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Überrascht von Freude: Eine Autobiografie

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Spannend beschreibt C. S. Lewis seinen Weg vom erklärten Atheisten zum überzeugten Christen. Das Buch kann auf zweierlei Weise eingeordnet werden: als echte Autobiografie oder als eine Art geistiger Roman, sozusagen das Forschen eines Detektivs nach dem roten Faden und dem Motiv.


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Spannend beschreibt C. S. Lewis seinen Weg vom erklärten Atheisten zum überzeugten Christen. Das Buch kann auf zweierlei Weise eingeordnet werden: als echte Autobiografie oder als eine Art geistiger Roman, sozusagen das Forschen eines Detektivs nach dem roten Faden und dem Motiv.

30 review for Überrascht von Freude: Eine Autobiografie

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    C.S. Lewis, the man that "thought his way to God" (according to the back of the book), isn't really all man - he's part reading machine. Everything, every sentence, in his spiritual autobiography is laden with some classical allusion to a work that the normal person hasn't read in Greek or Latin. After the death of his mother in his youth, Lewis enters a long lasting period of atheism. Although he knew epistemologically that God didn't exist, he still felt that there was something else "out there C.S. Lewis, the man that "thought his way to God" (according to the back of the book), isn't really all man - he's part reading machine. Everything, every sentence, in his spiritual autobiography is laden with some classical allusion to a work that the normal person hasn't read in Greek or Latin. After the death of his mother in his youth, Lewis enters a long lasting period of atheism. Although he knew epistemologically that God didn't exist, he still felt that there was something else "out there." This is different from agnosticism though - he believed that the "something else" was not divine, but it was a Romantic quality. Lewis' life was occasionally visited by what he came to call "Joy": "that unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any satisfaction." Not how you would define joy? Me neither, but this operational definition fits into his scheme of finding God. Enamored with Joy, Lewis sought to experience it as often as possible - in reading great books, listening to music, experiencing nature, etc, etc. However, he finally realized he was confusing object with product: these things could not produce joy, they were only vehicles of it from some other source. As the book draws to a close, Lewis is truly surprised by a God who cares, a "true mythology" (the Christian narrative), and the creator of joy. In his thirst for Joy, Lewis had gone to the cups, glasses, and water bottles that had satiated him before - now he had found the well of living water.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mike (the Paladin)

    Okay, I started this today and finished it today, and will probably reread it. This has happened with many of Lewis' books. I've read The Four Loves several times and am getting ready to reread Miracles. There often seems to be a lot that I don't get first time through. This is a wonderful book with some less than wonderful parts. By that I mean discourses on difficult or unpleasant events and/or topics. I won't try to go over this volume in any kind of detail. I suspect it will "strike" differen Okay, I started this today and finished it today, and will probably reread it. This has happened with many of Lewis' books. I've read The Four Loves several times and am getting ready to reread Miracles. There often seems to be a lot that I don't get first time through. This is a wonderful book with some less than wonderful parts. By that I mean discourses on difficult or unpleasant events and/or topics. I won't try to go over this volume in any kind of detail. I suspect it will "strike" different readers in different ways. The book communicated to me on several levels. From surprise at the details about certain things in the British Public School system (circa early 1900s) and thankfulness that America was spared those parts to a realization that most people in the last 60 years (+or-) could be argued to have received almost no education. The book is valuable simply on the level of a biography and personal account history. (My generation, for example, was the first where Latin and what was then called "foreign languages" became "elective" classes instead of simply being required. In my generation basic math, reading, grammar skills, along with at least rudimentary knowledge of history, and social studies was "required" to pass from grade to grade and then graduate.) Aside from this however and on deeper levels the book deals with Lewis' rejection of all things spiritual, mystical, metaphysical or religious and decision to become an atheist. It then leads us through his life and reasoning from there to theism and then to Christianity. I could say a lot more about this book but I can't in this limited space give an account that would come close to doing it justice. Highly recommended.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mark Adderley

    There's not much to say about this book, as it is famous, and has been reviewed many times. It's about C. S. Lewis' conversion from atheism to Christianity. He identifies a quality which he calls "Joy," which occurs in what he describes as "a stab of joy." This is the a moment of perfect happiness occasioned by . . . well, it differs. Lewis explains that he got three stabs of joy in his youth: once from the a model garden in a biscuit-tin lid that his brother had made, once while reading Beatix There's not much to say about this book, as it is famous, and has been reviewed many times. It's about C. S. Lewis' conversion from atheism to Christianity. He identifies a quality which he calls "Joy," which occurs in what he describes as "a stab of joy." This is the a moment of perfect happiness occasioned by . . . well, it differs. Lewis explains that he got three stabs of joy in his youth: once from the a model garden in a biscuit-tin lid that his brother had made, once while reading Beatix Potter's Squirrel Nutkin, and once catching a phrase from Longfellow's poem The Saga of King Olaf. Lewis contends that these stabs of Joy are glimpses of the divine, and that they guided him inevitably to the Christian belief that characterized his later life. What's truly amazing about this book, to me, is how closely it follows my own life. If I could identify three stabs of Joy that I've experienced, I'd say, first of all, from Lewis' own Narnia books, particularly the episode when Lucy is reading from the magical book in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; second, oddly enough, from the James Bond movies--I know that sounds weird, but something about the atmosphere of Goldfinger, especially encapsulated in the music, really caught me; and thirdly, from Star Wars--the 1977 film, not any of the subsequent movies. Like Lewis, I subsequently fancied myself an atheist, and for much the same reasons. Lewis explains that he received a mature stab of Joy from the idea of Northernness that he got from the Norse mythology in Wagner; I, on the other hand, got that stab of Joy from T. H. White's book The Once and Future King. Lewis followed up on this by investigating Norse mythology more closely, and subsequently stopped receiving stabs of Joy from it when it became an academic investigation isntead of something he did for pure pleasure. Likewise with me and the Arthurian legend. Like Lewis, I struggled against becoming a Christian but, like Lewis, books (in his case Chesterton and MacDonald, in mine the medieval Arthurian romances) and friends (in Lewis' case, a plethora of friends including Owen Barfield, J. R. R. Tolkien and other college friends, in my case, my wife) prevailed. So, what really made me enjoy this book was recognizing the truth of what Lewis was saying in it. And I recognized this truth, because his story pretty closely resembled my own.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Douglas Wilson

    Great. Finished yet again in November of 2017. And again in January of 2018.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Madelyn

