November 29 in Literary History: C. S. Lewis Born

The most significant events in the history of books on the 29th of November

1832: Louisa May Alcott is born. She is best known for Little Women, a novel she didn’t really want to write. When her publisher suggested the idea of writing a ‘girls’ story’ to her, Alcott was less than enthusiastic. She had never written such a book before, and had no love for the genre, considering it ‘moral pap’. However, she did like the idea of the money (as did her father), and so churned out the book quickly. It was a huge bestseller and the publishing phenomenon of the age.

1898: C. S. Lewis is born. Best-known as the author of the seven-book Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis also wrote a CS Lewis 2trilogy of science-fiction novels and various influential works of literary criticism (such as The Allegory of Love), as well as popular theology books such as The Problem of Pain. He destroyed the first draft of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when his friends criticised it; he rewrote it from scratch.

Lewis based the protagonist of his ‘space trilogy’ on his friend J. R. R. Tolkien. The two men were friends for several decades when they both taught at the University of Oxford, and Lewis’s series science-fiction novels, which began with Out of the Silent Planet in 1938, feature a hero, Elwin Ransom, who is a philologist, like Tolkien. After their very first meeting, Lewis wrote of Tolkien in his diary: ‘No harm in him, only needs a smack or so.’

1948: George Szirtes is born. The poems of this Hungarian-born British poet include ‘Metro’ and ‘Bridge Passages’. Born in Budapest on 29 November 1948, Szirtes travelled to England in 1956 as a refugee, and he grew up in London. In 2004 he won the T. S. Eliot Prize for his poetry.

Image: Statue of C.S. Lewis looking into a wardrobe. Entitled ‘The Searcher’ by Ross Wilson. Author: genvessel (via Flickr). Wikimedia Commons.

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