had done some things that were, well to say the least, seemingly unforgivable. I have often pondered on this question since I read this book: Do I believe in the atonement enough to believe that even a "murderer" could be forgiven and find a place in heaven at the right hand of God. And if I do believe it, could I forgive that person also for whatever it may be that he might have done, and desire to live there too along side him??? think about it...This is a WONDERFUL book and I recommend it to EVERYONE! Let me know your thoughts...

  • John
    2019-04-03 21:25

    This is my favorite work by C.S. Lewis. I’d give it 8 stars, . . if ‘twer possible. In it, Lewis reacts to moral relativism (the Marriage of Heaven and Hell) by suggesting that “you cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys; on one journey even your right hand and your right eye may be among the things you have to leave behind.” He astutely notes that the “great divorce” of good and evil is utterly voluntarily. And he does so by conjuring up this simple tale of a bus ride from a ghostly, insubstantial hell, to the brilliant, vividly tangible outskirts of heaven. Anyone can take the bus, any one can stay in heaven. But in the end, most sadly return to the grayness below, unable to give up the things preventing them from truly accepting heaven. The bus is loaded with characters full of excuses, foibles and vices. And I think I know everyone on that bus. Some of them I know really well, - too well. I have used this short book in many Sunday school lessons over the years because Lewis’ language is so clever and incisive, and his insights are so pointed. I really love this book, and I cannot recommend it more highly!

  • Werner
    2019-04-02 05:23

    I've classified this book on my "Christian life and thought" shelf, which is one of my nonfiction shelves. Technically, one might argue that this is a work of fiction, a made-up narrative that uses the device of a dream vision to supposedly describe places to which no earth-bound human has ever been. But here, as with some of Hawthorne's short stories/essays, the fiction is so message-driven that any dividing line separating it from an essay is thin indeed. It's very much a narrative about ideas, and the fictional framework is just a vivid stage for these, with a few props, and the use of dramatic dialogue; here (unlike in his Chronicles of Narnia series or the Space Trilogy) Lewis' didactic purpose so overwhelms the story that it's not fair to evaluate it as fiction.A professor of medieval literature, Lewis was quite familiar with Dante's The Divine Comedy. I am not; but I can recognize the conceptual similarity from general descriptions of the latter. Here too, we have a journey that encompasses Heaven and Hell (which, Lewis suggests, also serves as Purgatory for those who don't choose to stay there); and here, too, the narrator is furnished with a guide in the person of a famous author. (One of my Goodreads friends calls this work a "rip-off" of Dante's classic; perhaps we could more accurately call it a sort of homage, or an extended literary allusion.)Whatever Dante's purpose was, however, Lewis clearly states in the short Preface to this work that it's not intended as a literal speculation as to what the real Heaven and Hell may be like. Rather, he uses his narrator's fictional journey as a literary conceit to make a series of major and minor points about how God relates to human beings, and how we relate to God and each other. A key message here is that God doesn't will any humans to be damned. (This would exclude the idea of Calvinist predestinarianism, despite Lewis' suggestion that the eternal perspective obviates some earthly theological distinctions such as this.) Rather, there are those who exclude themselves from Heaven, because their attitude won't let them embrace it. As the book suggests (and the Goodreads description quotes), there are two kinds of people, those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God ultimately says, in sorrow, "Thy will be done." (We could also characterize them, based on the portrayals here, as those willing to recognize a God outside themselves, and those determined to be the god and center of their own universe.) The author holds up a kind of moral mirror in which readers can see how their own attitudes and actions reflect --and it's one that reveals a lot of human self-centeredness, blaming of others for everything we refuse to take responsibility for, self-deceit and hypocrisy. The type of fictional framework, ostensibly a description of unseen realities but not intended to be taken as literally so, and the quality of the rigorous, uncompromising, spiritually-grounded ethical thought, is reminiscent of the author's (also excellent) The Screwtape Letters.Unlike some Christian works, this one doesn't come across with the "all Christians are moral exemplars, and non-Christians are scumbags" vibe that non-Christians understandably tend to find offensive. Both God's judgment and grace, Lewis suggests, probe much more deeply into the heart and soul than surface religious affiliation; there are professed Christians (even an Anglican bishop!) in his Hell, and we hear of at least one pagan who's found his way to Heaven. However, I'd recommend this more to Christian than to non-Christian readers. That's not to say that some open-minded non-Christians wouldn't be interested in reading it, or couldn't profit from doing so. But I think Lewis presupposes some basic Christian concepts about God and the afterlife that, probably, most non-Christians would find hard to take as starting points. It's more suited, I think, as a stimulus for Christian moral and theological reflection about how we live, think, and relate to God and others. (Nonfiction Lewis works that I'd more readily recommend for non-Christian readers would include Mere Christianity, Miracles, and God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics.)

  • booklady
    2019-04-20 22:05

    Lewis wrote The Great Divorce in response to William Blake’s famous poem, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Lewis didn't believe such a marriage of good and evil was possible on any level. He wrote,‘ is not like a pool but like a tree. It does not move towards unity but away from it and the creatures grow further apart as they increase in perfection. Good as it ripens, becomes continually more different not only from evil but also from other good. I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. ... Evil can be undone, but it cannot “develop” into good. Time does not heal it.’The Great Divorce is my favorite by C. S. Lewis and perhaps one of my all-time favorite novels, although I'm at a loss to explain why. It's not really great literature, yet I've lost count of the times I've read it. Maybe it's because of its simplicity; it seems to get people and their ‘issues’ right. Maybe it's because it makes Heaven and Hell as simple as our one choice, where do you want to go? It all boils down to, your will or God's?Another part of the book which I think is worth quoting is from a conversation between Lewis and his Heavenly ‘guide’, George MacDonald on page 96:MacDonald: ‘“, as mortals understand the word isn’t enough. Every natural love will rise again and love forever in this country: but none will rise again until it is buried.”Lewis: “The saying is almost too hard for us.” MD: “Ah but it’s cruel not to say it. They that know have grown afraid to speak. That is why sorrows that used to purify now only fester.”L: “Keats was wrong, then, when he said he was certain of the holiness of the heart’s affections.”MD: “I doubt if he knew clearly what he meant. But you and I must be clear. There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him. And the higher and mightier it is in the natural order, the more demoniac it will be if it rebels. It’s not out of bad mice or bad fleas you make demons, but out of bad archangels. The false religion of lust is baser than the false religion of mother-love or patriotism or art: but lust is less likely to be made into a religion.”If C.S. Lewis was alive today, he might have to revise that statement about lust being turned into a religion; aside from that, I couldn’t agree with him more. When we went to see The Screwtape Letters performed back in March 2012, it was announced that the rights to this Lewis book had also been purchased for adaptation to stage. Reread again in anticipation of going to see as a play tomorrow, November 8, 2014 in Dallas.