    "Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back....everything is different." I can easily mark this as my favorite autobiography. It didn't drone on and on as most others do. Starting out in his childhood, spreading through his years at Oxford and when he served as professor, and ending shortly after his conversion to Christianity, there was insight for almost every season of life. I've been a long-time reader of many of the classic Lewis works (Mere Christianity, Narnia, e "Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back....everything is different." I can easily mark this as my favorite autobiography. It didn't drone on and on as most others do. Starting out in his childhood, spreading through his years at Oxford and when he served as professor, and ending shortly after his conversion to Christianity, there was insight for almost every season of life. I've been a long-time reader of many of the classic Lewis works (Mere Christianity, Narnia, etc.) and even some lesser known works (Till We Have Faces). But after I read this intuitive book, His novels shine with a new light, and it brought my enjoyment of them to a whole new level. FACTS ABOUT C. S. LEWIS: -He had a certain condition as a child where he couldn't move either of his thumbs. Because of this, he wasn't able to do many things normal children do, such as using scissors, painting, building with blocks, etc. It's this condition that drove him to read. -One of his favorite authors as a child (and adult) was George MacDonald. He was one of the very few Christian authors he read. He realized early on that there was something in MacDonald's writing that all the other books were missing. Ultimately, this author played a large part in his conversion. See the full review (with pictures!) at my blog, Literary Cafe: http://literarycafe.weebly.com/home/s...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brittany Petruzzi

    Considering all the things we’ve studied at New Saint Andrews—and the way it keeps coming back to one thing—I find it highly interesting that it was essentially C.S. Lewis’ love of story that brought him to Christ. If you think about it, story is what all of his experiences of Sehnsucht have in common. Most of the Sehnsucht took place while reading poetry or literature, and if not, it was because it transported him to the places in those stories. For example, looking up at the night sky took him Considering all the things we’ve studied at New Saint Andrews—and the way it keeps coming back to one thing—I find it highly interesting that it was essentially C.S. Lewis’ love of story that brought him to Christ. If you think about it, story is what all of his experiences of Sehnsucht have in common. Most of the Sehnsucht took place while reading poetry or literature, and if not, it was because it transported him to the places in those stories. For example, looking up at the night sky took him to the great northern expanse of Norse Mythology and Balder the god. But why story? Our parents read us stories as children, and, once we’re old enough, we read them for ourselves. And before you know it—sometimes even before we can read or write—we’re making our own stories. There must be something fundamental about it that modern man has difficultly grasping. (Incidentally, this may explain why my generation seems to hate reading so much and why modern culture as a whole is striving to recover a love for reading in children.) I think Lewis hit upon it when he described myths as “lies breathed through silver.” We all long for stories and enjoy them so much because we are looking for that One Story in which we are all players. That is why when Lewis realized that Christianity is a true myth—the one story that is completely and utterly true—his heart was won over and the rest of him promptly followed. This is why Lewis is “surprised” by Joy. All his life he believed the lies too good to be true, and then finally found the truth to be even better.

  7. 4 out of 5

    John

    This book wasn't what I was expecting. At first, I had expected it to be the story of how Lewis met his wife, Joy, as was portrayed in the movie SHADOWLANDS with Anthony Hopkins. Upon learning that such was not the case, I then expected it to be a straight-forward autobiographical account of Lewis' life. Wrong again. Actually, SURPRISED BY JOY is a memoir about Lewis' formative years. More specifically, it deals with Lewis' early rejection of Christianity and the manner in which he eventually re This book wasn't what I was expecting. At first, I had expected it to be the story of how Lewis met his wife, Joy, as was portrayed in the movie SHADOWLANDS with Anthony Hopkins. Upon learning that such was not the case, I then expected it to be a straight-forward autobiographical account of Lewis' life. Wrong again. Actually, SURPRISED BY JOY is a memoir about Lewis' formative years. More specifically, it deals with Lewis' early rejection of Christianity and the manner in which he eventually returned to the fold. Most of the book, however, is given to childhood reminiscences and reflections on various books that had an impact on him as a young man. All that is well and good, but I found it a bit dull. Early on in SURPRISED BY JOY, Lewis states that the best part of any biography is the stuff at the beginning, the stuff that deals with the subject in his or her youth. This is where Lewis and I differ. I'm generally not all that interested in people's childhoods and would much prefer them to get on with talking about their life's work and accomplishments. SURPRISED BY JOY doesn't really give us a glimpse into Lewis' professional life, and that was what disappointed me about it. That certainly doesn't make it a bad book--just not my style. As for the quality of the writing and the degree of insight throughout, it's every bit as brilliant as you'd expect from a writer of Lewis' caliber.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Olivier Delaye

    C. S. Lewis, one of J. R. R. Tolkien's best friends and creator of the Narnia Chronicles, among others. Pure genius. Period.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Anna Mussmann

    Such a wonderful read! A few thoughts and quotes: -I was delighted to see that Edith Nesbit and Beatrix Potter had a significant impact on Lewis’ childhood. -I appreciate Lewis’ discussion of the difference between “wonder” fantasy, and “fantasy” that’s focused on wish-fulfillment. “When the boy passes from nursery literature to school-stories he is going down, not up. Peter Rabbit pleases a disinterested imagination, for the child does not want to be a rabbit. . . but the story of the unpromisin Such a wonderful read! A few thoughts and quotes: -I was delighted to see that Edith Nesbit and Beatrix Potter had a significant impact on Lewis’ childhood. -I appreciate Lewis’ discussion of the difference between “wonder” fantasy, and “fantasy” that’s focused on wish-fulfillment. “When the boy passes from nursery literature to school-stories he is going down, not up. Peter Rabbit pleases a disinterested imagination, for the child does not want to be a rabbit. . . but the story of the unpromising boy who became captain of the First Eleven exists precisely to feed his real ambitions.” When it comes to modern fantasy novels, some fall in one category and some in the other--many of them definitely appeal to the reader’s inner desire for power. -Wow. The HORRIBLE things that happened in British prep schools! I wouldn’t have believed in them all if they showed up in a modern novel. No wonder the British upper class had a reputation for being a little dysfunctional. -When discussing the things that caused him to doubt Christianity as a youth, Lewis says, “One came from reading the classics. Here, especially in Virgil, one was presented with a mass of religious ideas; and all teachers and editors took it for granted from the outset that these religious ideas were sheer illusion. No one ever attempted to show in what sense Christianity fulfilled Paganism or Paganism prefigured Christianity. The accepted position seemed to be that religions were normally a mere farrago of nonsense, though our own, by a fortunate exception, was exactly true. The other religions were not even explained, in the earlier Christian fashion, as the work of devils. That I might, conceivably, have been brought to believe. But the impression I got was that religion in general, though utterly false, was a natural growth, a kind of endemic nonsense into which humanity tended to blunder. In the midst of a thousand such religions stood our own, the thousand and first, labelled True. But on what grounds could I believe in this exception?” -This quote struck me: “It is difficult for parents (and more difficult, perhaps, for schoolmasters) to realize the unimportance of most masters in the life of a school. Of the good and evil which is done to a schoolboy masters, in general, do little, and know less.” Honestly, I think this is a good argument against putting one’s child in a school just because the teachers are Christians/Lutherans. The other students and their families matter quite a bit, too. -“The greatest service we can do to education today is to teach fewer subjects. No one has time to do more than a very few things well before he is twenty, and when we force a boy to be a mediocrity in a dozen subjects we destroy his standards, perhaps for life.” I agree, but how are we to do this? Which subjects should be tabled or cut? -It’s startling to realize that Lewis would not have been able to attend Oxford if it weren’t for a law exempting ex-Service men from having to pass the mathematics test! This is another book I will want to re-read in the future.

