Great Divorce

( 134 )

Overview

C. S. Lewis's dazzling allegory about Heaven and Hell—and the chasm fixed between them—is one of his most brilliantly imaginative tales, where we discover that the gates of Hell are locked from the inside.

In a dream, the narrator boards a bus on a drizzly afternoon in Hell and embarks on an incredible voyage to Heaven. Anyone in Hell is invited on board, and anyone may remain in Heaven if he or she so chooses. But do we really want to live in Heaven? This powerful, exquisitely ...

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Overview

C. S. Lewis's dazzling allegory about Heaven and Hell—and the chasm fixed between them—is one of his most brilliantly imaginative tales, where we discover that the gates of Hell are locked from the inside.

In a dream, the narrator boards a bus on a drizzly afternoon in Hell and embarks on an incredible voyage to Heaven. Anyone in Hell is invited on board, and anyone may remain in Heaven if he or she so chooses. But do we really want to live in Heaven? This powerful, exquisitely written fantasy is one of C. S. Lewis's most enduring works of fiction and a profound meditation on good and evil and on what God really offers us.

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Editorial Reviews

Guardian
“Much deserves to be quoted... attractive imagery, amusing satire, exciting speculations... Lewis rouses curiosity about life after death only to sharpen awareness of this world.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060652951
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/28/2001
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 27,770
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.36 (d)

Meet the Author

C. S. Lewis

Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954, when he was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. He wrote more than thirty books, allowing him to reach a vast audience, and his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year. His most distinguished and popular accomplishments include Mere Christianity, Out of the Silent Planet, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and the universally acknowledged classics The Chronicles of Narnia. To date, the Narnia books have sold over one hundred million copies and have been transformed into three major motion pictures.

Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) fue uno de los intelectuales más importantes del siglo veinte y podría decirse que fue el escritor cristiano más influyente de su tiempo. Fue profesor particular de literatura inglesa y miembro de la junta de gobierno en la Universidad Oxford hasta 1954, cuando fue nombrado profesor de literatura medieval y renacentista en la Universidad Cambridge, cargo que desempeñó hasta que se jubiló. Sus contribuciones a la crítica literaria, literatura infantil, literatura fantástica y teología popular le trajeron fama y aclamación a nivel internacional. C. S. Lewis escribió más de treinta libros, lo cual le permitió alcanzar una enorme audiencia, y sus obras aún atraen a miles de nuevos lectores cada año. Sus más distinguidas y populares obras incluyen Las Crónicas de Narnia, Los Cuatro Amores, Cartas del Diablo a Su Sobrino y Mero Cristianismo.

Biography

C. S. Lewis was famous both as a fiction writer and as a Christian thinker, and his biographers and critics sometimes divide his personality in two: the storyteller and the moral educator, the "dreamer" and the "mentor." Yet a large part of Lewis's appeal, for both his audiences, lay in his ability to fuse imagination with instruction. "Let the pictures tell you their own moral," he once advised writers of children's stories. "But if they don't show you any moral, don't put one in. ... The only moral that is of any value is that which arises inevitably from the whole cast of the author's mind."

Storytelling came naturally to Lewis, who spent the rainy days of his childhood in Ireland writing about an imaginary world he called Boxen. His first published novel, Out of the Silent Planet, tells the story of a journey to Mars; its hero was loosely modeled on his friend and fellow Cambridge scholar J.R.R. Tolkien. Lewis enjoyed some popularity for his Space Trilogy (which continues in Perelandra and That Hideous Strength), but nothing compared to that which greeted his next imaginative journey, to an invented world of fauns, dwarfs, and talking animals -- a world now familiar to millions of readers as Narnia.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first book of the seven-volume Chronicles of Narnia, began as "a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood," according to Lewis. Years after that image first formed in his mind, others bubbled up to join it, producing what Kate Jackson, writing in Salon, called "a fascinating attempt to compress an almost druidic reverence for wild nature, Arthurian romance, Germanic folklore, the courtly poetry of Renaissance England and the fantastic beasts of Greek and Norse mythology into an entirely reimagined version of what's tritely called 'the greatest story ever told.'"

