A few evenings ago, I had the apartment to myself and needed something new to read. This, in itself, is not so unusual; those who know me better know that I am incurably, deeply addicted to reading and that I always have a book going, frequently more than one, and it is completely unthinkable for me not to have something to read.
A fortunate aspect of my particular form of this infinitely pleasant addiction is that I am well capable of rereading many books; in fact, one of my basic criteria for judging a book is the question as to whether I could imagine reading it again. So I perused my bookshelves and stopped at a large, handsome hardback volume, a special offer at Amazon for a pittance I happened to stumble across around a year ago, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Now that’s an idea, I thought, just the right evening for it. I made a choice of CDs (Händel’s Wassermusik being the first of the selection), a pot of roibusch tea, settled down into my armchair and returned happily to a world I first discovered over forty years ago.
When I was nine years old, we moved from the
I think I would have loved the books anyway; my acquaintance with fantasy went right back to the first book I remember reading, Lewis Carroll’s
Lewis wrote the seven Narnia books between 1949 and 1955 (they were published annually from 1950 to 1956). Although their publishing order is somewhat different, they follow a clear chronology, portraying the world of Narnia from its creation in The Magician’s Nephew to its end in The Last Battle (although the first published and perhaps most famous is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). My father, I think, knew nothing of this when he brought those three books home to us in the winter of 1969-70, and the fact that I read them out of sequence didn’t particularly worry me at the time. Interestingly, in his choice of three out of seven he managed to select the only books in which none of the Pevensie children play a role. Be that as it may, having read those three, I was determined to read the others as quickly as possible and, in the next year or two I managed to get my hands on all of them (if, in some cases, only temporarily from the local library).
What happened to those original books I do not know. I have four younger brothers and sisters and our family moved house a couple of times after that, none of which facts are particularly conducive to the survival of individual paperback books. During my time as a novice in the Dominican Order, I rediscovered all seven of them in the novel library of the noviciate house in
The Chronicles of Narnia, as they are generally known, have been read and loved by millions of children (and adults) since they were published over half a century ago. They have also been the subject of some (frequently fierce) criticism. Lewis’ friend, fellow academic and fellow Inkling (a member of their informal literary club in
Although my world-view is much closer to that of
One thing does unite
So, I’ve got to go now. You see, I have an appointment in Narnia (more correctly in Calormen, that threatening empire across the
Sixpence None the Richer are were a professed Christian group, who gave C.S. Lewis as one of their major influences. "Kiss me" was their biggest hit.