  10. 4 out of 5

    David Sarkies

    Not quite an autobiography 24 May 2014 It is a little difficult to categorise this book since while in part it is an autobiography, Lewis goes to great pains to exclaim otherwise. One could also suggest that it falls into a category of Christian literature known as a testimony: a story that is told by the author as to how they became a Christian. However this particular book sort of does not follow the two forms that that type of literature takes, which are: 1) I was a really, really, really bad p Not quite an autobiography 24 May 2014 It is a little difficult to categorise this book since while in part it is an autobiography, Lewis goes to great pains to exclaim otherwise. One could also suggest that it falls into a category of Christian literature known as a testimony: a story that is told by the author as to how they became a Christian. However this particular book sort of does not follow the two forms that that type of literature takes, which are: 1) I was a really, really, really bad person, but then God came along and now I am not; or 2) I became a Christian and this is how God has had an impact in my life. As I have suggested this book does not necessarily follow either of these forms because while it is closer to the first form, normally the writer of that style of testimony goes to great pains to emphasis how bad and evil they were so that the contrast of their current lives acts as evidence of God having worked in them (and the problem with that form is that the author tends to spend so much time emphasising their bad aspects, they have have little to no time to outline how God has changed them, as well as the statements about how they have changed being quite subjective, and as such need to rely upon other people as references to their changed life). The reason that I suggest this this particular book differs from the standard testimony is that Lewis does not emphasise his wickedness, and in fact he does not seem to suggest that he really was all that wicked – or at least no less bad than the next person (for as the Bible says in the book of Romans: all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God). So, the question that is then raised is what is it with this book and what does it teach us about its author. Well, what I would have to say is that in a way it takes us on Lewis' journey through life to that point in time when he came to discover the joy of life, and in another way it also chronicles his intellectual development through not just his learning and his reading, but also through his life experiences. From what I discovered from this book, it appears that Lewis was one of those 'large' boys that is always picked on at school because while they are large, they are not necessarily strong, nor are they all that popular. We also learn that C.S. Lewis was in the trenches for the last part of World War I and came to experience the nature of war first hand. However, while he does state 'this is war, this is what Homer wrote about' I get a completely different idea of war from his description: modern warfare was nothing like the warfare of the Ancient Greeks in that the war Homer describes is a war where the fighting is not only up close and personal, but it also has the generals and leaders getting into the thick of the actions. In contrast, there was nothing personal about World War I; in fact it seemed that the entire war was the end point of industrialisation in which it was little more than a machine that simply existed to destroy people in the most bloody and painful ways possible. His story about his time at Wyvern (which when I first read the book, I believed it was a name that was made up so as to protect the guilty, but I have since, after quickly performing an internet search, discovered otherwise) is also quite interesting as he seems to pull the cover off what goes on in these exclusive English Public Schools. Mind you, I have never been to a boarding school, nor have I studied at a boys school, so I am unable to authenticate whether there was homosexuality going on between what Lewis calls the 'Bloods' and those known as the 'tarts'. However, it is interesting to note his comments on the topic as I do not believe it is mentioned elsewhere. However, let us take note that: 1) It occurred in Edwardian England, and enough for it to be noticeable; 2) If you were caught it would result in gaol time; 3) Lewis does not seem to think that the reason people do not like it has anything to do with any Biblical prohibition but rather because of its criminal nature, and anybody that is caught in a homosexual relationship is no doubt going to be treated the same as anybody else committing a crime; 4) Lewis believes that there are much greater sins that are accepted and does not understand why it is that homosexuals are punished while proud and greedy people get away with their actions; 5) He does not believe that he has any right to comment on it or speaking out against it. After Lewis returns home from war the book, for some reason, seems to drift into some sort of esoteric form of writing as he outlines how he meets believers at Oxford (including Tolkien) and how he fights and riles against Christianity only to, in the end, reluctantly concede, at first, that there is a God, and then, as he begins to investigate spirituality, comes to accept that Christianity is the one religion that he can call authentic. In a sense the joy that he comes to discover through Christianity is a type of joy that he had not encountered elsewhere, such as the joy of reading a good book, or the joy that one gets out of pleasurable activity. In fact, as Lewis suggests, humanities desire for pleasure arises from that desire to find joy and to fill oneself with that joy due to the fact that one's life seems empty without it. It is not that pleasure gives joy, but rather it creates a short terms satisfaction that must be continually met because once the initial rush has worn off then the crash comes, and when one crashes, it tends to end up being much, much harsher than the initial rush (though that is always very subjective because while one tends to crash after the rush, when the crash comes, the rush is suddenly a distant memory). What Lewis is suggesting (and what many other Christians also suggest) is that what God provides is that sense of joy and contentment that, well, may not be as intense and as strong as say ecstasy, but is a type and form of joy that gives one strength to continue. Personally, I would suggest otherwise because Christianity is not all beer and skittles (just ask a martyr, if you could because, well, martyrs end up being, well, dead), but what Christianity gives you (that, well, ecstasy doesn't) is not just a sense of hope, but a hope that all of this bad stuff will simply not last forever.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    Interesting to read immediately after The Pilgrim's Regress. I could see how the latter was an allegorical representation of his own conversion. I only wish he'd written a regular autobiography as well, for I'm very interested to hear of his later life in his own words. Recommended for: Ages 15 to Adult (mentions of sinful behavior by the other boys at school, and mentions of certain temptations) Many years ago, I read the first few chapters of this book as research for a speech on C.S. Lewis. I Interesting to read immediately after The Pilgrim's Regress. I could see how the latter was an allegorical representation of his own conversion. I only wish he'd written a regular autobiography as well, for I'm very interested to hear of his later life in his own words. Recommended for: Ages 15 to Adult (mentions of sinful behavior by the other boys at school, and mentions of certain temptations) Many years ago, I read the first few chapters of this book as research for a speech on C.S. Lewis. I simply didn't have time to read the whole thing then, but I think I'm glad I waited until now. I don't think I would have quite understood the purpose of the book in the frame of mind I was in at the time, and without having read The Pilgrim's Regress. Lewis covers his childhood much in the way that any man might cover his childhood in an autobiography, relating the general atmospheres of his home and schools, notable events, and particular memories. But he also has a slightly different focus. He always tells of the flashes of what he called Joy, sharply distinguished from both Happiness and Pleasure, a thing which becomes more apparent as the book progresses. Having just come out of The Pilgrim's Regress, an allegorical representation of Lewis's journey to Christianity, I recognized his Joy as the real life basis for John's Island. I would recommend reading those two books one right after the other, though I'm not sure if the way I happened to do it is best, or if you'd be better going the other way around. His school experience was interesting. His first boarding school was terrible in basically every way, his second not so bad, though he was bullied somewhat, and his time at that school did not last long. Wyvern is why I give an age caution on the book. While he was never involved himself, he does address the fact that there was some homosexuality between the older and younger boys. Yet during his time at Wyvern, despite how horrible it was, he managed to find Joy through the books he discovered. Post school is really where he starts focusing on the specifics that affected his religion. He called himself a reluctant convert, and it's easy to see throughout this book how that was so. But it's also easy to see how inescapable God's calling is. Lewis resisted, but it is impossible to ignore that God was calling him. Even which authors he discovered point back to God's calling. What I find interesting is how logical Lewis was. He really thought things through. It may be more difficult to see in his fiction, but it's very apparent in his nonfiction. And logically, he could not make himself adhere to his teenage and young adult atheism. "A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading." This was certainly true in Lewis's case. And it was very interesting to see how someone with Lewis's background could grow to become one of the most influential Christian writers of his time. For more reviews from me and my sisters, visit www.shirereviews.blogspot.com

