Celebrating Belfast-born CS Lewis
CS Lewis (1898 – 1963) is the author of the seven children’s books of the Chronicles of Narnia, beginning with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which have sold over 10 million copies worldwide and been made into three blockbuster Holywood movies. Following a recent £250M deal Netflix plan to develop a new series and film projects based on the beloved books.
He is also the author of three sci-fi books, of which Out of the Silent Planet is the best known and more than a dozen other books on educational, philosophical and religious themes; not to mention two books of memoir, inspiring the film Shadowlands with Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.
All this from a boy from Strandtown in east Belfast, whose mother died when he was only nine years old. After her death he and was sent by his traumatised father to a brutal public school in England whose sadistic and irrational headmaster had to be assigned to an insane asylum.
Lewis, known as jack, took consolation in reading fairy tales and books of fantasy and legend. His father subsequently sent Jack to be tutored by William Kirkpatrick former principal at Lurgan College, Kirkpatrick quickly identified the genius in Lewis and that his career, indeed the only career for which he was suited, would be in literature.
Lewis qualified for Oxford, but before being able to get into his studies, he joined the army and fought in France in WW1. He was wounded by an English shell and was sent back to England to recover. By the time he was fully fit, the war was over, and he returned to his academic studies in which he excelled, achieving in three years what it normally takes a really diligent student six years, with Firsts in all his exams.
He published his first book of poetry but was unfortunate because the taste in poetry had turned away from metrical poems towards poetry that neither rhymed nor scanned, like those of his contemporary TS Eliot.
He was given a teaching fellowship by Magdelen College Oxford in English, where he wrote most of his books for both adults and children and was eventually given a professorship, not by Oxford, but by Cambridge. At the end of life, he found happiness with Joy Davidman portrayed in Shadowlands, honeymooning back in Northern Ireland before she died of cancer.
Celebrating CS Lewis in Belfast
EastSide Partnership, based on the Newtownards Road, has played a key role in celebrating the life and work of CS Lewis by creating CS Lewis Square with seven inspiring Narnia sculptures and organising an annual CS Lewis Festival which takes place in November.