  • Nikki
    2019-04-01 23:32

    I just listened to the audio of "The Great Divorce." It was my first reading of this book, and I know there will be many re-readings in my future. I feel a first reading was really just a glimpse of what it will be like to delve into it again and again. First of all, I must say that I adore Lewis's writing style and that his stories really resonate with me. And I know I'm just beginning to touch the surface. I have read Narnia a couple times and I read "The Problem with Pain" last year. I'm eager to continue venturing into his writings. His Christian perspective is inspiring and is quite a good fit to my own ideas/musings/wonderings/beliefs. My favorite part of "The Great Divorce" : In great anguish, a woman declares, "I'd rather die!"She is reminded, "You are already dead."In further anguish, she cries out, "Then I wish I were never born!! What are we born for??"She is answered, "For infinite happiness. You can step out into it at any moment."The idea of happiness always being accessible, always being available, is beautiful. We don't have to wait for heaven. It's already here...

  • nostalgebraist
    2019-04-21 01:10

    I find myself in a strange place. Everything is unutterably beautiful, unusually large, and disproportionately heavy and rigid. My weight cannot bend the grass, and I cannot lift an apple. Also, I'm semi-transparent now. A blindingly luminescent human figure approaches me.C. S. LEWIS: Hello there. I'm C. S. Lewis.ROB: What is this place?C. S. LEWIS: Why, this is heaven, of course. You can tell because everything here is so Real, and so joyous. The earth you knew was but a collection of dim shadows, in whose corners you sometimes glimpsed a bit of the Real world you now see around you. Here, your ever-unsatisfied yearning finds its object! Your yearning for large, heavy things, for things perfectly opaque to visible light --ROB: -- my yearning for what?C. S. LEWIS: Look, it’s a metaphor. This is an allegory, all right? The physical “substantiveness” of this world stands in for a fuller kind of “substantiveness” lacking on earth.ROB: But there are so many choices of metaphor that would have at least made heaven seem appealing, the way that fuller substantiveness would. Instead I’ve just been dropped in a sci-fi world where I have difficulty walking across the diamond-hard grass and live in mortal fear of rain. But let us leave aside that minor objection for a bigger one. You say this is heaven, and yet the people here are so mean, so heartless! Do I have to be an asshole to go to heaven? Just now I saw the saved soul of a murderer smugly conversing with his hell-imprisoned former boss in terms like these:"He is here," said the other. "You will meet him soon, if you stay." "But you murdered him." "Of course I did. It is all right now." "All right, is it? All right for you, you mean. But what about the poor chap himself, laying cold and dead?""But he isn't. I have told you, you will meet him soon. He sent you his love.""What I'd like to understand," said the Ghost, "is what you're here for, as pleased as Punch, you, a bloody murderer, while I've been walking the streets down there and living in a place like a pigstye all these years.""That is a little hard to understand at first. But it is all over now. You will be pleased about it presently. Till then there is no need to bother about it.""No need to bother about it? Aren't you ashamed of yourself?""No. Not as you mean. I do not look at myself. I have given up myself. I had to, you know, after the murder. That was what it did for me. And that was how everything began."C. S. LEWIS: I intended you to have precisely that reaction. The point is, there is one thing that matters — afirst thing — and all second things are irrelevant once you have placed that thing first. The Ghost ought to have seen that in comparison to the reality of heaven, salvation, Christ, a little thing like a murder on earth really is nothing to bother about. The murderer gave himself up, and the boss did not, and this condition of their inner selves was all that mattered, in the end.ROB: But surely one can only get a sense of another person’s inner self by observing their outward actions. If this murderer is really now so virtuous, why does he speak to the boss in this tone of grotesque innocence, in this manner which seems to imply he cannot understand what the boss is worked up about, although he must? Or has he lost his reason? (Does heaven make us stupid?) It is possible to disagree sternly with someone while still treating them as if they are another human with dignity, and not a child to be patted on the head and condescended to (“that is a little hard to understand at first”). He antagonizes the boss without apparent justification, and he sounds more like a stoner or a cultist than like someone who’s really learned a deep secret about the universe.C. S. LEWIS: He can’t bring the boss around. Only the boss can do that. If you had quoted the rest of the exchange, your reader would see that the boss is so obsessed with how well he thinks he has lived his life, and with his aversion to receiving “charity,” that he can’t even think about giving heaven a try even when it’s laid out before him.ROB: You say that, and so of course does the reader who follows his caricatured words on the page. Your virtuous murderer does not make the same argument. He doesn’t even try to help the boss see where he’s gone wrong. Is there nothing wrong with this refusal to stretch out a hand to a sinner who might become more virtuous?C. S. LEWIS: But now you’re thinking merely about the consequences of actions. What matters here is not that the murderer perhaps harmed the boss in this exchange, while the boss did no harm to the murderer; what matters is only the role their actions played in their own internal universe. Again, what matters is not harm to another — even murder — but cultivation of good qualities in the little walled garden of one’s own soul. As I write in Mere Christianity:That explains what always used to puzzle me about Christian writers; they seem to be so very strict at one moment and so very free and easy at another. They talk about mere sins of thought as if they were immensely important: and then they talk about the most frightful murders and treacheries as if you had only got to repent and all would be forgiven. But I have come to see that they are right. What they are always thinking of is the mark which the action leaves on that tiny central self which no one sees in this life but which each of us will have to endure — or enjoy — for ever. One man may be so placed that his anger sheds the blood of thousands, and another so placed that however angry he gets he will only be laughed at. But the little mark on the soul may be much the same in both. Each has done something to himself which, unless he repents, will make it harder for him to keep out of the rage next time he is tempted, and will make the rage worse when he does fall into it. Each of them, if he seriously turns to God, can have that twist in the central man straightened out again: each is, in the long run, doomed if he will not. The bigness or smallness of the thing, seen from the outside, is not what really matters.ROB: And so in my own life, in which I am forced to ration out my willpower, indulging my anger in some cases and not others — it does not matter how I choose? Whether I indulge it when it tempts me to tear up a blank piece of paper, as opposed to when it tempts me smash the happiness or the very body of another human being — ?C. S. LEWIS: If you indulge your anger, and thereby fan it further, you’ll have to live with that angry aspect of yourself for eternity. Make yourself good and eternity will be heaven to you; make yourself bad and it will be hell.ROB: But I can’t just stop having bad impulses altogether. I’m weak. I’m not perfect. As I recall, this sort of thing is a cornerstone of your faith.C. S. LEWIS: Precisely. And that’s why the only answer is in salvation, not in the sort of “rationing” you describe. Some manage their lives responsibly so their sinful nature harms few and they brighten the lives of many; some commit the worst crimes known to man. It doesn’t matter to God.ROB: It doesn’t matter to God that the victims of atrocities suffer as they do?C. S. LEWIS: Here you are, hung up yet again on other people. None of it really matters — whether you nurture and strengthen the beings around you or torture and destroy them. What matters is whether, in the end, [somehow!] independent of all that, you made yourself into more of a good, virtuous guy in the process. (And thus prepared yourself for an afterlife of goodness.)ROB: That’s quite solipsistic, isn’t it?C. S. LEWIS: Look, you are focusing on big numbers when I’m speaking of infinities. Are you really unable to conceive of the sort of reality I am depicting, one in which there are things so much more important than anything in your earthly world that they dwarf every earthly blessing and atrocity?ROB: I can conceive of it all right. But I don’t think you have depicted it.C. S. LEWIS: How so?ROB: Your heaven is a world of great big pretty solid things, populated by blissed-out, monstrously indifferent creatures who seem to have no sense of morality whatsoever. In your book, a busload of sinners leave hell for a heavenly vacation, and while you portray them as cartoon figures — straw men — they at least ask some legitimate questions, suffer from some affecting and recognizable human pains. It is not just that the saved souls in heaven are unable to help them, not that these souls do not meet some sort of halfway compromise with sin — the saved souls no longer even seem to have concepts of right or wrong. They describe heaven in appetitive terms, as a pleasant tasty thing which the damned could have if only they’d reach out and snatch it:"You think that, because hitherto you have experienced truth only with the abstract intellect. I will bring you where you can taste it like honey and be embraced by it as by a bridegroom. Your thirst shall be quenched."[…]The Ghost made a sound something between a sob and a snarl. "I wish I'd never been born," it said. "What are we born for?""For infinite happiness," said the Spirit. "You can step out into it at any moment. .. ."[…]"Then there's never going to be any point in painting here?""I don't say that. When you've grown into a Person (it's all right, we all had to do it) there'll be some things which you'll see better than anyone else. One of the things you'll want to do will be to tell us about them. But not yet. At present your business is to see. Come and see. He is endless. Come and feed."[…]“[…] Flesh and blood cannot come to the Mountains. Not because they are too rank, but because they are too weak. What is a Lizard compared with a stallion? Lust is a poor, weak, whimpering whispering thing compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust has been killed.”Near the end we meet one of the most “virtuous” among them (“one of the great ones”), and she spends her time strolling about in the company of a retinue of singers and musicians who continually sing her praises.C. S. LEWIS: Oh, come on now. It’s an allegory. As I write in Mere Christianity about depictions of heaven:Musical instruments are mentioned because for many people (not all) music is the thing known in the present life which most strongly suggests ecstasy and infinity. Crowns are mentioned to suggest the fact that those who are united with God in eternity share His splendour and power and joy. Gold is mentioned to suggest the timelessness of Heaven (gold does not rust) and the preciousness of it. People who take these symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs. ROB: Well, if you meant to portray “ecstasy and infinity,” you ended up portraying a vapid virtual-reality paradise, one that fills you with enough narcotics you can no longer remember what it was like to think or care and then leaves you wandering carefree across realer-than-real CGI vistas. Is there any reason to think, after all, that we are really in heaven and not in the land of the Lotus Eaters?C. S. LEWIS: But here the residents are virtuous, and what they experience is joy, the very holy substance of it, not some idle earthly pleasure.ROB: You say that, but there is absolutely nothing in your book to substantiate it. Whatever you choose to call it, what you wrote was a land of Lotus Eaters.C. S. LEWIS: But isn’t that what true joy would inevitably look like, from your perspective? My book is called “The Great Divorce” because I don’t believe goodness and badness can or should make any sort of compromise, any meeting-in-the-middle. Every example on earth you have seen of people without wretched feelings is an example that makes you wary — but goodness is goodness, and contains no wretched feelings. That is why it is wrong to say that “the final loss of one soul gives the lie to all the joy of those who are saved”:Son, son, it must be one way or the other. Either the day must come when joy prevails and all the makers of misery are no longer able to infect it: or else for ever and ever the makers of misery can destroy in others the happiness they reject for themselves.ROB: You’re saying that your “joy” is a purely pleasant experience, and things like human sympathy have to be eradicated because they sometimes harsh one’s mellow. And you’re conflating that purely pleasant thing with goodness, so that goodness is not a thing with any other people in it, but a pure narcosis that can contain nothing novel that might worry or startle or uplift us. A sealed womb, impermeable to any outside world.C. S. LEWIS: You won’t mind about the distinction between self and other, if you’ve made it here. (“When you have drunk of [the fountain] you forget forever all proprietorship in your own works. You enjoy them just as if they were someone else's: without pride and without modesty.”) None of that will matter anymore. Only God will matter. You’ll have nothing to yourself any more; you will have given up everything of yourself and replaced it with God. Can’t you stretch your mind and imagine that sort of world — that dramatically different yet authentically joyous world?ROB: I might if I had some tool to help with the stretching — say, some work of fiction that rewrote all these fearsome and abstract things in terms I could feel and touch. A well-written, well-constructed allegory.C. S. LEWIS: I’m sorry. I’m just not very good at those.