  12. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Carlson

    This was interesting, but considering the very lengthy and detailed set-up, the denouement was hasty and disappointing. It barely brought together any of the varied strands he'd investigated; especially, his final treatment of “Joy” is relegated to one brief paragraph on the final page, and he fails to explain how Christianity satisfies/fulfills this feeling. He believes it does, as he says in Mere Christianity: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logic This was interesting, but considering the very lengthy and detailed set-up, the denouement was hasty and disappointing. It barely brought together any of the varied strands he'd investigated; especially, his final treatment of “Joy” is relegated to one brief paragraph on the final page, and he fails to explain how Christianity satisfies/fulfills this feeling. He believes it does, as he says in Mere Christianity: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” But he could better have explained what N. T. Wright calls "signposts" and "places where heaven and earth meet." Or, as Van Til says so well: “Christianity stands...in antithetical relation to the religions of the world, but it also offers itself as the fulfillment of that of which the nations have unwittingly had some faint desire.”

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nick Imrie

    'I never read an autobiography in which the parts devoted to the earlier years were not far the most interesting.' C.S. Lewis Surprised by Joy 'This book is written partly in answer to requests that I would tell how I passed from Atheism to Christianity […] The book aims at telling the story of my conversion and is not a general autobiography, still less 'Confession' like those of Augustine or Rousseau. This means in practice that it gets less like a general autobiography as it goes on.' C.S. Lew 'I never read an autobiography in which the parts devoted to the earlier years were not far the most interesting.' C.S. Lewis Surprised by Joy 'This book is written partly in answer to requests that I would tell how I passed from Atheism to Christianity […] The book aims at telling the story of my conversion and is not a general autobiography, still less 'Confession' like those of Augustine or Rousseau. This means in practice that it gets less like a general autobiography as it goes on.' C.S. Lewis Surprised by Joy 'A spiritual thriller' – The Sunday Times For an atheist, unfamiliar with the experience of God, this does not read much like a conversion story at all. Indeed, it's hard to see anything much to do with religion in the first 80% of the book, and I probably would have missed all of it if I hadn't been clued in by the front cover which has the title 'Surprised by Joy' and the quote 'A spiritual thriller'. If you want to read the book as a thriller then my explaining how the extended childhood description is laying clues for the final spiritual epiphany will be a massive spoiler. So I'll leave that to the end. If, like me, you have a morbid fascination with Edwardian English school stories then you'll probably find this a very interesting book, as it does cover a lot of Lewis's childhood. I find it astonishing how much casual cruelty was perpetrated as a matter of course. I have seen Oldie make that child bend down at one end of the school-room and then take a run of the room's length at each stroke; but P. was the trained sufferer of countless thrashings and no sound escaped him until, towards the end of the torture, there came a noise quite unlike a human utterance. That peculiar croaking or rattling cry, that, and the grey faces of all the other boys, and their deathlike stillness, are among the memories I could willingly dispense with.' I don't think it's any exaggeration to say that what was common practise a hundred years ago, we now see as obvious abuse which ought to get the perpetrator imprisoned in a mental facility. And that's before you get to the horrors inflicted by children on children, encouraged by their teachers: the utter servility of the fagging system; the open and ubiquitous quasi-prostitution; the hysterical devotion to teams, houses, and sports; the endless bullying. Lewis is particularly interesting as someone who hated every moment of it, thinks it counter-productive, and yet still feels the shame at having failed to thrive in such a system. And the oddest thing about it is that so many of the people involved seem to have been otherwise completely decent. Like the teacher Smewgy (yes, absolutely everyone in this book has a ridiculously English name or nick-name) of whom Lewis says: 'Nor had I ever met before perfect courtesy in a teacher. It had nothing to do with softness; Smewgy could be very severe, but it was the severity of a judge, weighty and measured, without taunting. [He said] 'You will have to be whipped if you don't do better at your Greek Grammar next week, but naturally that has nothing to do with your manners or mine.' The idea that the tone of conversation between one gentleman and another should be altered by a flogging (any more than by a duel) was ridiculous. His manner was perfect: no familiarity, no hostility, no threadbare humour; mutual respect, decorum. 'Never let us live with amousia' was one of his favourite maxims.' And stranger yet, that so many of the people who passed through this sadistic house of horrors should be so admirable; consider the stoicism and decency that you find in early 20th century literature: Ford Madox Ford or Tolkien or Orwell (Orwell has also written a very good description of the hell of boarding school). So on the one hand Lewis is suffering greatly at school, and on the other he's experiencing flashes of joy that he finds at first in Norse mythology, then in Celtic and Roman myth, in Wagner's music, in the contemplation of distant mountains. He strives after joy, frustratingly finding that he cannot hold onto it. The more he studies mythology the less joy it brings him. The more he carefully sets up the correct conditions for joy, the less likely it is to appear. None of this seems to relate to Christianity, and the small amount of text given over to religion describes how his failure at childhood prayer was a contributing factor in giving up Christianity. This is interesting and insightful, especially considering the sort of Atheism that is so common nowadays (and the sort that Lewis held when he was an atheist): angry and resentful of the demands of religion. Little Lewis was told as a child 'one must not only say one's prayers but think about what one was saying.' And consequently 'I set myself a standard. No clause of my prayer was to be allowed to pass muster unless it was accompanied by what I called a 'realisation', by which I meant a certain vividness of the imagination and the affections.' Needless to say he soon leads himself into an insomniac cycle of trying to force a sincere feeling in every prayer, which is about as useful as trying to grasp joy, and soon leads him to feel his religion as an intolerable burden. This was combined with a natural pessimism which felt that the world was a bit rubbish really, as Lucretius says: Had God designed the world, it would not be, A world so frail and faulty as we see. Which Lewis seems to think is the strongest argument for atheism – I find that a bit odd. It seems a bit presumptuous to imagine that we could reliably guess what God would or wouldn't create and draw conclusions about his existence from our assumptions about what he would do if he existed. Anyway, that's most of the book: the story of his schooldays, and his home in Ireland, interspersed with the love of mythology and nature. And then all of a sudden he converts in the final few chapters. These pass with bewildering speed, and a great deal of it went over my head. Some parts of the conversion seem utterly mystical, and I find myself shrugging and thinking, 'I guess you had to be there.' And other parts are intensely philosophical and I find myself shrugging and thinking, 'I guess you need a post-grad degree in philosophy to understand this.' The mystical part begins when Lewis reads George Macdonald's Phantastes. His experience while reading the book: 'It is as if I were carried sleeping across the frontier, or as if I had died in the old country and could never remember how I came alive in the new. For in one sense