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

by C. S. Lewis

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10,711111261 (4.1)26
Member:naelythe
Title:The Screwtape Letters: With Screwtape Proposes a Toast
Authors:C. S. Lewis
Info:HarperCollins (2001), Hardcover, 224 pages
Collections:nonfiction
Rating:*****
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The Screwtape Letters (with Screwtape Proposes a Toast) by C. S. Lewis (1942)

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A bundle of incomplete, disordered letters fall into your lap in the candle light. Each letter's subject centers on a patient that needs tending by its invisible guide. The letters urge the recipient to work fast, avoid the Enemy, and labor to bring his patient to a glorious feast Below. The letters describe strategy for Man's destruction. The letters are written in scrawled, inky handwriting. The letters are signed "your affectionate uncle Screwtape."

This collection of fictional letters from one demonic spirit to the other is a fascinating concept contrived by the great CS Lewis himself. Each letter is carefully composed in an oily, inky-black tone belonging to a well-experienced Devil named Screwtape as he instructs his nephew in training on how to condemn a human soul. Although laced with scholarly, sometimes difficult words with deep concepts and long rabbit trails, the Screwtape Letters were surprisingly enjoyable.

I find the term "patient" that Screwtape and Wormwood speak of an intriguing concept. A patient, as if the human was sick and needed treatment. This one word alone creates an unsettling atmosphere to the reader. Something's just creepy when you introduce diabolical, mad scientists and doctors, Screwtape and Wormwood being no different.

The Letters are almost like a Biblical devotion of what NOT to do. Time after time I would read Screwtape's advice and be forced to think: "Wow, I never thought of that as a sin before. I never thought that could be a stumbling block. I never thought that Satan could use that against me." Granted, CS Lewis's story is complete fiction, but the concepts and ideas remain true. Screwtape's deep philosophies on pride, for one, is an enlightening concept. There was so much Wormwood could do if he could simply get his unnamed patient to be prideful.

My critiques are few. The readers enjoying this story must take in account that not everything Screwtape says lines up with the Biblical facts of Salvation, God, Hell, or souls. Lewis disclaims this fact in the Letter's preface: "Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his own angle." In the book, Screwtape seems to believe that Salvation can be lost--rather, it can be renounced, and with it, the soul's eternal security. He makes mention of this often in the book, and this, plus Lewis's comment about Susan in the Last Battle, I assume he believes you can "give back" your Salvation. According to Jesus in John 10:29, "No man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand."

Another Biblical inaccuracy takes place near the end of the correspondence. Screwtape mentions a Feast where the demons devour lost human souls they've dragged to Hell. In the terms he describes it, it appears that these souls are consumed, totally, by the demons who currently reside in Hell (quite comfortably, it would seem). In the Bible, Jesus mentions that "the worm dieth not," the "worm" being mankind's soul. So unless the devoured soul continues to be conscious in the demons' bodies, in fiery agony for eternity, this picture Lewis has described can't be considered accurate. Also, Satan is implied to be living in Hell with his demons, all of them unbound and free to do evil. The only demons in Hell, currently, are the ones that have been bound there specifically by God and His angels. The others are free on earth, in no torment...yet. In Lewis's work, it appears as if Hell were a "base" of the demons. Their Heaven. It doesn't sound like a place of torment for them.

Bear in mind with these inaccuracies that Lewis does mention in his preface that not all of which you read, even coming from Screwtape, is true. Screwtape gets much of his information from Satan, who is a liar.

I find it interesting, and almost sad, that the demons can't comprehend Love. Multiple times Screwtape is baffled over why God would love His creation so much. Why one measly soul is so important to Him. Screwtape vents that it must be some secret He and His creatures are keeping from them. It can't possibly be as simple as He says it is.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book, heavy as it may be.

Things to Watch Out For:
Romance: Demons speak of sex, the way it was intended, and then the way they can twist it to their own means. They use sexual temptation to trip up the patient, but they didn't use descriptions that were too uncomfortable. Demons don't care about going into detail. They don't have the same desires as Man.
Language: Talk of damnation, "Hell forbid," "By Hell."
Violence: talk of the blitz and bombings during the War, detailed descriptions of human soul consumption and the like
Drugs: mention of smoking and drinking by the patient or other humans that Screwtape talks of
Nudity: NA
Other: Some slight Biblical inaccuracies such as losing Salvation, Hell, and eternal suffering of souls ( )
  Jenneth | Jul 5, 2016 |
I don't consider myself a particularly religious person, but I enjoyed The Screwtape Letter immensely. It has a lot of great observations on life and what it means to be a person that can be enjoyed by everyone, not just the Christians or prospective Christians that Lewis was writing towards.

Favorite quote:

"All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be. This is elementary." ( )
  shulera1 | Jun 7, 2016 |
A very good book for all those who want to understand, or to embark on a journey of spirituality. Many books have been written from the perspective of God, but not too many have been written from the perspective of demons.

As an alternative manner of thought, it provides a delightful read, and poses many questions for us to think about ( )
  RajivC | May 29, 2016 |
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 |
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Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963), hoogleraar literatuurgeschiedenis, schrijver van kinderboeken (de Narnia-verhalen) en apologeet van het christelijk geloof, heeft grote naam gemaakt met zijn 'Brieven uit de hel', waarin oom Schroeflik tegenover zijn neef de waarheden van het christelijk geloof omdraait en ze beschrijft als belemmeringen voor inlijving in het rijk van de duivel. Op paradoxale wijze en in een stijl die nog niets van zijn levendigheid heeft verloren, wordt hier een klassiek geworden apologie van het christelijk geloof gegeven. Toegevoegd is 'Schroeflik heft het glas'. Het nawoord en de aantekeningen zijn van de vertaler. De laatste vertaling dateerde uit 1947; deze vertaling is uit 2002 en sluit dus beter aan bij het hedendaagse taalgebruik. Paperback; normale druk.

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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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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
Dearest Diablo,
Hope this letter finds you well.
Your servant, Screwtape.
(LeBoeuf)

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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