I recently finished reading Surprised by Joy, Lewis’s autobiographical work dealing with his early life up to the time of his conversion to Christianity. The only other non-fiction work of Lewis’s that I have read is The Great Divorce , which I found fairly straightforward, and so I expected to find his autobiography quite easy to get into and understand. However, I was not prepared for how alien his life seemed to me, how many words I didn’t understand (!) and how many concepts were (to me) so obscure.
Even the concept of “Joy” as Lewis terms it and experienced it, was quite hard for me to grasp, but then I think it is something that is almost impossible to describe because, it seems to me, it is such a subjective thing. Lewis’s experiences of life were so different from mine, and, I expect very different from most people living in the UK today. The world of a middle class boy growing into a young man during the early part of the twentieth century seemed like another world to me.
This was not necessarily a bad thing – it just wasn’t what I was expecting, which I suppose was a bit silly of me, given the differences between us as individuals and the changes in society that have taken place since 1929 (when the book ends). I found it all rather fascinating and quite enjoyed having to look up lots of words I’d never heard of (such as ‘quiddity’ and ‘Anthroposophist’, which better read people than me have probably heard of, but I obviously need to read more books!) and it probably did me good. I definitely learned a lot, if nothing else.