the new country was exactly like the old. I met there all that had already charmed me in Malory, Spenser, Morris, and Yeats. But in an other sense all was changed. I did not yet know (and I was long in learning) the name of the new quality, the bright shadow, that rested on the travels of Anodos. I do now. It was Holiness. For the first time in my life the song of the sirens sounded like the voice of my mother or my nurse. Here were old wives tales, there was nothing to be proud of in enjoying them. It was as though the voice which had called to me from the world's end were now speaking at my side. It was with me in the room, or in my own body, or behind me. If it had once eluded me by its distance, it now eluded me by proximity – something too near to see, too plain to be understood, on this side of knowledge. It seemed to have been always with me; if I could ever have turned my head quick enough I should have seized it.' There's two more pages like this. I would like to review it – I would like to have an opinion – but I have just absolutely no idea what's going on here. I know no bright shadows or siren voices, near or far. Clearly something profound is happening to Lewis, but it's incomprehensible to me. The philosophy is even further beyond me. Indeed, it makes me wonder who it was that requested Lewis tell how he passed from Atheism to Christianity. I suspect it was someone who was already familiar with all his terms, or else surely he would have explained them better? Suffice to say, if you want to follow the philosophy them you had better already have some understanding of the Noumenal and the Phenomenal self; what Bergson can tell us about Nothing, what 'life' means to Shelley compared to Goethe; what is a Steinerite; what Lewis means by Anthroposophy, Theosophy, Yoga, Spiritualism, Psychoanalysis, Pantheism, the new Psychology, Rationalism, Idealism, Realism, Materialist philosophy, Fantasy (in the Coleridgean sense, as distinct from Fantasy as psychologists understand the term); stoical monism; Hegel, Bradley and Berkeley; or Wordsworth and his lost glory. To give some idea of how swiftly Lewis takes up and dismisses these arguments: 'If one kept (as rock-bottom reality) the universe of the senses, aided by instruments and co-ordinated so as to form 'science', then one would have to go much further – as many have since gone – and adopt a Behaviouristic theory of logic, ethics, and aesthetics. But such a theory was, and is, unbelievable to me. […] Unless I were to accept an unbelievable alternative, I must admit that mind was no late-come epiphenomenon; that the whole universe was, in the last resort, mental; that our logic was participation in a cosmic Logos. This is all bewilderingly fast for me. There is too much implied information, too many skips over steps of reasoning. What does it mean that science is in quotation marks? Why does believing that rock-bottom reality is the one we sense lead to behaviouristic aesthetics? How does one get from rejecting behaviourism to accepting that the whole universe is mental? And what does that even mean? I'm floundering – never has a book in such clear prose made me feel so stupid and ignorant. I can in part see that an argument is being made here. Each time Lewis rejects one of these philosophies, he must also reject a strut in the argument against God, and so he is innocently and unwittingly drawing closer and closer to his conversion as he casually demolishes his way through philosophy, with no idea what corner he is backing into. As he says: 'A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.' This is thrillerish – but would probably be a lot more thrilling if one could understand the implication of each column crumbling. He does slow down to offer some explanation when it comes to Alexander's Space, Time, and Deity*, which had some profound implications for Lewis's understanding of Joy. The idea is this: you can experience 'enjoyment' and 'contemplation'. These are technical terms which roughly mean experiencing and thinking about. In Lewis's words: 'In bereavement you contemplate the beloved and the beloved's death, and, in Alexander's sense, 'enjoy' the loneliness and grief; but a psychologist, if he were considering you as a case of melancholia, would be contemplating your grief and enjoying psychology'. The implications of this are that you cannot enjoy something at the same time as contemplating it. You enjoy your love while you contemplate your beloved. As soon as you start contemplating your love then you are enjoying your introspection. As Lewis says: 'The surest means of disarming an anger or a lust was to turn your attention from the girl or the insult and start examining the passion itself. The surest way of spoiling a pleasure was to start examining your satisfaction.' This gave me a little frisson of recognition, because it reminded me of Ingram's Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha: An Unusually Hardcore Dharma Book in which he says that if one meditates to a high level then one eventually begins to perceive how our direct experience of the world is actually not the same thing as our perception of it – but our attention moves so rapidly that we don't notice the difference between sensation and interpretation. Lewis never mentions Buddhism once, I wonder if he didn't know about it, or if he just didn't have much of an opinion of it. Anyway, what does this have to do with God and joy? Firstly, he at last understood why he could never hold onto joy: 'I saw that all my waitings and watchings for Joy, all my vain hopes to find some mental content on which I could, so to speak, lay my finger and say, 'This is it' had been a futile attempt to contemplate the enjoyed.' But it is the next step in his reasoning that brings it all together: There was no doubt that Joy was a desire (and, in so far as it was also simultaneously a good, it was also a kind of love). But a desire is turned not to itself but to its object. Not only that, but it owes all its character to its object. Erotic love is not like desire for food, nay, a love for one woman differs from a love for another woman in the very same way and the very same degree as the two women differ from one another. […] I had been wrong in supposing that I really desired the Garden of the Hesperides, so also I had been equally wrong in supposing that I desired Joy itself. Joy itself, considered simply as an event in my own mind, turned out to be of no value at all. All the value lay in that of which Joy was the desiring. And that object, quite clearly, was no state of my own mind or body at all. […] I thus understood that in deepest solitude there is a road right out of the self, a commerce with something which, by refusing to identify itself with any object of the senses, or anything whereof we have biological or social need, or anything imagined, or any state of our own minds, proclaims itself sheerly objective. Far more objective than bodies, for it is not, like them, clothed in our senses; the naked Other, imageless (though our imagination salutes it with a hundred images), unknown, undefined, desired.' Even an atheist like me can see where this is going. So this is the thriller – sorry for spoiling it. All of Lewis's childhood flashes and darts of joy were clues leading him along the path to God. He felt joy in those things because 'all things, in their way, reflect heavenly truth', wherever he perceived that reflection he felt the stab of joy. Joy is the signpost, the indication that our attention is finally fixed on the utter reality. So there it is, and I'm still unsure how to feel about it. It was an interesting and enjoyable read. It didn't quite give me what I wanted – which was to understand how and why Lewis became a Christian, so that I might either be persuaded along with him, or allowed to be comfortably certain that it was not true. Instead I'm left with a dozen clues for further reading, and the headachy feeling that the whole subject is a lot more complicated than my youthful atheism would have allowed. *I have no idea how to feel about the fact that Alexander's book, which had such a profound influence on Lewis, is totally unreviewed on Goodreads and most often shelved under 'abandoned', and so neglected that it appears to have been credited to a completely different Samuel Alexander.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lydia Therese

