lunes, 13 de julio de 2015

Book review: Philip and Carol Zaleski, ‘The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings’

Tolkien, Lewis, and a World Shot through with Meaning

by: John D. Davidson

There are those whose love for J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis is so fervent that no amount of detail about these writers is too much. These are the people who read and re-read not just Tolkien’s ring trilogy but also The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales; not just Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia but also his science fiction novels and letters and lectures and maybe even his 1936 scholarly work, The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition.

For all those people—and they are legion—there’s now a very long and detailed book about Tolkien and Lewis and their famous literary club at Oxford, the Inklings—the first such book in more than thirty years.

Full disclosure: I am, to some extent, one of these people. As a kid, I had all the Tolkien calendars. I read The Hobbit in the third grade and dressed up as Gollum for Halloween (and was crestfallen when none of the other children knew who I was supposed to be.) As a seventh-grader I may or may not have drawn elaborate portraits of each member of the Fellowship of the Ring, and one of Tolkien himself.

So, I am not exactly an impartial judge. To a large extent, my imagination as a child was formed by Tolkien and Lewis, by Middle Earth and Narnia and the world of myth and poetry to which they belong. I am one of those for whom the works of the Inklings re-enchanted the modern world and pointed to a spiritual reality beyond it.

Articulating the influence and achievement of this odd band of Oxford writers is the aim of husband-and-wife team Philip and Carol Zaleski, who have produced a remarkable book, The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings, chronicling the group’s principle figures: Tolkien and Lewis, of course, along with the lesser-known yet highly influential Charles Williams and Owen Barfield.

In short, the Inkling’s achievement was to articulate a vast and compelling apologia for Christianity in a decidedly un-Christian age, and to revive romantic literature and myth, reclaiming it for the faith. That they accomplished this during the darkest decades of the twentieth century, when romanticism and faith were—as they still are—under heavy fire from critical theory and scientism, makes their achievement all the more remarkable.


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