Friday, June 28, 2019

C. S. Lewis and the Munich Crisis

So, I've been reading through Stephanie Derrick's new book, THE FAME OF C. S. LEWIS: A CONTROVERSIALIST'S RECEPTION IN BRITAIN AND AMERICA (2018), which draws a strong distinction between Lewis's reputation in the US, where he's mainly thought of as a children's author and an Xian author, vs the UK, where he's primarily considered an academic and 'controversialist' (in the mode of Chesterton, Belloc, and Orwell).

There's much food for thought in what I've read so far (about a quarter of the whole), but one passage in particular stands out. At the time of the Munich crisis in 1938, a fellow Magdalen don, Bruce McFarlane, noted the unusual unanimous feeling among all the Magdalen dons in opposing the pact:

The unanimity of dons is quite unprecedented. Even the President is sound. There's only one Chamberlain supporter in Magdalen—Lewis who is so otherworldly that he thinks the Munich settlement a victory for self-determination. I suggested the same treatment for Ulster & he was quite shocked.
[Derrick p. 55; emphasis mine]

I'm not really sure what to make of this -- whether Lewis was one among the many who thought the prime minister had just achieved Peace in Our Time, or this shd be marked down as an example of just how clueless and ill-informed Lewis was on current events,* or that he here, as so often, was just being a contrarian.


*His brother records having once had a conversation with CSL about the Balkans in which CSL's odd remarks puzzled Warnie mightily, until he realized that CSL thought Tito was the King of Greece.

On the other hand, Lewis came out strongly about Franco's claim that God was on his side in a nasty civil war, so he was capable of reading a complex political situation clearly

No comments: