Theologian, intellectual historian, and apologist
Alister McGrath

C. S. Lewis - A Life. Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet.

This work was published in March 2013 in North America (Tyndale House), and April 2013 in the United Kingdom (Hodder & Stoughton). This 140,000 word (450 pages) book is based on detailed archival work in Oxford, Cambridge, and other locations, and breaks new ground at many points. New documents have been uncovered, and new interpretations of aspects of Lewis’s life are offered - above all, the chronology of his conversion to Christianity. The biography is supplemented by a collection of eight major academic essays on Lewis, published in May 2013.

The recent Narnia movies have created a new interest in C. S. Lewis. This new biography, produced to mark the 50th anniversary of his death in 1963, builds on this interest. It sets out to introduce Lewis to a new generation – those who know him through his films and novels, and see his Narnia novels as his most significant production. While the biography covers much the same ground as more traditional biographies, the focus is on how Lewis came to write the Narnia novels, and why they have proved so engaging. As the Narnia novels were written over a period of about 7 years (1950-6), these do not fit easily into a traditional biography. This biography is different, as the book is organized around the worlds that Lewis inhabited – primarily Oxford, Cambridge, and Narnia. The biography includes a major section on the “Invention of Narnia”, tracing its development, its writing, and exploring its themes and their appeal to the imagination. In many ways, this is the high point of the biography. No existing Lewis biography does justice to this theme; this is largely due to their use of a rigid chronological framework, which cannot accommodate Narnia satisfactorily, partly because a major event – Lewis’s move to Cambridge – breaks the continuity of the narrative. By using Lewis’s worlds – real and imaginary – as the primary organizing motif, and chronology as the secondary motif, this problem is resolved.