"The Fellowship" - group biography of Lewis, Tolkien, Williams & Barfield

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"The Fellowship" - group biography of Lewis, Tolkien, Williams & Barfield

1gabriel
Oct 12, 2020, 7:36pm

Since the book is very on-point, did any of you get a chance to read The Fellowship by Philip & Carol Zaleski? It's been out for about five years now. I read it a couple years ago, but I'll hold my comments...

2parlerodermime
Oct 13, 2020, 12:44am

I haven't. But rather than holding, if you share some non-spoilery comments, that might influence whether or not I read it. Worth it?

3gabriel
Oct 14, 2020, 4:08pm

Well, what should I say? It's been a few years, and I didn't take notes, so my memory of the details is weak.

That being said, I thought it was excellent. I ended up buying three or so extra copies to give away as presents, and I've lent out my own copy once to a friend.

It's a literary and intellectual biography, but it does enough on the biographical details to feel that nothing is being given short shrift. And in it does a great job in bringing out the currents of thought that Tolkien, Lewis, Williams and Barfield engaged in and were important expositors of. It does a really good job dealing with the intellectual interactions of Tolkien, Lewis and Barfield in the late 1920s, which led to Lewis' conversion.

My memory of the discussion of the Inklings' intellectual ideas and preoccupations was that it was thorough, clear and deep, and the Zaleskis really covered pretty much all of each of their writings. This was the most notable part of the book.

I may have had a stronger idea of Lewis' and Williams' personalities going into the book, so I don't recall The Fellowship giving me a new insight into their personal lives, but I definitely had a much stronger sense of Tolkien's personality after reading The Fellowship.

I knew the least about Barfield, and was grateful to gain a good understanding of his place within the Inklings. What I recall most clearly is how much Barfield was the odd duck among a group of orthodox Christians.

4gabriel
Oct 22, 2020, 2:53pm

More on Barfield:

The Inklings definitely made me more interested in his thought. His main idea was that change in language reflected changes in the nature of human consciousness.

I think there's some truth to that, although, from the description of his theory in The Inklings, he went way further than I think supportable, because it corresponded with his theosophist convictions.

One thing I'm curious about (and the book didn't touch on, as far as I recall), is to what extent Barfield's theories influenced Lewis, especially his Studies in Words.

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