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Descent into Hell, a Novel [Paperback]

By Charles Williams (Author)
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Item description for Descent into Hell, a Novel by Charles Williams...

The key to William's mystically oriented theological thought, DESCENT INTO HELL (arguably Williams's greatest novel) is a multidimensional story about human beings who shut themselves up in their own narcissistic projections, so that they are no longer able to love, to "co-inhere". The result is a veritable hell.

Publishers Description
The key to Williams' mystically oriented theological thought, "Descent into Hell" (arguably Williams' greatest novel) is a multidimensional story about human beings who shut themselves up in their own narcissistic projections, so that they are no longer able to love, to 'co-inhere.' The result is a veritable hell.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.
Pages   222
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.25" Height: 7.5"
Weight:   0.5 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 1, 1997
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.
Edition  Revised  
ISBN  0802812201  
ISBN13  9780802812209  

Availability  0 units.

More About Charles Williams

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Charles Walter Stansby Williams (1886 -1945) was a British poet, novelist, playwright, theologian, literary critic, and member of the Inklings. Williams was born in London in 1886, the only son of (Richard) Walter Stansby Williams (1848-1929), a journalist and foreign business correspondent (for an importing firm, writing in French and German), who was a 'regular and valued' contributor of verse, stories and articles to many popular magazines, and his wife Mary, a former milliner, of Islington. He continued to work at the OUP in various positions of increasing responsibility until his death in 1945. One of his greatest editorial achievements was the publication of the first major English-language edition of the works of Soren Kierkegaard. Although chiefly remembered as a novelist, Williams also published poetry, works of literary criticism, theology, drama, history, biography, and a voluminous number of book reviews. Some of his best known novels are War in Heaven (1930), Descent into Hell (1937), and All Hallows' Eve (1945). T. S. Eliot, who wrote an introduction for the last of these, described Williams's novels as "supernatural thrillers" because they explore the sacramental intersection of the physical with the spiritual while also examining the ways in which power, even spiritual power, can corrupt as well as sanctify. All of Williams's fantasies, unlike those of J. R. R. Tolkien and most of those of C. S. Lewis, are set in the contemporary world. Williams has been described byColin Manlove as one of the three main writers of "Christian fantasy" in the twentieth century (the other two being C. S. Lewis and T. F. Powys). More recent writers of fantasy novels with contemporary settings, notably Tim Powers, cite Williams as a model and inspiration. NOVELS: 1930: War in Heaven (London: Victor Gollancz) 1930: Many Dimensions (London: Victor Gollancz) 1931: The Place of the Lion (London: Mundanus) 1932: The Greater Trumps (London: Victor Gollancz) 1933: Shadows of Ecstasy (London: Victor Gollancz) 1937: Descent into Hell (London: Faber & Faber) 1945: All Hallows' Eve (London: Faber & Faber) 1970-72: The Noises That Weren't There. Unfinished. First three chapters published in Mythlore 6 (Autumn 1970), 7 (Winter 1971) and 8 (Winter 1972)."

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Reviews - What do customers think about Descent into Hell, a Novel?

A Time Bending Tale of Innocence and Metaphor for Complicit Madness  May 31, 2007
I finally decided to check out `the other guy' from The Inkling and picked up a copy of Charles Williams' Descent into Hell in which he seems to explore the idea of `the terrible good' a relatively fruitful line of thought. The characters are layered and the descriptions rich with subtle observations about connection, human nature, art and scholarship. Williams is poetic without seeming self important. His dream and fantasy sequences however, can be ponderous and difficult.