  • Rachel
    2019-04-08 04:17

    Once again C.S. Lewis shows us how deft he is at cracking open the mysteries of human spirituality and motivation. This book is an allegory for heaven and hell and as he describes each of the characters and how they ultimately choose their eternal reward, we can glimpse a bit of ourselves. My favorite part is when he describes a woman who has chosen heaven but whose husband refuses to give up the little devil sitting on his shoulder and ultimately chooses to return to hell. The narrator asks how is it possible that this woman will able to be happy for eternity when her husband has chosen not to be with her. Shouldn't a part of her be sad? The narrator's escort then gives a brilliant explanation of how if hell had it's way it would hold all the joy in the world hostage. It helped me understand how we can still find peace even though those around us may make bad choices. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is because the book has a slow start - it takes a little while to get into it. But please persist - you will find that it is worth it.

  • Gabriel
    2019-03-27 23:16

    As a story, this isn’t that amazing, as very little “happens.” As a collection of images about theology, and especially about sin and how it can keep one away from union with God, it is very insightful. Lewis, in my view, provides the best explanations of how heaven works, or more specifically how it can be that a loving God and hell can coexist. The “dwarves in the stable” from The Last Battle are the best depiction of this; reading them I first understood how one could ever choose to reject God, even when honestly given a choice in light of the possibility of truly seeing God as God is. What happens is that when one is presented with God, one says: “That’s not God! I know what God looks like, and that’s not it! No thanks.” In any case, in the Great Divorce the various encounters illustrate ways people can put other things in the way of God, ways to deceive oneself or preoccupy oneself away from God, away from what is most important. True idolatry, and quite real even today.There is a definite clarity to Lewis’s vision of things; the truth is to be had by anyone who will listen, yet the problem is that folks over- or under-think it, and manage to miss out. I wonder if it really is that simple. Lewis writes at a time when the certainly of the Enlightenment framework has fallen apart, and Lewis fits into the group which insists that the correct response is to move back, to return to what theology had already figured out, to shake off the “gains” of the “enlightened mind.” This position remains very attractive today: that all the fancy theories and of course chaos of recent years are simply a symptom of abandoning the truth that has always been securely held by faith; the only thing novel these days are new ways to avoid that truth and to seem very smart yet smarmy in doing so. But there is another alternative, one that is truly on the other side of modernity, that isn’t so quick to throw away the penetrating gains of the modern mindset, only its onetime certainty. And it is from this perspective that I suspect Lewis makes it too simple, that Lewis calls us back to a universe that never really did hold it all together, even if it did once exist. But yes, the Lizard image is quite wonderful. And apt. What I would give for a nice stallion!

