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Going “further up and further in” to Narnia

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) was one of the most influential Christian authors of the 20th century, and his popularity has only grown in the decades since his death. A professor of literature at both Cambridge and Oxford, he was a prolific author of works of literary criticism, apologetics, philosophy, theology, science fiction, and fantasy, in addition to lecturing and broadcasting.

Without question, his most successful and widely-known work is the seven-book series The Chronicles of Narnia. Infused with Christian themes and a profoundly Christian worldview, this series has been the subject of several studies and guides since it first appeared on bookshelves in 1950 (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was the first of the series to be published).

The prolific Joseph Pearce, who has written several books on Lewis and many other great authors—including G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, J.R.R. Tolkien, and William Shakespeare—has now penned a guide to world of Narnia. In addition to his many books, Pearce is the editor of the St. Austin Review, series editor of the Ignatius Critical Editions, Senior Editor at the Augustine Institute, and the Tolkien & Lewis Chair in Literary Studies at Holy Apostles College & Seminary. In 2003, he wrote a book about C.S. Lewis’ relationship with Catholicism titled C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church (Ignatius, 2003), and he has published several articles about this Christian man of letters. His new book, Further Up and Further In: Understanding Narnia (TAN Books, 2018) goes into great detail exploring each book of the series, breaking them apart, going deep into Lewis’ “wardrobe” to understand the realm of Narnia. The book is, says Peter Kreeft, “the best (most readable, most mature, most profoundly wise, and most wonder-full, i.e. most Lewisian) of the plethora of books written about the Chronicles of Narnia.”

Pearce recently spoke with CWR about his new book.

CWR: How did Further Up and Further In: Understanding Narnia came about? Did you bring the idea to the publisher, or did the publisher approach you?

Joseph Pearce: I mentioned to the folks at TAN Books my longstanding desire to write a book on the deeper elements of The Chronicles of Narnia, a sort of “Narnia for Grown-Ups”. They thought it was a great idea and offered me a contract.

CWR: You have written about Lewis in the past, so what prompted this book now?

Pearce: As stated above, I’ve wanted to write a book on this theme for a very long time. The problem was that I had so many different projects that it took a long time for this one to move to the front of the queue.

CWR: Why is it important to understand Narnia? Particularly as Catholics, what can we gain from a deeper understanding of Lewis’ world?

Pearce: Lewis, like his friend Tolkien, possessed the gift of bringing great truths to light through the telling of stories, much as Christ does in His parables and indeed in the story of His life. In reading The Chronicles of Narnia we find ourselves in the presence of great and necessary truths. For instance, the final pages of The Last Battle shine forth the most sublime eschatological theology, akin to the final cantiof Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Read more at Catholic World Report. 

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