The Chronicles of Narnia was for decades the world's bestselling fantasy series for children. Although it was eventually superseded by Harry Potter, the series still holds a firm place in children's literature and the culture at large. (Narnia even crops up as a motif in Jonathan Franzen's 2001 novel The Corrections). Its last volume appeared in 1955; in that same year, Lewis published a personal account of his religious conversion in Surprised by Joy. The autobiography joined his other nonfiction books, including Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and The Great Divorce, as an exploration of faith, joy and the meaning of human existence.

Lewis's final work of fiction, Till We Have Faces, came out in 1956. Its chilly critical reception and poor early sales disappointed Lewis, but the book's reputation has slowly grown; Lionel Adey called it the "wisest and best" of Lewis's stories for adults. Lewis continued to write about Christianity, as well as literature and literary criticism, for several more years. After his death in 1963, The New Yorker opined, "If wit and wisdom, style and scholarship are requisites to passage through the pearly gates, Mr. Lewis will be among the angels."

Good To Know

The imposing wardrobe Lewis and his brother played in as children is now in Wheaton, Illinois, at the Wade Center of Wheaton College, which also houses the world's largest collection of Lewis-related documents, according to The Christian Science Monitor.

The 1994 movie, Shadowlands, based on the play of the same name, cast Anthony Hopkins as Lewis. It tells the story of his friendship with, and then marriage to, an American divorcee named Joy Davidman (played by Debra Winger), who died of cancer four years after their marriage. Lewis's own book about coping with that loss, A Grief Observed, was initially published under the pseudonym N. W. Clerk.

Several poems, stories, and a novel fragment published after Lewis's death have come under scrutiny as possible forgeries. On one side of the controversy is Walter Hooper, a trustee of Lewis's estate and editor of most of his posthumous works; on the other is Kathryn Lindskoog, a Lewis scholar who began publicizing her suspicions in 1988. Scandal or kooky conspiracy theory? The verdict's still out among readers.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Clive Staples Lewis (real name); Clive Hamilton, N.W. Clerk, Nat Whilk; called "Jack" by his friends
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 29, 1898
    2. Place of Birth:
      Belfast, Nothern Ireland
    1. Date of Death:
      November 22, 1963
    2. Place of Death:
      Headington, England

Read an Excerpt

The Great Divorce

Chapter One

I seemed to be standing in a busy queue by the side of a long, mean street. Evening was just closing in and it was raining. I had been wandering for hours in similar mean streets, always in the rain and always in evening twilight. Time seemed to have paused on that dismal moment when only a few shops have lit up and it is not yet dark enough for their windows to look cheering. And just as the evening never advanced to night, so my walking had never brought me to the better parts of the town. However far I went I found only dingy lodging houses, small tobacconists, hoardings from which posters hung in rags, windowless warehouses, goods stations without trains, and bookshops of the sort that sell The Works of Aristotle. I never met anyone. But for the little crowd at the bus stop, the whole town seemed to be empty. I think that was why I attached myself to the queue.