  • Laurel Hicks
    2019-04-15 00:24

    2016: I always love meeting George Macdonald again. This serious fantasy abounds in humor and understanding of human nature.2014: In this brief and beautiful allegory, Lewis takes us on a tour of heaven and hell, where we learn about our powers to choose between self and salvation. This was a great book to read in conjunction with Milton's Paradise Lost. 2013: also a great book to lay alongside Dante's Divine Comedy.

  • Jacob J.
    2019-04-03 04:19

    If heaven and hell are this boring, we're doomed either way.

  • Liz
    2019-04-04 21:21

    Almost without exception, whatever CS Lewis writes is fine with me. The Great Divorce is my 2nd favorite CS Lewis book (I am not counting the Narnia series), and what I thought was most interesting about it was the people who were in hell did not know they were in hell. This is a familiar concept to me, I remember my dad and his minister friends discussing it. It was also interesting that people didn't get to heaven in the way they thought they would. Obviously, no one has actual answers for these types of questions. But CS Lewis comes close as I can see to having answers, without turning his vision into some Chicken Soup For the Soul self-help bull crap that is corny while being extremely boring to read.

  • Kells Next Read
    2019-04-22 03:22

    I've finally decided to read through as much C.S. Lewis works as I can and decided to start with The Great Divorce. I was by no means disappointed, in fact my appetite has been aroused and I'm hungry to devour more of this authors works. Actual ratings 4.25

  • Jeremy
    2019-04-09 02:05

    I own this edition. Go here to listen to Lewis read his introduction.I do believe that artists have a responsibility to get theology as right as they can, even in their fiction, but I think that there is a significant difference between The Shack and Lewis's The Great Divorce. Whereas Young's novel really seemed to be promoting the theology behind it, The Great Divorce should not be read as proposing the way that Heaven and Hell really are. (Lewis himself says this in the preface.) It's an artist's impressionistic collection of snapshots of human character, and Lewis's insights in that regard are peerless.In 2015, The Great Divorce sold 800,000 copies in one new HarperCollins edition (not across all editions). That year it was 71 years old. It doesn't sell as well as The Screwtape Letters or Mere Christianity, but it sells better than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. (Source: see 28:30–30:07 here.)Preface3: MacDonald doesn't sound like a universalist in this quote (see p. 114)7: direct response to Blake and the distaste for either-or8: earth is, in a way, a foretaste of Heaven and Hell9: it's intended to have a moral, but he's not setting out details about the afterlifeCh. 113: bus queue; rainy and dark (Hell/Purgatory)16: bus fliesCh. 220: issue of wanting (see also pp. 28, 34, 28, 52, 55-56, 60, 66-67, 111)Ch. 326: bus lands in a green field27: nature is as hard as diamonds28: bus passengers are ghosts29: ageless (infant thought and old frolic)Ch. 430: solid people approach (spirits, not ghosts)32: issue of getting in33: there are no private affairs34: man concerned with his "rights" chooses to leaveCh. 535: the book started getting more interesting for me at this chapter36: literal Heaven/Hell seen as silly39: Inquisition was bad, but the opposite error is bad too; encouragement to repent and believe40: no such thing as a final answer—traveling hopefully > arriving (view that Heaven = stagnation)41: thirst was made for water; children love answers42-43: man rejects Heaven to go read a theological paper; he thinks that since Jesus died young, He died before He could fully mature past His early (foolish) viewsCh. 6Ch. 750: Hell is just like any other town51: assumption that since God is sovereign over both Heaven and Hell, they can't be at war with each other [so a king can't be sovereign over the banquet hall and the dungeon?]Ch. 854: doubting the intentions of the Solid People; Cowper's despair57: we are born for infinite happiness ("joy" on p. 65)58: unicornsCh. 959: George MacDonald as Dantean/Virgilian guide60: Phantastes60: issue of choice; Jeremy Taylor :(61: holidays for the damned (hauntings); for those who leave Hell, it was really Purgatory; Deep Heaven; Valley of the Shadow of Life62: Heaven turns agony into glory63: Heaven is reality; Roman Catholics and Protestants closer than they think64: Milton ("better to reign in Hell…" and "injured merit"); Achilles's "wrath" was just sulking65-66: possible to care more about proving God's existence than caring about God Himself66-67: two kinds of people: those who tell God "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says "thy will be done"—all those in Hell want to be there, or at least would rather be there than in Heaven68: sparks?74: Deep Hell—artists love the showing, not the object itselfCh. 1077-78: nagging wife both creates and destroys her husband's ambition78-79: she destroys his friendships81: she needs someone to controlCh. 1183: wanting God for His own sake88: spark of something not herself (see p. 68); corruption of the best becomes the worst; total depravity; issue of what to say to the bereaved and when89: Keats was wrong in his certainty of the holiness of the heart's affections89-94: lizard of lust92: our wills give permission?95: excess vs. defectCh. 1298: the greatness of common people; Milton referenced99-105…: Dwarf/TragedianCh. 13106-07: the terrible struggle against joy, and a miserable triumph107: Dwarf disappears108: pity as blackmail108-09: Tragedian vanishes109-10: Ps. 91112-13: Heaven is far larger than Hell113: Alice [Wonderland] referenced; a damned soul is shrunk, shut up in itself [cf. incurvatus in se]114: the higher a being, the lower it can descend/stoop; Julian—all will be well114-15: Universalism115: pictures as symbols; PredestinationCh. 14116: chess/puppetry; lens/vision/dream

  • Mark
    2019-03-31 02:27

    This is one of the cleverest and yet simplest explorations of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory that I have ever read. There is a day trip up from hell, the travellers get off and meet people who have come to talk to them, to help them on their journey. This journey is expressed in all sorts of ways, with one it might be the need to step out into the public gaze when they feel unattractive or unprepared and so to move on from fear and the need for acclaim , for another the need to accept that your understanding has been flawed and incomplete, for another the image of having to step onto the grass of heaven which is so much more real than previously experienced and therefore it, initially at least, hurts and stings. This pain is short lived but, Lewis intimates, it is necessary. Those that can accept and step out into the new situation stay and for them their stay in hell was temporary, it was a purging, a preparation for their entry into Heaven; for those that cannot accept or will not accept, well they get joyously back on to the bus and go back to hell; their choice, their decision. Therefore what I love about the Great Divorce vision is it offers an inkling of an answer to a couple of, for me, difficult theological sticking points. The people in hell can come up on the bus as often as they choose, hell thus is not eternal in the sense that ' inmates' can be continually challenged by the Grace of God, their decision is never irrevocable, the residents of hell make their own choice to go back, to stay. Continually, in Lewis' parable, they have the opportunity to make a different decision. He cleverly shows Hell as a place of argument and unrest but one from which all can freely move if they are prepared to accept and face up to their previous errors or mistakes. Now of course this exposition only makes sense to one who believes in an afterlfe in which resides a loving God. As i do on both counts this book is hugely significant to me. I do not mean Lewis has sorted out the question of the afterlife, he never claimed to, he is simply putting forward an extended image and inviting his readers to contemplate it. I think it is well worth the effort.