    Surprised by Joy is by C.S. Lewis. I really enjoyed this book. I liked learning more about C.S. Lewis's life. I have enjoyed most of the books I have read that are by him, and I enjoyed reading his conversion story. Many of the references to literature were lost on me, though. He compared an event in his life to some ancient poem that I had never read, and so most of that side of the book was lost on me. However, even if I didn't understand a lot of the references, I still liked reading the book Surprised by Joy is by C.S. Lewis. I really enjoyed this book. I liked learning more about C.S. Lewis's life. I have enjoyed most of the books I have read that are by him, and I enjoyed reading his conversion story. Many of the references to literature were lost on me, though. He compared an event in his life to some ancient poem that I had never read, and so most of that side of the book was lost on me. However, even if I didn't understand a lot of the references, I still liked reading the book. It was interesting and I appreciated his ability to analyze different things that happened to him in his life and how they had a long-term effect on him. I did wish the book talked a little more about his later life and about the people who really helped convince him there was a God (like J.R.R. Tolkien! He only got a sentence or two, sadly). 4 stars out of 5. I will probably re-read this again when I am older and I will probably pick up more of the deep things in this book. (Because I will be the first to admit I probably missed LOTS of good stuff that is here. XD)

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dennis

    "Really, a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side." C.S. Lewis should know, he was one. It is a rare thing to find a book that speaks to you so thoroughly and on so many levels. This was a complete surprise, something I rather stumbled upon because of a reference to it in another book. And what a surprise! Reading each chapter, each paragraph, each sentence, felt much like catching up with an old and dear friend, someone who understands your "Really, a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side." C.S. Lewis should know, he was one. It is a rare thing to find a book that speaks to you so thoroughly and on so many levels. This was a complete surprise, something I rather stumbled upon because of a reference to it in another book. And what a surprise! Reading each chapter, each paragraph, each sentence, felt much like catching up with an old and dear friend, someone who understands your thoughts and perspectives like few others ever could. This book reads also much like a bibliography of important books which affected the author most as a youth during his unwitting journey to faith and enlightenment. He tells of an upbringing in northern Ireland and touches upon such sad episodes as losing his mother early in life, and the subsequent unraveling of his relationship with a more mercurial father. Lewis describes the two like ships passing parallel to one another but in opposite directions, with his father never quite able to grasp or identify with his thoughts and motivations. I love C.S. Lewis's gift for conjuring imagery, and now have clearer insight into the foundations for his writings rooted in an early love for Norse and Celtic mythology as well as for Wagner. I resonated with his account of a public school education, what with its inexplicable emphasis on "playing games" (sport) and the social stratifying hierarchy preparing youth for the exact same thing that awaits them in public adult life. I admire his ability to have navigated through those exhausting years with a stoicism that enabled him to face the shenanigans of adolescence (such as the "fagging" system, in his case, with elder Bloods at the English boarding schools) all while retreating into a fertile and robust imagination where ideas could be cultivated and a keen intellect refined largely unscathed. The primary subject of the autobiography, of course, is the author's faith journey from early encounters with religion to a decided godlessness following his mother's death, then an eventual acquiescence to theism and in time a full embrace of Christianity. All throughout these early years Lewis seems to have maintained intellectual honesty which allowed him to experience epiphanies and recognize the shortfalls of a life governed by doubt. With nothing either sentimental or sophomoric about his account, the expression of depth and sincerity of thought ring true and are refreshing. This book was not only a surprise, it was also a joy!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Demetrius Rogers

    I love The Chronicles of Narnia. I even like The Screwtape Letters. But, I haven't really connected with Lewis' essays as much. I've never really been able to follow his train of thought. Maybe it's his brittishness, or perhaps his discursive mind, but I just can't seem to hang with his discourse. However, I love his imaginative works! And oh man, I love his Till We Have Faces. Anybody who can write such literature deserves further investigation. Well, after reading this autobiography, I'm even I love The Chronicles of Narnia. I even like The Screwtape Letters. But, I haven't really connected with Lewis' essays as much. I've never really been able to follow his train of thought. Maybe it's his brittishness, or perhaps his discursive mind, but I just can't seem to hang with his discourse. However, I love his imaginative works! And oh man, I love his Till We Have Faces. Anybody who can write such literature deserves further investigation. Well, after reading this autobiography, I'm even hungrier to know more. Cause he had this curious thing for what he called 'Northernness.' And he explained it this way: "a vision of huge, clear spaces hanging above the Atlantic in the endless twilight of Northern summer, remoteness, severity… almost like heartbreak, the memory of Joy itself..." And it was this Northenness that fueled his literary imagination. And you can see it, taste it, and smell it in his fictional works. And it got me thinking... passion is a interesting thing. The object of one's passion may or may not be something especially interesting... until it's covered over with the flames of somebody's passion, and then... then it becomes something beautiful. "Northenness," in and of itself, wouldn't of ever got my attention. But, cloaked in Lewis' imagination... I can't seem to get enough. I love it too, because Lewis loved it, and gave me a reason for loving it. I think that's one of the great lessons in the art of pedagogy -- find what you love (what you LOVE) and give that to others. "Northenness," thanks to the likes of Lewis and his forebears, is one of literature's great gifts. So much more in this account, but that's what I appreciated most.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ian Galey

    The autobiography of C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy outlines the occurrences of Joy in Lewis's life and how these accompanied him from his childhood to his conversion from atheism (or "anti-theism" as Lewis refers to it) to theism to Christianity. Lewis defines Joy as an intense longing or desire that is itself the most desirable desire. As Lewis discovers, it is not the longing itself that he actually desired but the object of the longing which is for something far greater than and not of this w The autobiography of C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy outlines the occurrences of Joy in Lewis's life and how these accompanied him from his childhood to his conversion from atheism (or "anti-theism" as Lewis refers to it) to theism to Christianity. Lewis defines Joy as an intense longing or desire that is itself the most desirable desire. As Lewis discovers, it is not the longing itself that he actually desired but the object of the longing which is for something far greater than and not of this world. Joy acts like a signpost in the midst of a desert directing the way to life. It is the living and absolute God to which the signs of Joy led. Surprised by Joy acts more as a long conversion narrative than an actual life narrative. Its content is comparable to G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy which too is an autobiographical account of Chesterton's philosophical conversion as well as a simultaneous apology for Christianity. Unlike Chesterton, however, Lewis does actually give clear accounts of his life though only in as far as they relate to his experiences of Joy. He also recounts his younger years before the most significant processes of his conversion began. Filled with some wisdom and some wit as well as a coherent philosophical progression, Surprised by Joy is a must-read for any Lewis fan who seeks to understand what produced one of the greatest Christian writers and apologists of the twentieth century.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    This is Lewis's spiritual autobiography of sorts. It traces his life from childhood experiences in church as the grandson of a clergyman to ignoring God as a youth to the trenches in which he fought in WWI to his Oxford days as a full-out Atheist to his close friendships with JRR Tolkien and a few others that sped along his ultimate conversion. It's written in a very rational and slightly detached way (as is everything Lewis writes). It's interesting to see how his childhood shaped him into the This is Lewis's spiritual autobiography of sorts. It traces his life from childhood experiences in church as the grandson of a clergyman to ignoring God as a youth to the trenches in which he fought in WWI to his Oxford days as a full-out Atheist to his close friendships with JRR Tolkien and a few others that sped along his ultimate conversion. It's written in a very rational and slightly detached way (as is everything Lewis writes). It's interesting to see how his childhood shaped him into the man he became, but it's even more fascinating to watch how God worked in his life through youth and adulthood. This was a guy who fought God at every turn, who was so hard-core Atheist that if he talked to you and discovered that you were a Christian, he felt it was his duty to talk you out of your faith and remove the wool from your eyes. But God kept working on him. I love the way he describes his ultimate moment of conversion: "In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore the Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape?" My only complaint is that because it is a spiritual autobiography, he talks about a lot of the interesting things that happened in his life only insofar as they relate to his spiritual growth. And it ends at his final conversion, so it's missing a lot of interesting things that happened afterward, like the story of how he met and unexpectedly fell in love with his wife.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    This was a very intellectual engaging book for me. I am amazed at the range and quantity of books that Lewis read (and in original languages at that). Had to even look up a few words to get at what he was trying to communicate to the reader. I don't think that one needs to be a Christian to enjoy this book. His search for truth and joy is something that all humans can understand.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