I had a stroke of luck right away, for just as I took my stand a little waspish woman who would have been ahead of me snapped out at a man who seemed to be with her, 'Very well, then. I won't go at all. So there,' and left the queue. 'Pray don't imagine,' said the man, in a very dignified voice, 'that I care about going in the least. I have only been trying to please you, for peace sake. My own feelings are of course a matter of no importance, I quite understand that' — and suiting the action to the word he also walked away. 'Come,' thought I, 'that's two places gained.' I was now next to a very short man. with a scowl who glanced at me with an expression of extreme disfavour and observed, rather unnecessarily loudly, to the man beyondhim, 'This sort of thing really makes one think twice about going at all.' 'What sort of thing?' growled the other, a big beefy person. 'Well,' said the Short Man, 'this is hardly the sort of society I'm used to as a matter of fact.' 'Huh!' said the Big Man: and then added with a glance at me, 'Don't you stand any sauce from him, Mister. You're not afraid of him, are you?' Then, seeing I made no move, he rounded suddenly on the Short Man and said, 'Not good enough for you, aren't we? Like Your lip.' Next moment he had fetched the Short Man one on the side of the face that sent him sprawling into the gutter. 'Let him lay, let him lay,' said the Big Man to no one in particular. 'I'm a plain man that's what I am and I got to have my rights same as anyone else, see?' As the Short Man showed no disposition to rejoin the queue and soon began limping away, I closed up, rather cautiously, behind the Big Man and congratulated myself on having gained yet another step. A moment later two young people in front of him also left us arm in arm. They were both so trousered, slender, giggly and falsetto that I could be sure of the sex of neither, but it was clear that each for the moment preferred the other to the chance of a place in the bus. 'We shall never all get in,' said a female voice with a whine in it from some four places ahead of me. 'Change places with you for five bob, lady,' said someone else. I heard the clink of money and then a scream in the female voice, mixed with roars of laughter from the rest of the crowd. The cheated woman leaped out of her place to fly at the man who had bilked her, but the others immediately closed up and flung her out... So what with one thing and another the queue had reduced itself to manageable proportions long before the bus appeared.

It was a wonderful vehicle, blazing with golden light, heraldically coloured. The Driver himself seemed full of light and he used only one hand to drive with. The other he waved before his face as if to fan away the greasy steam of the rain. A growl went up from the queue as he came in sight. 'Looks as if he had a good time of it, eh?... Bloody pleased with himself, I bet... My dear, why can't he behave naturally? — Thinks himself too good to look at us... Who does he imagine he is?... All that gilding and purple, I call it a wicked waste. Why don't they spend some of the money on their house property down here? — God! I'd like to give him one in the ear-'ole.' I could see nothing in the countenance of the Driver to justify all this, unless it were that he had a look of authority and seemed intent on carrying out his job.

My fellow passengers fought like hens to get on board the bus though there was plenty of room for us all. I was the last to get in. The bus was only half full and I selected a seat at the back, well away from the others. But a touslehaired youth at once came and sat down beside me. As he did so we moved off.

'I thought you wouldn't mind my tacking on to you,' he said, 'for I've noticed that you feel just as I do about the present company. Why on earth they insist on coming I can't imagine. They won't like it at all when we get there, and they'd really be much more comfortable at home. It's different for you and me.'

'Do they like this place?' I asked.

'As much as they'd like anything,' he answered. . .

The Great Divorce. Copyright (c) by C. Lewis . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 134 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(82)

4 Star

(33)

3 Star

(11)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 135 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2006

    Awesome

    CS Lewis is an extremely talented individual and I think The Great Divorce is a perfect example of his gift and his craft. He has taken the subject of Heaven and Hell, a subject that it usually 'black and white,' and had added several different shades of gray. It's as though he wants the subject matter to be attainable to his readers. He has created characters that are real and believeable - not only because of his descriptive nature but because you may know any one of those characters. This book really makes you think and it leaves you with a new perspective. I strongly recommend this book. It's a great, quick read.

    13 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2001

    A Lesson in Perspective

    Ever observant and insightful, Lewis has taken mankind's major shortcomings and embodied them in a group of ghosts from Hell. Each of the doomed spirits is given the opportunity to shake off the chains of purgatory and respond to the invitation given by the heavenly host to 'come and feed'; in turn, each ghost finds one excuse or another why they cannot possibly do so. Through the eyes of the narrator, we witness those who hold themselves back because of fear, pride, selfishness, cynicism, ignorance, and blindness. Ultimately, Lewis' story hails individual choice as the chief determinant of where we will belong in the eternities: 'no soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.' Whether a warning to or a reflection on society, the book stimulates thought and forces the reader to look inward at their own weaknesses. Far from being pessimistic, however, the book leaves us with the notion that change, while perhaps difficult and even painful, is indeed possible. Lewis gives us a small glimpse of how the celestials might view and value important qualities such as joy, freedom, forgiveness, charity, and love. In the end, we are reminded that to live in a celestial environment, one must forego the telestial perspective.

    11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 2, 2011

    Amazing!