  • Abigayle Claire
    2019-04-08 03:07

    I had a misconception about what this book was actually on, and a dream of Heaven and Hell was not it. It was fascinating the way Lewis demonstrated some strong philosophies and thought-provoking points through the medium of allegory yet again. While he intentionally states that he's not trying to provide an accurate picture of the afterlife, this was still very different from anything I've ever dreamed Heaven and Hell to be like. I enjoyed the story all the more for it being a less traditional presentation. I'd have to read this several more times, I think, before I'd have a good concept of everything he says about this world while (once again) telling of another. But it kept my attention on a storytelling level, and also kept my mind working to understand the purpose behind his presentation. There's some moderate language, but otherwise I would recommend this as a conversation piece between those who believe in a Heaven and Hell particularly.

  • Cleo
    2019-04-03 02:14

    If you found yourself in Hell and then were offered a chance to leave and spend an eternity in Heaven, you'd jump at it, wouldn't you? …….. Or would you …….??The Great Divorce tells of a journey of souls from the grey town, which we soon see represents Hell, to a wide open space of meadows, rivers and mountains. Yet when the people disembark they are dismayed. They now appears as Ghosts and all the vegetation is dense and tough in a way that makes movement difficult and, at times, dangerous. And who are these shining Solid People coming towards them, and what do they want? Full of joy and laughter, it appears that they only wish for the "Ghosts" to shed their prejudices and grudges and self-absorption and "rights", to accept help and rescue from their troubles. 'Come to the mountain', they say, yet most are unable to, so firmly have these detrimental traits taken root within them, to the exclusion of anything good.The Great Divorce is Lewis' The Divine Comedy. As Dante is the narrator of The Divine Comedy, so too, the narrator in The Great Divorce is Lewis himself. George MacDonald, the well-known author of The Princess and the Goblin, Phantastes, and At The Back of the North Wind, a man whose writings had a profound affect on Lewis, serves as his Virgil, a guide to bring him understanding of Heaven and similarly, the grey town of Hell.Yet while analogous in structure, the Hell of The Great Divorce is very different than that of Dante's Hell. It is not a world of men trapped in flaming tombs, immersed in rivers of blood and fire, whipped by demons or eaten by foul creatures. In The Great Divorce, Hell looks surprisingly like Earth, but a corruption of earth, holding only the negative components of greed, envy, self-worship, revenge, jealously, grudges, etc. The setting mirrors the emotions, being bleak, desolate and lacking any human goodness. Rain and dingy twilight permeate the town, and a perpetual feeling of hopelessness is ever-present. Yet while the souls of this dreary place, recognize intellectually what they live in, and practically understand their actions, they have become drowned in them through excuses, trends, weakness of character, reliance on intellect only, and have become blind to their effects. In life, they allowed their choices and actions to carry them in the wrong direction and now have little desire to escape. They have chosen Hell and are unable to conceive of anything outside of it. Similar to the dwarves in the The Last Battle, ignorance has overcome them and they cannot escape it.Lewis' presentation of Hell is not only easily understandable, it is quite fascinating. Lewis' Hell is not a Hell for people. Each "person" there, is there of their own choice, and their descent into it has been a gradual process, and not because of one big sin. Each of their choices has progressively dehumanized them; it is not that they are beyond salvation, rather that there is no shred of humanness left to save. Lewis also emphasizes the smallness of Hell by having the bus, not actually travel but grow, sprouting from a small crack in the soil to emerge in Heaven. Hell, to Lewis is a tiny place and anything that lives there is already withered away.On the other hand, the Bright or Solid People of Heaven did not get there through moral perfection. One had been a murderer and confessed to doing worse than that, while another was hardly known on Earth but the people and animals that came into her presence were enriched by her love and charity. And again, we have another echo from The Last Battle, that Heaven is much more real than earth, exemplified by the tough grass, the hard rivers and terrain that the Ghosts experience and would only have a change of perception if they chose to accept the invitation to become more real.While Lewis states in his preface that this book is an answer to William Blakes' The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, he makes it very clear that it is not a story that is meant to be taken in a literal sense; like his Narnia Chronicles, it is a supposition. More, it is a work that explores human biases, perceptions and attitudes that either allow us to or prevent us from getting closer to God.

  • Jacob Aitken
    2019-04-18 22:22

    (or how to obtain infinite joy by abandoning your-self)This book is truly one of Lewis’ masterpieces. Lewis tells a parable of a bus ride from heaven to hell in order to show us why people choose hell. Lewis is not saying that somebody, once in hell, have a chance for “do-overs.” Lewis is showing us why some people, even suffering in hell, when (hypothetically) offered a chance to get out, would still choose hell over heaven. In this book Lewis comes very close to the ancient Eastern view of the eschaton suggested by St. Gregory of Nyssa. All men are raised up on the last day (1 Corinthians 15), and all men will experience God: some will experience his divine energies as light and life; others as fire and loss. Of course, Lewis doesn’t explicitly say that, but he does note, quite rightly I think, that hell is God saying to us, “Thy will be done,” and heaven is our saying to God, “Thy will be done.” Lewis lists a number of scenarios where men and women are offered eternal joy but refuse it because they cannot let go of their-selfves. The self has become an idol, but it is a subtle idol. It can be self-respect, our understandings of the world, love, and the market. There is a particularly interesting scene where a man meets up with his wife and through his refusal to accept God’s love, he becomes smaller and smaller, until he is unable to be seen. This fits in with the ancient view of sin and evil as a privation of being. Hell is not a real fire pit that God dug with a real metal shovel. Hell is a shadow of reality (which implies eternal loss; Lewis is not a universalist). Lewis offers a disturbing halt on hyper free-market economic reasoning. An angel tells one ghost that there is no longer a difference between meum and teum. Communion is not the competition of goods and services, but the expression of love for the Other. It is abandoning self for the sake of the Other (be it God or my neighbor). The book is a masterpiece. It makes one long for heaven and eternal joy.

