On Monday, Nov 10th, we celebrate the 70th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ novella, The Great Divorce. I rank this among the best of Lewis’ fiction and one of his richest thought experiments. Though not one of his bestsellers, I think The Great Divorce will become his Cinderella book–the one we keep returning to again and again to find new treasures. And as we return again, I suspect we will be continually surprised.
On Nov 10th, 1944, “The Grand Divorce, or Who Goes Home?” began in the weekly church paper, The Guardian. This obscure little newspaper actually launched Lewis’ career as a public intellectual in 1941 when it began printing The Screwtape Letters. Week by week, demand for Lewis’ (anti-)spiritual advice grew as copies of The Guardian became scarce. Before long Lewis had a book contract, a BBC schedule, and an audience he could never have imagined.
The series of heavenly encounters we call The Great Divorce ran from Nov 10th, 1944 through Apr 13th, 1945. The close of the final chapter on Apr 13th was published during a busy week in the WWII context. U.S.-Japan battles heighten into desperation, the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Belsen are liberated, Vienna falls to the Soviets, the Axis alliance shatters, and President Roosevelt dies, leaving Harry Truman to the post of Chief of State, global warrior, and, as we will see, international economic leader. It is also the week that Dietrich Bonhoeffer is assassinated in prison, a desperate last attempt for the Nazis to assert control in the dust of their architecture of war. It was a time that people were asking questions about death, heaven and hell, right and wrong, and the eternal value of a human life.
To honour The Great Divorce, I will run a series of reflections on and responses to this little work of theological fiction. Though I will not post every Monday, the series will echo the 1944-45 original run. So between Nov 10th this year and next Apr 13th I will be posting on The Great Divorce.
So I am opening this slot up to my blogging and digital community.There are few restrictions, and many ways to capture or consider this book. I only require that it is thoughtful and well written. Some ideas include:
- A review of the book from a particular angle;
- A look at one of the characters;
- A response to one of the chapters;
- A challenge to one of the ideas;
- A criticism of one of Lewis’ authorial choices;
- Literary readings of the book, including structuralist, environmental, post-colonial, theological, feminist, pacifist, reader-response, or denominational perspectives;
- Stories of first encounters with the book (which might be during this series);
- Your journey of re-reading The Great Divorce now that you are older;
- Original artwork from the narrative;
- Your vision of what a 21st century Great Divorce book cover should be;
- Sermons, poems, short stories, or essays inspired by The Great Divorce;
- Or, for the very brave, the character that Lewis forgot–a daring and creative fictional chapter that can be hypothetically slipped between the pages of The Great Divorce.
If you would like to contribute to this series, send me an email at junkola [at] gmail [dot] com. I will accept reworkings of a blog you’ve published, or an article you’ve written that you have digital rights to. I also welcome your own reblogging or mirroring of your work on your own blogs and digital networks.
And, dear readers, please share this call for guest blogs. Let’s shape the blogosphere so that it looks as little like the grey town as possible.