    I first read this book my freshman year of high school. I was disappointed. Then, the opportunity to read it again arose when I was a senior and I fell in love with it. It's a simple book that deals with the not-so-simple topics of heaven and hell. This book, written by an amazing critic and author, is one to read and understand and think about for years to come. Please take my advice and read this book! You won't regret it.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2006

    All will be well

    William Blake wrote of the marriage of heaven and hell, in this splendid fantasy novel Lewis becomes judicator of the divorce. The narrator joins a bus queue in a perpetual sunset town and takes a trip to heaven where any can stay and go to the mountains if they let go of their selfishness. Lewis hits the mark at describing our fallen psychology. As Dante had Virgil as guide so our narrator has Scottish author George MacDonald along on the tour. MacDonald trying to explain the choice of the lost says: 'Milton was right,'... 'The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words, 'Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.' ..... There is always something they prefer to joy --- that is, to reality.' The people from hell are shades as they all quickly discover on leaving the bus. The grass, trees, and even the water are solid and the shades from hell leave no impression. Conversely the new environment does effect them, one example being that rain drops would blast holes in them like a machine gun. The heavenly region they visit is much larger than hell although they don't realize it. 'All Hell is smaller than one pebble of your earthly world: but it is smaller than one atom of this world, the Real World.' The reason hell is so small is that it is so full of mostly nothing. The insistence on self will leads eventually to the person becoming more and more unreal. The narrator, who is really Lewis of course, asks MacDonald about his being a Universalist, that he talked in his books as if all men would be saved. Paraphrased MacDonald says something like: Doctrines such as universalism or even predestination may be true in eternity from God's perspective and paradoxically not true in time where freedom operates and the choice of ways is before you. In eternity it may be as our Lord told Lady Julian of Norwich 'that all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.'

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 15, 2013

    Not about Marriage Divorce

    This is a brilliant book. It touches upon the courage needed to let go of the things that hold us/pin us to the earth. It is a metaphor about how our journey here continues eternally. I could not put it down once I started reading it--perhaps the best of Lewis is right here in this book. If you want to be inspired, nudged towards the courage to let go and move ahead--this is for you!

    Stephen

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2003

    Read despite age, religion, or background.

    Over and over again I'd heard this title. . . the Great Divorce. It is brief for the short of attention span but something that should really be read over and over again until we tear away at the coverings of story and plot and find the message and the intention. I'm a teenager but that does not prevent me from ever turning away. You don't need to be Christian, only believe in change, in choices, in some sort of divine something. IT's so well written in orderto express his message, and certainly leaves any reader wtih a responsibility no other can bear. You can feel the horror of WWII at least in part driving the words. REad it, read it again and grow with it. IT's amazing what one can learn on a bus trip through heaven. The vision we see through the windows is far more potent than fire and brimstone, and far more pressing.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2013

    Great book!

    This is actually my first CS Lewis book. I enjoyed it very much and it did make me think of my motivations in this life. The struggle between my kingdom and God's kingdom is a moment by moment battle. Can't wait to read more.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 17, 2013

    C.S Lewis is such an insightful and awesome author! I love how v

    C.S Lewis is such an insightful and awesome author! I love how visual this book is! A must read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 4, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    C. S. Lewis is a master. I have yet to read one of his works and

    C. S. Lewis is a master. I have yet to read one of his works and not find myself thinking about for the next several weeks.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2011

    Wonderful book

    This was an absulutely marvelous book. the characters and imagry keep you on the edge of your seat. i hardly put it down until i was done.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2014

    Liam

    Here?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2014

    Insightful and controversial

    The question of how a loving God can condem people to hell has been the cause of much argument. Some arguments are easier to swallow than others. Others are just plain offensive. I personally get tired of the old God knows best line. I also get tired of the boring and complicated theological explanations many pastors are likly to give. C.S. Lewis places an excelante visual spin on this question. I think his explanation is swallowable though still slightly offensive. I really enjoyed this book's story and the answer to this hard question. This is more of a good story than some sermon. I definately recomend this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2013

    AWSOME BOOK!!!!!!!