  • Demetrius Rogers
    2019-04-05 22:24

    My word. This was amazing. How come I haven't read this before now? When you think of Lewis you think of the Chronicles of Narnia, probably Mere Christianity, and The Screwtape Letters. But, over the years I've been trying to delve into some of his other works. And after reading this, I'll have to say Lewis might be my favorite author. The guy's imagination was just simply off-the-hook good. And he used such artistry to cloak his presentations. And I love that they don't need to be these big fat tomes either. Pith comes in small portions. You will never view heaven and hell (and those who occupy them) the same after reading this account. And using George MacDonald as your tour guide? That was smooth. Dante had his Virgil. Lewis had his MacDonald. And if I were to take a trip to heaven, I would request Lewis as my guide. I fully intend to tell him one day how much I enjoyed his works.

  • Clare Cannon
    2019-04-21 23:11

    This little book is too powerful to read only once. It is important to note that it has nothing to do with the impression given by its title - it is not about divorce. It is an allegory about the choices we make during life and where they will take us afterwards, though it is not strictly a 'religious' book. It offers a most startling contrast between the consequences of living for oneself or living for others, of trying to 'look out for number one', or emptying oneself in order to be able to receive much more. I cannot recommend it highly enough, I'll be sure to read it at least once a year.

  • David Sarkies
    2019-04-09 05:14

    Lewis on Hell13 November 2011 Even though he does have some strange ideas, I always enjoy reading a book by C.S. Lewis, and this book is no exception. The Great Divorce is actually an excellent exploration of the nature of heaven and hell and is about a man who finds himself in 'hell'. The this work hell is a huge city that appears empty, and that is because nobody can stand living with anybody else so they constantly move out to the fringes of the city. As such the idea of meeting up with famous people turns out to be impossible as these famous people, who have been living in this dystopian reality for so long, don't actually want to meet anybody, and as such make sure that they can't be found. The bulk of this book consists of discussions between spirits and ghosts. The spirits are solid people and inhabitants of heaven while the ghosts are the inhabitants of hell. Ghosts and spirits can interact, but for a ghost it is incredibly painful as they cannot stand the solid nature of the realm that exists between heaven and hell. What is interesting is that the spirits are focused on the joy of their life, and as such this joy overwhelms them, while the ghosts are focused on the pain from their life, and thus shame and hatred overwhelm them. While they are all invited to enter to heaven, none of the ghosts want to because the hatred and the shame that overwhelms them means that they simply cannot bare to give up what holds them down. To put it blunt this book is a game changer and it demonstrates Lewis' extraordinary ability to write an allegorical work. This book is designed to make people think twice about hell, and for anybody who actually thinks hell will be a good place to spend eternity because it will basically be one endless party, should be given this book to consider a possible alternative (not that it is likely to change anybody's opinion). Hell, in the Great Divorce, is not portrayed as being a place of camaraderie and enjoyment, but a place of loneliness, solitude, and an existence where you simply cannot stand another person's company – in a sense Satre was right when he said that 'hell is other people'. Hell in this book is an empty and lonely place, and the people who end up here simply cannot stand living with anybody here. Hell is described as a place where we can create what we want, but these creations are not real, and while we can create our own realms, it is a realm of ephemeral loneliness. We do not meet any famous people here because these famous people will reject out advances and constantly move out to the fringes to avoid contact with anybody else. This is simply because if they were to meet anybody else they will quickly begin to argue, and when they argue, they want want to be alone because they can no longer stand this person's company. However Lewis also takes us to heaven, and it is in heaven where we discover the true nature of people in hell: they are shades, ghosts of their former self, while heaven is reality, and the contact between the shades and the reality of heaven is incredibly painful for the shades. It is interesting that the shades and the people of heaven can communicate, and are even able invite them into heaven, but the shades simply do not want to go. After reading this book it stunned me, and forced me to rethink the direction of my life and whether hell was even worth it. It is clear, very clear, that Lewis was inspired by Dante, who also wrote an allegorical text where he traveled through hell and into heaven, however I suspect that Dante and Lewis had two different purposes for writing their books. Lewis is much easier to read than Dante, and Lewis is more likely to have written his book to challenge us with our thoughts of what hell is really all about. Dante is instead going on a dream journey to get to heaven, and visiting the various personalities of the past, and his present, on his trek. While in both Lewis and Dante the inhabitants of hell are shades, the shades in Dante are trapped in their respective circles, while Lewis' shades are not. In the end Hell is actually one of those really controversial topics. Honestly, nobody wants to hear that they are jerks and are damned to an eternity of punishment. This is probably why the modern world has transformed hell from the eternal pits of damnation that appeared in Dante to the modern realm of endless fun, parties, and gratuitous sex. In fact the modern concept of hell is set apart from the modern concept of heaven where we sit on clouds playing harps and basically being incredibly bored. In a way this demonstrates the modern view of Christianity as basically a bunch of people that really have no idea of what it means to have fun, whereas those of us who have rejected Christianity are basically living a life of endless fun. In the end though, as somebody what has experienced the university lifestyle of the big sexualised parties where everybody is off their face on drugs, sitting on a cloud playing a harp actually seems quite pleasant.

  • Kailey (BooksforMKs)
    2019-04-04 02:20

    Oh my goodness, I'm in shock! I feel like I have been hit with a ton of spiritual bricks; not an uncommon feeling after reading any of Lewis' books. How wonderful! The best part is that no matter what the subject or plot, Lewis always turns the focus back to Christ. This book reminds me a bit of his book, "Pilgrim's Regress", and John Bunyan's book too. It follows that sort of pattern- wandering in a strange land, meeting allegorical people, having philosophical conversations with angels and men that illustrate great truths in an easily digestible way. This is a fantasy story of a man who is confronted with the choice between Heaven and Hell, as we all are, and as he watches others make the choice, he realizes that people who go to Hell WANT to be there. They chose it. "Hell is locked from the inside." He also quotes one of my favorite passages from Milton's Paradise Lost; that some think it is "better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven." People choose to endure misery rather than submit to Joy. People choose to be proud and suffering rather than admit they were wrong and accept forgiveness. The reason for the title is that the book proves there is no middle ground. You must choose one or the other. There is a complete and total division between Heaven and Hell. Sound theology, beautifully expressed!When George MacDonald showed up as a character, I gave a little holler of happiness! And his dialogue is so delightfully Scotch. Just lovely writing!There are some enchanting descriptions of Heaven, and imaginings of what it could be like there, that brought me some joyful thoughts and a holy longing to be in my True Home. It really lifts the focus onto the things of God!As all of Lewis' writing does, this book gives me the uncomfortable feeling that I'm dealing with concepts way too deep and unknowable for me to even begin to think about; but as I read, I find that I understand his points very well. I can't always hold them in my mind later, but at the moment that I am reading, I can follow his logic perfectly. That is his genius! He speaks to the common man in common language, and unfolds eternity as something we can know because it lives inside us.Maybe the thing I like best about Lewis' writings is that he doesn't let anybody hide behind their intellectualism or false humility or assumed religiosity. He demands complete honesty from the soul, because that is what God demands.There is some shady theology with some stuff about purgatory that I'm not sure I understood, but hey, it's a dream fantasy. I'm not taking it too literally here! haha!I really loved what he wrote near the end about seeing everything through a lens of Time. We can't truly understand the mysteries of God or of our own eternal souls, until we are taken outside of Time. Right now Time is distorting our understanding, although it is certainly useful to protect us for now. Eventually, we won't need it, because we will "see Him as He is." Wonderful thoughts!

