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The Screwtape Letters: With Screwtape Proposes a Toast (original 1942; edition 2001)

by C. S. Lewis

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10,539108270 (4.1)24
Member:naelythe
Title:The Screwtape Letters: With Screwtape Proposes a Toast
Authors:C. S. Lewis
Info:HarperCollins (2001), Hardcover, 224 pages
Collections:nonfiction
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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The Screwtape Letters (with Screwtape Proposes a Toast) by C. S. Lewis (1942)

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Summary: The classic collection of letters between a senior demon and junior tempter charged with undermining the new found faith of his "patient."

I am surprised how many I've talked with have heard of The Screwtape Letters but have never read this classic by C. S. Lewis. It is a purported collection of letters that has fallen into his hands from a senior demon, Screwtape, to a junior tempter, Wormwood. One of the fundamental insights of this work is that this Infernal Bureaucracy is founded the axiom of consume or be consumed.

Wormwood's patient becomes a Christian after the first letter. And so Screwtape concerns himself with advice about unraveling the faith of this new convert. Various letters explore the use of subtle distractions rather than frontal attacks. There is the avoidance of matters of truth or falsity, categorizing thing as brave or progressive. Playing on subtle annoyances is far better than tempting to spectacular sin. Don't let the convert notice he is drifting away. Get him to spiritualize his concern for his mother while detesting her annoying habits, to have noble visions of fellowship while being put off by the neighbor in the pew.

All the tempter can do is twist and distort. Use a new circle who accompany his newfound love, a Christian woman of character, to make him look down on others. There are several letters on sexuality, and the insight that it is often in the valleys when the affections are depressed that temptation may be most effective.

The letters are short and pithy. The apparent love of the "Enemy" (God) for his creatures is incomprehensible and contemptible. At one point, Screwtape becomes so provoked at the Enemy's designs that he is transformed into a giant centipede. Before this happens, he writes:

"He is a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a facade. Or onlylike foam on the seashore. Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it; at his right hand are 'pleasures for evermore.' Ugh! I don't think He has the least inkling of that high and austere mystery to which we rise in the Miserific vision. He's vulgar, Wormwood. He has a bourgeois mind. He has filled His world full of pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least--sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted before it's any use to us. We fight under cruel disadvantages. Nothing is naturally on our side" (pp. 101-102).

Lewis found the letters difficult to write, adopting the mindset of the infernal. Yet he offers numerous insights into the dynamics of spiritual life and the nature of the battles we fight or fail to resist. He resisted pleas to write more, but did write a sequel, included here. In Screwtape Proposes a Toast, he instructs the tempters in the nuances of their trade. He has a fascinating commentary on "democracy" and mistaken ideas of equality this evokes.

Perhaps this is the summer you sit down with this collection of letters. It can be read as a witty diversion. Or it can expand our perception of the realities of the spiritual battle in the midst of which we live. ( )
  BobonBooks | Apr 21, 2016 |
I've put this on my shelf to re-read in print. Not all books can be thoughtfully processed while driving. It was not dense, but the style, a one-sided correspondence, brooked no distraction. I don't believe in the devil, and the depiction of the bureaucracy devoted to his service was comical. The insight into man's behavior and faith, and how they might be manipulated, and are in fact constantly manipulated by the forces of good and evil, was cogent to the point of discomfort at times. Will be looking for a copy at a book sale. ( )
  MaureenCean | Apr 9, 2016 |
If you like this, you'll love "Great Divorce," also by Clive Staples, about a bus trip from hell to heaven. The passengers are allowed to stay, and all but one of them chooses to go home. ( )
  evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
Brilliant satire on the human condition ( )
  nospi | Feb 7, 2016 |
Excellent full-cast dramatization of this C. S. Lewis classic.
"Diabolical" Radio Theater at its best.
"The story is carried by the senior demon Screwtape played magnificently by award-winning actor Andy Serkis (“Gollum” in Lord of the Rings) as he shares correspondence to his apprentice demon Wormwood." (from audio jacket)

4.5 ★ ( )
  pennsylady | Jan 29, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
C. S. Lewisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Schreuder, J.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
'The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.'
-- Luther
'The devil . . . the prowde spirite . . . cannot endure to be mocked.'
--Thomas More
Dedication
To J.R.R. Tolkien
First words
My dear Wormwood, I note what you say about guiding your Patient's reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Please do not combine this LT work with any abridged edition, or with any edition that omits Lewis' additional piece, "Screwtape Proposes a Toast." Each of these variants should be combined only with similar LT works. Thank you.

Please note that some works titled simply "The Screwtape Letters" also contain "Screwtape Proposes a Toast". If your edition is combined here and should not be then please be certain to check and, if need be, correct your ISBN before separating. The following ISBNs are of editions titled "The Screwtape Letters" but known to also contain "Screwtape Proposes a Toast":
  • 0060652896
  • 0060652934
  • 0684831171
  • 0805420401
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
"Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself; the Enemy wants a world full of begins united to Him but still distinct."

Thus is the eternal war for the soul of man explained by Screwtape, a professional devil and  self-described undersecretary of the department of temptation. His brilliantly conceived letters to his nephew Wormwood - a "junior temptor" - sparkle with the suavity of satanic logic and resound with the lofty, near cynical humor which invaluable accompanies a deep-sated knowledge of the human psych.

The Screwtape Letters gradually unfolds as  series of explicit directions adn plans through which Wormwood - may subvert and twist human soul to his own diabolical ends. Fascinating in its cunning and incredibly acute awareness of the flaws and foibles of man, this small masterpiece had been by millions since C S Lewis wrote the first letter for a newspaper during World War Two.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060652934, Paperback)

This adaptation of C.S. Lewis's biting satire received a 1999 Grammy nomination for best spoken-word performance, and it's easy to see why--the story fits the format perfectly. It's relatively brief (the unabridged reading takes a mere four hours), and contains only one character--the demon Screwtape, who writes letters to his novice nephew Wormwood, instructing him on how to best tempt his "patient" (a wayward soul on earth) into the bosom of "our Lord below."

Obviously, the book wasn't written with former Monty Python John Cleese in mind, but it's hard to imagine a better Screwtape. Cleese's voice provides the perfect vehicle for Lewis's dry, razor-edged wit. His uncanny comic timing and ability to milk each phrase for maximum effect betray an infectious enthusiasm for the story. It's clear that he's having a great time reading, and it's impossible not to laugh along with him. This inspired pairing of two of the 20th century's greatest wits makes for a meditation on the dark side of spiritual guidance that's as relevant and funny today as it was in Lewis's war-torn England. (Running time: 4 hours, 3 cassettes) --Andrew Neiland

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:51 -0400)

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In this humorous and perceptive exchange between two devils, Lewis delves into moral questions about good vs. evil, temptation, repentance, and grace.--From publisher description.

(summary from another edition)

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