    Have some mixed feelings on this one. I love reading about his conversion and philosophical reasoning processes, but the chapter where he addressed the pederasty (student to student, not adult to student) and other issues going on at one of the schools he attended left me pretty disturbed. I was not satisfied by his exploration of greater vs. lesser moral evils. I'd have to reread that chapter and do some serious pondering/praying, but . . . yeah. Not totally at rest regarding that. I also felt Have some mixed feelings on this one. I love reading about his conversion and philosophical reasoning processes, but the chapter where he addressed the pederasty (student to student, not adult to student) and other issues going on at one of the schools he attended left me pretty disturbed. I was not satisfied by his exploration of greater vs. lesser moral evils. I'd have to reread that chapter and do some serious pondering/praying, but . . . yeah. Not totally at rest regarding that. I also felt that he went on some random bunny trails throughout the book. However, again, I loved other parts of it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Richard Ryan

    I'm pleasantly surprised by Surprised by Joy. I've attempted a couple of his other books which I couldn't get my head around, and indeed I have read other books I understood better but rated less than this one, but there really was something quite special about Surprised by Joy which kept me enthralled to the end. Maybe it was the journey, maybe because I knew a lot of the places he mentioned, maybe because I saw a bit of Lewis in me (only without the same intellect). Whatever it was, It's a boo I'm pleasantly surprised by Surprised by Joy. I've attempted a couple of his other books which I couldn't get my head around, and indeed I have read other books I understood better but rated less than this one, but there really was something quite special about Surprised by Joy which kept me enthralled to the end. Maybe it was the journey, maybe because I knew a lot of the places he mentioned, maybe because I saw a bit of Lewis in me (only without the same intellect). Whatever it was, It's a book I've put off reading for a long time, but glad to have had the opportunity to finally read it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Benedikt

    This is not only the story of a conversion, but also a story of a childhood and adolescence, a coming-of-age story, in which external events are juxtaposed with influential events in Lewis‘ interior life, his growing imagination, enriched by successive literary influences, and his emerging philosophical thought, his youthful movement from materialism to a sort of post-Hegelian panentheism then fashionable in Oxford and finally to his (at first rather reluctant) acceptance of classical theism and This is not only the story of a conversion, but also a story of a childhood and adolescence, a coming-of-age story, in which external events are juxtaposed with influential events in Lewis‘ interior life, his growing imagination, enriched by successive literary influences, and his emerging philosophical thought, his youthful movement from materialism to a sort of post-Hegelian panentheism then fashionable in Oxford and finally to his (at first rather reluctant) acceptance of classical theism and Christianity. It is also a fairly honest-sounding account of an early-twentieth century upper middle class British education. Lewis doesn’t leave much out, not even the nasty and lewd parts. So far, I’ve only read bits of Lewis here and there. I have read some of the Narnia books, and parts and pieces of his apologetic works, none of which I ever finished. I am well aware that for legions of Christian intellectuals, „seeking“ U.S. college students and future converts Lewis was and is an important step on the way. He wasn’t that for me. Not because I didn’t like what I read, but perhaps simply out of sheer snobbery. I always thought that, for me, basic apologetics was somehow „too basic“, „too easy.“ I wanted to ride the stallion right from the beginning, skipping the exercises with the pony. So I mostly eschewed what I thought were the catechetes of the masses, from Lewis to Peter Kreeft. But now I guess I will have to go back and read Lewis‘ classics, after all. Not that I’m now somehow „free“ of snobbery. Unfortunately, I shall probably always retain some of this particularly sinful disposition. But I simply just fell in love: with his prose, his English, his sheer honesty, the juxtaposition of learnedness and the sort of matter-of-factual humility that you only get from a man who knows who he is and who God is.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kaavya

    1) I am rather dismayed at the education system CS Lewis had to go through - it was hard to read about school after school of terrible pedagogy, abuse and neglect. 2) I greatly appreciate his intellectual honesty - I now trust much more his quick refutation of certain ideas in other books, because I see that he once held these ideas in the highest regard, loved them and lived them; and therefore, rejected their most compelling version. I can almost picture him creating these models of the world i 1) I am rather dismayed at the education system CS Lewis had to go through - it was hard to read about school after school of terrible pedagogy, abuse and neglect. 2) I greatly appreciate his intellectual honesty - I now trust much more his quick refutation of certain ideas in other books, because I see that he once held these ideas in the highest regard, loved them and lived them; and therefore, rejected their most compelling version. I can almost picture him creating these models of the world in his head with precision, like fashioning small intricate keys and relentlessly testing them out on the locks of the universe...trying to ignore the dawning realization that his carefully carved creation was beginning to resemble the truth he had once wholeheartedly rejected. 3) CS Lewis's description of Joy tugged at something within me; I have never heard such an apt description of this feeling that is in itself a deep wanting and a having at the same time. Quotes that stood out: "From that first moment in the schoolroom at Chartres my secret, imaginative life began to be so important and so distinct from my outer life that I almost have to tell two separate stories. The two lives do not seem to influence each other at all. Where there are hungry wastes, starving for Joy, in the one, the other may be full of cheerful bustle and success; or again, where the outer life is miserable, the other may be brimming over with ecstasy." "You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet." "But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and partying his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape?"

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Shelnutt

    In this autobiographical account of how he tumbled accidentally into the Christian faith, Lewis talks about the first time he went to his alma mater, Oxford. He got off the train and began walking. After a mile or two he turned around, bewildered. There, behind me, far away, never more beautiful since, was the fabled cluster of spires and towers. I had come out of the station on the wrong side and been all this time walking into what was even then the mean and sprawling suburb of Botley. I did n In this autobiographical account of how he tumbled accidentally into the Christian faith, Lewis talks about the first time he went to his alma mater, Oxford. He got off the train and began walking. After a mile or two he turned around, bewildered. There, behind me, far away, never more beautiful since, was the fabled cluster of spires and towers. I had come out of the station on the wrong side and been all this time walking into what was even then the mean and sprawling suburb of Botley. I did not see to what extent this little adventure was an allegory of my whole life. In Surprised by Joy Lewis traces his intellectual development in general parallel with his formative years and higher education. It helps to know how Lewis defines joy: an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. In non-scholarly terms, joy is an innate yearning for heaven. And joy is what Lewis pursues. This pursuit is whetted initially by Norse mythology (Narnia, anyone?), and later by certain poetry, and later still, by philosophy (Socrates, anyone?). Yet, the harder he tries to grasp and hold onto joy, the more elusive it becomes. Lewis eventually adapts atheism, yet still clings to his ethical boundaries. Chesterton comes along and bedazzles Lewis with his prose: I did not need to accept what Chesterton said in order to enjoy it...The sword glitters not because the swordsman set out to make it glitter but because he is fighting for his life and therefore moving it very quickly. Lewis was thoroughly perplexed by such intellect and wit bubbling forth from a Christian. But Chesterton's sword bit deeply. It is worth the read to journey with Lewis as one by one, in relatively quick succession, his carefully constructed arguments fell away. "The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation."