  • Stephen
    2019-04-01 04:11

    3.0 stars. A well written, interesting story by C.S. Lewis who takes a very original approach to laying out his take on the classic story of the nature of sin and unhappiness and the path to redemption and true happiness. You can really feel Lewis' passion for his subject matter in this story which makes the narrative even more compelling.

  • Mike
    2019-04-07 01:13

    This is an excellent (and fascinating) book written by C.S. Lewis. It is written in such a way as to make the reader reflect on beliefs regarding good and evil, heaven and hell and some of life's other great mysteries.

  • Svetlana H.
    2019-04-15 04:03

    One of my absolute favorites. C.S. Lewis is awesome as always. A bus ride through Hell cant get any better. Definitely a must read for every Christian.

  • Genni
    2019-04-20 22:18

    --2017 Update--After reading this a couple of years ago, I could not get Lewis's pictures out of my head. Below I said that if someone were to take the Bible as absolute truth then his implications would be unacceptable because the Bible "consistently" speaks of hell as a place of eternal fire and brimstone. I have read the Bible through every year for at least ten years now and still, my grandfather's old preaching colored my reading of it. I have since seen that it does not "consistently" speak of hell that way and would like to change my absolute truth to "literal reading".-----------------------------------------------------------------------In the introduction, Lewis writes that partial inspiration for his "Divorce" comes from William Blake's _The Marriage of Heaven and Hell_. I am not familiar with this work, but Lewis includes an aside explaining his response. "The attempt (to marry heaven and hell) is based on the belief that reality never presents us with an absolutely unavoidable "either-or"; that, granted skill and patience and (above all) time enough, some way of embracing both alternatives can always be found; that mere development or adjustment or refinement will somehow turn evil into good without our being called on for a final and total rejection of anything we should like to retain. This belief I take to be a disastrous error." Following this is not so much a story or novel as it is interesting allegorical vignettes of heaven and how different individuals come to make the choices they do. Notable is Lewis's images of heaven as rather a more substantial and beautiful earth in contrast to visions of angels and harps far away in some sky.An interesting quote: "I think earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region of Hell: and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of Heaven itself." This is one reason I find his imagery of Heaven so fascinating. And it reminds me of how things on earth are but a shadow of things to come.If the good on earth is but a shadow of how wonderful things will be in Heaven, then the horrible things of this world must only be a shadow of what will come in Hell. And this is a fault in the book. I cannot find the quote now, but somewhere, Lewis says that of an individual he is going back to Hell and implies that this is the "gray town". If someone were to take the Bible as absolute truth, this implication would be unacceptable since the Bible consistently speaks of Hell as a place of eternal fire and brimstone. OTOH, Lewis also writes in his preface that "the transmortal conditions are solely an imaginative supposal: they are not even a guess or a speculation at what may actually await us. The last thing I wish is to arouse is factual curiosity about the details of the after-world". Overall, a very good read.

  • Ben De Bono
    2019-04-13 03:09

    Having recently read The Space Trilogy and now The Great Divorce, I think I appreciate C.S. Lewis' theology more in narrative format. While I love his nonfiction theology, I found myself somewhat frustrated the last time I read Mere Christianity by its lack of precision in many places. In his non fiction Lewis' lack of training and weaknesses as a theologian can be easily detected. In his fiction, they're absorbed into the narrative. Part of the reason why is that Lewis' theological ideas are ones more suited to artistic depiction than the careful parsing of academic writing. His expressions of the afterlife - here, but also in other novels such as The Last Battle - rest uncomfortably in nonfiction, but feel fully realized when placed in narrative. A significant motivation throughout the story seems to be Lewis' desire to recontextualize George MacDonald's universalism and bring it closer into harmony with Christian orthodoxy. To that end, he's mostly successful. The part of MacDonald's universalism that conflicts most with orthodoxy is his belief in the ability of the damned to leave hell behind. Lewis attempts to harmonize this using the concept of refrigerium - a time when the damned are allowed to temporarily leave hell. While this doesn't quite make the cut of being a part of Christian teaching, it does have some basis at least in popular Christian thought over the centuries. What's most fascinating about this take is that while it appears to be a more optimistic view of damnation - hell has the potential to be only temporary - it's also far more frightening. Hell as punishment is one thing, but hell as a destiny explicitly chosen even when Heaven is freely offered is something altogether more terrifying. What's more, Lewis makes an entirely plausible case as to why anyone might make that choice. It's impossible not to see yourself in the myriad of characters who ultimately refuse Heaven. The Great Divorce never reaches anywhere near the heights of Dante, but that's entirely excusable since it never attempts to. The brevity of the novel seems to, in part, indicate Lewis' acknowledgment that the tour of the afterlife genre has already been done as well as it ever will be. His own excursion isn't an attempt to match Dante's masterpiece or even lesser works in that vein, but simply to explore his own ideas while acknowledging the greatness of his predecessors. To that end, the novel couldn't be a greater success

