Monday, July 21, 2014

The Place of the Lion

The Place of the Lion by Charles Williams, 236 pages a small town in England lives Damaris, a graduate student who dissects philosophers instead of understanding them.  She has a suitor, Anthony, who shares her antiquarian interests but whom she views as an instrument rather than a love interest.  Her father, who has few interests beyond catching butterflies, she sees as a bore.  Their comfortable world shatters when the numinous begins to intrude upon the mundane, at first subtly and then more and more forcefully.  Dangerous beasts, the avatars of abstract concepts like strength (a lion), subtlety (a snake), and beauty (a butterfly), are appearing - at least to those with eyes to see - and affecting the people of the town, transforming them, accentuating those aspects of their personalities that share an affinity with the concepts.
Charles Williams is the least well-known of the Inkling trinity.  This novel shows why.  Although set on Earth in the present (or, at least, the 1930s), unlike Tolkien's legendarium or any of Lewis' fiction with the sole exception of That Hideous Strength (and assorted framing stories), it is nonetheless stranger than their writing.  That is not, however, necessarily a bad thing, nor are the alien elements the center of the novel.  Indeed, behind the intimations of a Platonic world that underlies the world of appearances, the real subject is the relationship between Damaris, Anthony, and Anthony's best friend Quentin, the theme that of love and salvation.
A fascinating novel, with genuine insight into the nature of things, especially human things.

No comments:

Post a Comment