I re-read Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet in preparation for summer school, and so, of course, after I returned home, I had to re-read Perelandra. While I would not want to choose one favourite Lewis book, Perelandra is certainly one of my very favourites….
Perelandra is a story of the battle between good and evil, but not here on earth—no, Perelandra is set on the planet Venus. The “Eve” of this beautiful new world is under attack and it is up to Cambridge academic Elwin Ransom to wage war against her tempter, knowing that the fate of a world is on his shoulders.
Perelandra offers a breath-taking vision of what a world without sin looks like, and with that as a backdrop, the plans of the evil one are horribly evil. When Ransom first meets the Green Lady, he tells her, “I come in peace”. “What is ‘peace’?” she replies. In a world where the opposite of peace does not exist, “peace” is a word that has no meaning for her. On this re-read, the part I found most moving was where Ransom realises, when he sees Perelandrian humanity in all its glory, just how far humanity on earth has fallen from where it was meant to be:
“’Do not move away, do not raise me up,’ he said. ‘I have never before seen a man or a woman. I have lived all my life among shadows and broken images. Oh, my Father and my Mother, my Lord and my Lady, do not move, do not answer me yet. My own father and mother I have never seen. Take me for your son. We have been alone in my world for a great time.’”
Perelandra has this delightful combination of both being a gripping story and being laden with wonderful insights into life. The nature of joy and the nature of obedience are shown powerfully. Evil comes across as it really is: vile. I am a believer in underlining (with a pencil, please!), but I do not normally underline novels. In fact, I think Perelandra is the only novel I have underlined. Let me share the following quotes with you and you should see why.
“My fear was now of another kind. I felt sure that the creature was what we call ‘good’, but I wasn’t sure whether I liked ‘goodness’ so much as I had supposed. This is a very terrible experience. As long as what you are afraid of it something evil, you may still hope that the good may come to your rescue. But suppose you struggle through to the good and find that is also dreadful? How if food itself turns out to be the very thing you can’t eat, and home the very place you can’t live, and your very comforter the person who makes you uncomfortable? Then, indeed, there is no rescue possible: the last card has been played. For a second or two I was nearly in that condition.”
“As there is one Face above all worlds merely to see which is irrevocable joy, so that the bottom of all worlds that face is waiting whose sight alone is the misery from which none who beholds it can recover. And though there seemed to be, and indeed were, a thousand roads by which a man could walk through the world, there was not a single one which did not lead sooner or later either to the Beatific or the Miserific Vision.”
“I think He made one law of that kind in order that there might be obedience. In all these other matters what you call obeying Him is but doing what seems good in your own eyes also. Is love content with that? You do them, indeed, because they are His will, but not only because they are His will. Where can you taste the joy of obeying unless He bids you do something for which His bidding is the only reason?”
Powerful, don’t you think?
My one caveat is that Perelandra contains some profanity. All in all, however, is is one of the most incredible novels I’ve read.
In fact, just working on this post makes me a little nostalgic for it!