  • Jake
    2019-04-04 05:23

    BOOK CLUB SELECTION.I read this book as a non-religious and non-spiritual person and it lead to me to a three-hour conversation about religion with my friend Dave. Dave's a faithful Christian and we had some time to kill in Mexico. He was reading a Stephen Hawking book and I was finishing The Great Divorce. Somehow, we got into our afternoon-long conversation, discussing all that encompassed western religion and I must have quoted The Great Divorce at least a dozen times. Seriously, by the end, I was reading him page-long passages.It made me realize how welcoming a writer C.S. Lewis is when it comes to philosophy. He creates an atmosphere of wandering and wonderment, hailing the achievement of just being able to politely discuss and debate points. I found myself identifying with both spirits and ghosts, sometimes even understanding why someone would choose purgatory over Heaven (at least in the context of the conversation).I bought it thinking it would be a religious book. I read the preface and thought it would be a fantasy book. But then I finished it and realized it was more of a philosophy book.It offered me some well-versed challenges of the human psyche. Each character had something to offer, whether it was a do or it was a don't. I very often found myself thinking, "Yeah, that's a good point." It was a very accessible form of philosophy and I enjoyed the book very much. However, I think it's my fault for thinking it would lead somewhere else. I thought it would end in the narrator entering Heaven or going further into the afterlife experience. I wasn't anticipating it being him wandering around listening to others.The ending, however, infuriated the fuck out of me. It made me so mad. I know the "it was all a dream" twist wasn't as much of a cliche back when this was written, but it kind of devalued the entire book. It made the philosophy worth much less than it originally was. There was so much to gain and so much to lose when it meant an eternity of Heaven or Hell. Instead, it was just kind of, "Oh, he had a funny dream." The weight of the conversations lost their purpose, because they weren't as much about coming change as they were about the importance of reflection and forgiveness. Sure, the narrator would now look to be a better person, learning from the mistakes of others, but they weren't really others. They were just variations of him. And, if they weren't, then what were they? Ugh. It made everything seem kind of unimportant.Also, does nobody make to Heaven? What the hell (heyo)? I don't recall any of those conversations ending in someone saying, "Oh yeah, totally. I'm there. Heaven sounds awesome." Instead, everyone fell back on fear, hate, distrust, anger and resentment. It seemed kind of condescending to all of humanity.RANDOM FAVORITE PARTS:- The conversation with the artist was so good. I have never considered that point and it was such an epiphany. It is possible to be more concerned with how you write about love than love itself. You become more enamored with the medium that you forget the source. Seriously, it made all of art seem dangerous, exciting and pathetic at the same time. Rad.- The conversation where the man was divided into a dwarf and a tragedian. I wish his condition was explained in further depth, but the idea of a good person carrying around eloquent tragedy out of fear of happiness was pretty unreal.- The idea that Hell is a state of mind was so reasonable and so subtle while being such a disconcerting idea.- The way that purgatory was explained was awesome: you can have anything you want, just wish it, as time is no factor, but you are indifferent to everything while still holding onto your earthly emotions.RANDOM FAVORITE LINES:- "Free, as a man is free to drink while he is drinking." (page 41)- "What you now call the free play of inquiry has neither more nor less to do with the ends for which intelligence was given you than masturbation has to do with marriage." (page 41)- "There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ. Man! Ye see it in smaller matters. Did ye never know a lover of books that with all his first editions and signed copies had lost power to read them? Or an organiser of charities that had lost all love for the poor? It is the subtlest of all the snares." (page 74)The book was so close to four stars, but I dropped it down to three after the end. It was too abrupt for a book that was that well-executed and clearly thought-out. So...three stars!

  • Lucy
    2019-04-24 05:02

    Not my usual read. In fact, this is the first C.S. Lewis book I have ever read other than "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe." Of course, being LDS, I have read and heard innumerable quotes of his from articles and talks. We are a C.S. Lewis loving society. I read this because this book was chosen for the bookgroup I belong to this month. Dread is much too strong of a word but I admit that I wasn't really looking forward to reading this book. And it isn't because I choose to read fluff either. I like a deep novel. Perhaps intimidated is the closet description of what I felt. After all, if general authorities quote him, how readable could it be?Overall, I really liked this book. The text was easy to read and the story flowed. That surprised me. Not that I wasn't expecting Lewis to be a great author but this book is definitely not limited to advanced readers. It begins with an unnamed man in line for a bus ride to somewhere unmentioned. His fellow passengers don't seem to be the kind of people anyone would enjoy being seated next too -- each with an obvious character flaw. The bus takes them to what is described at first as obviously Heaven but we later learn is just the "Valley in the Shadow of Life" or kind of the intro to Heaven. The grass is too hard to walk on for the newbie feet and each who has arrived is greeted by an angel who pretty much tries to convince them to follow them into the mountains where the real Heaven lies. In Lewis's afterworld, there are many who see what Heaven is like and decide not to be there. It is too hard or too different than what they want it to be like. They don't want to be different from who there were on earth and can't understand why they must let go of certain characteristics.I think my favorite paragraph in this book is when this unnamed man's angel tells him, "...There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "thy will be done." All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened."Isn't that great? There were many moments in this story that I wanted to get out my highlighter pen and get busy. It was a very quick read: it only took a little over 2 hours to read. Of course, if you want to get serious and really ponder it would take much longer. But I read it like a novel...wanting to get a sense of the whole story. In that way, it was a bit disappointing. He doesn't do much creating a whole story as he does put a narrator in to eavesdrop on different peoples' first experiences with Heaven. When that person was clearly past convincing he moved on to the next "ghost" struggling. In the end, the book floundered a bit (I can't believe I am actually using that word in critiquing the great C.S. Lewis but then is my blog!). His angel leads him on and eventually he sees a big chess table and suddenly real experience, time, space and all that is into question. Just for the last chapter, mind you. I found myself being a bit Sethesque and thinking, "what the..." something about lenses and visions and dreams and eventually he woke up. So we never were able to see what Lewis's deeper Heaven was like. And he scolded him to not report this experience as anything more than a dream. His angel says, "....see ye make it very plain. Give no poor fool the pretext to think ye are claiming knowledge of what no mortal knows. I'll have no Swedenborgs and no Vale Owens among my children....He has forbidden it" I guess in Christian theology, there have been experiences where visions were to go untold. It just didn't sit well with me. And that was the end. He woke up. To what end for this man? Did it make him better? More ready for the glory of God? I don't feel that unanswered question was necessary for the story.

  • Hannah
    2019-03-23 23:21

    I thought this book was intriguing in its concept, but it felt a little under-developed to me. It seems more like an engaging thought-experiment that never really hatched into a full-fledged Lewis novel (or maybe it's more just like the Perelandra novels, which just never drew me in and seemed out of Lewis' element). Basically, the narrator is in a Purgatory/Hell situation (but for the purposes of conveying the concept, it seems more like what we would traditionally think of as Purgatory--people endlessly squabbling with one another selfishly in a ever-twilight town that infinitely expands as its denizens get sick of one another and perform universes of suburban sprawl). He makes the decision to board a bus that goes to the very outer limits of heaven, and then records his impressions of seeing the interactions of other purgatory residents with the heavenly residents, whose world is so much bigger and more substantial than that of the purgatory residents that they are like ghosts there. I thought the different character-types that Lewis explored were interesting, but felt like they were definitely limited by being kept so non-specific seeming, and never receiving real identities and full back stories. The heavenly beings could also be verging on downright creepy in their reactions to the purgatory residents; although trying to help and convince the purgatory-like beings of the situation that they are now actually "living", the heavenly beings can also seem very inhuman in their aloofness and inability to be "hurt" by those who were dear to them on Earth. Although this is due to their state in heaven of not being able to be guilted and manipulated anymore by those who may have done so to them during their lives, it doesn't seem natural that they should smile and laugh about things that should concern them deeply. I thought the ending was disappointing (although Lewis seemed a little boxed in there; I'm not sure I would have liked other alternatives), but I think it was also, in a way, an extra safety measure of for goodness' sake, don't canonize a fictional story I wrote about what the afterlife may be like, which seems to be reasonable precaution considering how some people have come to treat his work as if it's an addendum to the Bible. ^^'''The highlights for me were the idea of Napoleon's fate, the idea of (small spoiler) purgatory also being hell and that those who go to heaven will have always found themselves to have been there no matter what happened in their lives, and the same with those who go to hell. I'm wondering if that's where Dallas Willard got some of the things that he says in Renovation of the Heart, because it seems along similar lines thought-wise. (/spoiler) I also liked the idea of heaven as being like a truer, more real and fuller fulfillment of Earth.