    C. S. LEWIS WAS A GENIOUS!!!! this book is one of my favorite of his and i HIGHLY RECOMMEND it!!!!!! Very insperational and makes u think alot! Definately not a night time read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2012

    Good

    Love this book:)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2012

    The ocean

    In front of Cair Paravel is the ocean. To either side is a long streach of beach. Feel the waves lap over your toes or walk along the sand & listen to the sound of waves breaking on the shore. Dont go too far or youll end up back in England. ~ Lucy

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  • Posted August 13, 2012

    I am blown away! What a profound story with so much depth and m

    I am blown away! What a profound story with so much depth and meaning!

    It is so sad, eye opening, and yet so good it made me smile at the end. :)

    (A story about heaven and hell), this book has given me a different perspective on eternity, immortality, lost souls, and seeking God and enjoying Him.

    I thought I wouldn't highlight much of the book being a narrative, but there were so many deep truths you can pull from this book.

    This book reminds me of one of C.S. Lewis' quotes: "...we are far too easily pleased."

    Read this book. It's beautiful.

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  • Posted May 13, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    CS Lewis - 'nuff said!

    CS Lewis - 'nuff said!

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  • Posted May 4, 2012

    Mind Blowing - completely changed my perspective

    C. S. Lewis tells the world about his own perspective on the Heaven versus Hell conflict in the novel. From giant gray towns to see through people to "the real world", Lewis takes you on a journey that leaves no one's thoughts unchanged. A challenging book to read, but still an incredible story. Perfect for anyone looking for a book with substance!

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  • Posted February 15, 2012

    Will Be One of the Great Classics! 50 yr.s Proof in the Making!

    This book has changed my family paradigm concerning Jesus's descriptions of hell. What I mean is, we no longer argue about who is going and why, but whether or not it is even fair.

    According to CS Lewis, hell might be a place where sin is free to rule.

    The central figure (1st person) is surprise! Lewis as himself. He meets many characters who are up to hellish shenanigans and hellish arguments (defense of their sins, despite their sins' poisonous effects).

    This to me was Dante's Inferno on steroids. Affectionately written, without judging too much who goes where, this is defenitely a thorough explanation of hell through the eyes of one of 20th Century's greatest publicists (maker of public awareness) and apologists (defender of Christian faith).

    The idea of infinite sinning deserving infinite hell seems fair. Lewis brings a definite creative flair to his arguments, having had expertise in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and discussions of faith with English professors whose jobs are to understand the meaning of words.

    One of the main conversations exists between Lewis and his own "Teacher" George MacDonald (THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN, PHANTASTES, BACK OF THE NORTH WIND), who inspired Lewis even before Lewis becamme a Christian.

    The arguments presented by MacDonald's character lead to some kind of summarization that "Heaven is a place where we pray 'Thy Will Be Done' and Hell, where God says OUR wills be done'!

    Very poignant and descriptive.

    There are many twists and surprises at the beginning and the end. Heaven is no place for sissies! (in fact, the people visiting from hell find it so powerful and ignore the causes of their own weaknesses)

    I must spoil this allegory with mention of its characters:

    One in particular: a dwarf intricately linked by a chain to a giant. We discover it is one and the same, but that the giant is a weakling cry-baby that grows as it sins, and the dwarf shrinks. This represents the dual nature of sin and obedience, that the more we strengthen one the other is weakened.

    Is raises a wonderful question, almost ignorant of answer, whether or not people cease to exist in either direction: to sin until becoming completely pathetic, or to believe in Christ into complete perfection. Lewis wisely says the remedy to the question is not its answer, but repentance and / or obedience to the call to faith.

    Apparently God is not vengeful so much as the giver of such a powerful freedom that this our freedom can have disastrous consequence when unleft by the check of God's love.

    And finally, be subtly aware that Lewis--defender of the faith, appeal to the masses--has a hankering for the theology of purgatory, after referencing a passage of scripture.

    We can all hope as Lewis does, after purchasing this book, that God is as loving as Lewis's words about Him, and as exciting and sensible as the kind judge and the anecdote-carrying medic described ...

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