  25. 4 out of 5

    MC

    Do you know what you believe and why? Do you know what joy and happiness are? Have you ever thought of these questions? CS Lewis did, or at least tried to think of the answers when he went and responded to questions about such issues. The result is what you might call an "intellectual autobiography", as I would call it. Lewis tried to determine the moral and spiritual development of his life generally that lead him to his (as of writing the book in his fifties) then viewpoints. Of great import to Do you know what you believe and why? Do you know what joy and happiness are? Have you ever thought of these questions? CS Lewis did, or at least tried to think of the answers when he went and responded to questions about such issues. The result is what you might call an "intellectual autobiography", as I would call it. Lewis tried to determine the moral and spiritual development of his life generally that lead him to his (as of writing the book in his fifties) then viewpoints. Of great import to this is what he called "Joy" and his imaginative life. You see, Lewis, like all of us had some very deep ups and downs. His life could be great and fun, or it could truly suck, just as any of ours could. Add to this a somewhat corrupt system of education in the early 20th century, and you realize that childhood may not be pretty for the young lad. Indeed, it was not, and Lewis lost his faith. Well, he rather abandoned it. He had no use for Christianity, and was all for rationalism, thank you very much. All of this while he admits he was enamored of myth and had a vivid imaginative life. Then one day, he noticed a feeling called "Joy". He had had this sensation before, and it captured his heart, and on a long, winding and complicated journey, he would learn what this "Joy" really was about and where, or to Whom, it would lead... I really liked how the intellectual workings of Lewis' mind were put on display. As someone who went through some very hard times and uncertainties about the issues of faith, politics, morality, and other areas, it appealed to me to see how Lewis went about wrestling with his moral and religious issues. If you find such philosophical musings boring, or CS Lewis isn't your favorites person, you won't like this. If you do enjoy philosophy and like Lewis, as I do on both counts, this is the book for you.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michael Perkins

    I first read this book around age 20. I proceeded to read most of the Lewis "canon" after that. The problem with much of his canon is that Lewis changed his mind about many things later in life, especially his approach to apologetics. And then a final wave of change from a real life Joy, came late in life. There are many references, and complaints, in the reviews here of Lewis constantly citing literary references in his memoir. I think it's a reasonable assumption that he had his friends and col I first read this book around age 20. I proceeded to read most of the Lewis "canon" after that. The problem with much of his canon is that Lewis changed his mind about many things later in life, especially his approach to apologetics. And then a final wave of change from a real life Joy, came late in life. There are many references, and complaints, in the reviews here of Lewis constantly citing literary references in his memoir. I think it's a reasonable assumption that he had his friends and colleagues in mind that would be familiar with all of this. In this network of friends was Tolkien, a devout Catholic, and Hugo Dyson, another Christian of some kind. These two convinced Lewis to become a believer. But later in life, Lewis had to admit that he had not been able to convert anyone in his inner circle via his style of apologetics. He gave up on that and opted to write fantasy instead with the Narnia books. Having read most of Lewis when I was young and now looking at the Millennial generation, it seems pretty clear to me that his books, including Surprised By Joy, are not appealing to them. It is likely it is the Narnia books that will last. Meanwhile, I found this article on Lewis very fair and balanced and insightful and definitely worth a read. It won't appeal to those who see him as some kind of plaster saint (something I think would have horrified Lewis), but it happens to be true, which is always preferred. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Magdelanye

    Mostly, I was charmed by this painstaking account of a spiritual pilgrimage, by CSL's awkward earnestness, if not his logic. It appears that he was led, kicking and trying to wriggle out of Divinity's fierce embrace, pinned by his own scrupulous honesty and reasoning. That he still sympathized with those who still cling to their atheist beliefs was surprising, but when he admitted that he still cringed at their bad arguements,he endeared himself to me forever as a sensitive, scrupulous man of in Mostly, I was charmed by this painstaking account of a spiritual pilgrimage, by CSL's awkward earnestness, if not his logic. It appears that he was led, kicking and trying to wriggle out of Divinity's fierce embrace, pinned by his own scrupulous honesty and reasoning. That he still sympathized with those who still cling to their atheist beliefs was surprising, but when he admitted that he still cringed at their bad arguements,he endeared himself to me forever as a sensitive, scrupulous man of integrity.

  28. 4 out of 5

    SN

    One can learn so much from C. S. Lewis, feast on the beautiful language and sophisticated literary and historical references, not quite get everything, but still revel in the mysteriousness of it all. I loved this book for more than one reason. For me, it wasn't only about him becoming Christian; this book is an honest account of Lewis' self-discovery and the series of experiences--pleasant and otherwise--that molded his personality and made him the legend that he was, has been, and continues to One can learn so much from C. S. Lewis, feast on the beautiful language and sophisticated literary and historical references, not quite get everything, but still revel in the mysteriousness of it all. I loved this book for more than one reason. For me, it wasn't only about him becoming Christian; this book is an honest account of Lewis' self-discovery and the series of experiences--pleasant and otherwise--that molded his personality and made him the legend that he was, has been, and continues to be.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    There is so much that I love (absolutely love!) about this book. First of all, it's a book by CS Lewis. Secondly, it's about his life. Thirdly, it's about his life with learning and books. Fourthly, it's a story of a journey of thought from atheism to Christianity. Many of the quotes that people love so much come from this book. This is definitely one to reread many times, and I can't wait to look into some of the books he recommends. There is something about Lewis that makes me think I could ha There is so much that I love (absolutely love!) about this book. First of all, it's a book by CS Lewis. Secondly, it's about his life. Thirdly, it's about his life with learning and books. Fourthly, it's a story of a journey of thought from atheism to Christianity. Many of the quotes that people love so much come from this book. This is definitely one to reread many times, and I can't wait to look into some of the books he recommends. There is something about Lewis that makes me think I could have been friends with him too… At least I hope. I consider myself one of his pupils.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kelli

    I really love this. CS Lewis was a phenomenal writer. Reading how his life effected what he thought and wrote about is truly interesting. He proves to us, in this book, what an incredible master of words he was. He truly did belong in academia. Yet, I love how CS Lewis never demanded that of other people. In each book I read of his, I can tell that he always wrote to meet people where they were.

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