Descent into Hell's protagonist Pauline, is a poetic soul haunted by apparitions. I was engaged in her story as it interwove with that of an eccentric poet and the dead of generations past on her way to apprehending the vaguely name omnipotent. It is the secondary (counterpoint) narrative of Wentworth, however, that makes this little novel truly memorable. A historical scholar's objectification of a woman takes a mystical and corporeal turn providing a jarring metaphor for the costs of maintaining an alternate reality. William's description of Wentworth's complicit delusion was horrifying in its familiarity. Wentworth's preference for a controlled unreality to an uncertain actuality and its associated madness was a creative and memorable centerpiece for a generally pleasant and intriguing story.
Imaginative tour-de-force!  Aug 27, 2006
W. H. Auden and T. S. Elliot admired this eccentric author and found his novels great reading. My small voice echoes "Darn Right!" Gently invite anyone still laboring under the illusion that you "make your own reality" or that "by following your heart you'll never go astray" to a good slow read of this mystical horror. Laurence Whitworth is as good a cautionary protagonist for which one could hope. Two parallel themes, the lightness of love's burden and the burdened suicide's call to light are both deeply moving. After my third reading I'm glimpsing what Williams' tried to reveal, but hope subsequent rereads will take me even deeper. Don't give up! this book's worth every minute you spend in it.
Descent into Hell  Feb 11, 2006
Just the first page is an example of some of the worst writing I have ever read. The prose is convoluted and unreadable. He uses the word "stairs" when he means "stares". How basicly illiterate can you get?If this man can get published, there is real hope for all those neophyte writers out there. Keep throwing your manuscripts over the transoms --somebody's going to give you a chance.
Invoke the Doctrine of Substituted Books  Jun 26, 2004
and instead read something slightly more coherent. Like Finnegans Wake. Or, if you must read Williams, either War in Heaven or All Hallows' Eve are much better. It's not that the book is all bad. After you get past the overwrought and near unintelligible prose, a subtlety of plot that borders on disregard of the reader, silly and unsympathetic characters, and some very naughty heresy, there are a few good things to be said of Descent Into Hell. For one, the picture Williams draws of lust, pride, and despair is outstanding. For another, some of his more subtle observations regarding the effects of sin on an individual are also excellent. And there may be an interesting observation or two about the Communion of Saints (although Williams adds a dash of heterodoxy to this concept as well). But mostly the book is just wacky. Sinners get a second (and maybe third or fourth) bite at the apple in the hereafter, the reality of hell is oddly diminished through Williams' apparent desire to draw a psychological portrait of its existence, a heretic is punished by the noble and pious Mary Tudor yet saved by God for relying on his malformed conscience, and daffy Golden Dawn freak-shows carry each other's burdens in an evident misunderstanding of the Church's spiritual treasury, how it is filled, and how it is put to use. I would recommend the book only to Williams completists. The middle third is hard slog but it picks up at the end.

In a nutshell, it's not the best book for right-wing orthodox Catholic monarchists. But if you're a hippy-freak new ager with a taste for poorly drafted gothic novels, this might be right up your alley.

Timeless Truth Visits Suburbia  Feb 17, 2004
Ask any minister what part of the Apostle's Creed elicits the greatest number of questions from parishioners. He or she will say without hesitation, "He descended into hell."

This is a puzzling phrase for us. If we want to have a Biblically accurate and theologically sound understanding of the most difficult phrase of the Apostle's Creed, we may wish to turn to The Book of Confessions. Or John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. Or we might want to read this novel, by one of the most dazzling Christian novelists of the past (Twentieth!) century.

Charles Williams should be better known that he is, as a brilliant scholar, inventive writer and faithful Christian of modern times. A forceful, inventive and compelling person, Willams was a member of the famous "Inklings"-the creative Oxford University Christian writers whose company included C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.

The setting of the book is an affluent suburb of a large city where a group of interesting residents have prevailed upon one of their most famous neighbors, a world-renowned playwright, to produce his newest play. We meet them all as the rehearsals are taking place-and we learn that each person is on a spiritual journey fraught with dangers, toils and snares. There is love and lust, loss and confusion, the meaning of life and the meaning of work, all wrapped up in the preparations for performing the play.

If Shakespeare is to be trusted, all the world's a stage... Williams uses the metaphor of the play to portray life, in this world and the next. So we have the world of "The Hill" (their neighborhood-but could it be any suburban enclave), intersecting with the world of the play. We also have a larger challenge. For, as he does in all his novels, Williams reveals the intersection between the "real world" and the spiritual realm. Past and present at times merge. Memory and hope combine. People make choices that will affect their lives for all eternity. Sometimes, without thinking.

We meet the wise and kindly playwright, Stanhope. The eminent and ambitious historian Wentworth. The beguiling and mysterious Mrs. Samile. The fear-stricken Pauline, whose perils help us grasp the key to the most famous verse in Galatians... "Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ." For that passage alone, the novel is unsurpassed.

But you will also not want to miss Wentworth's Choice. Classic Christian truth portrayed unforgettably.

If you are of a literal bent, you may find it hard to wrap your mind around some of his images. Don't give up! Allow yourself to be guided by a pro, into a world you may not have visited before. Read this book slower than you are accustomed to read novels. Intersperse its reading with Biblical study on the same concepts: wholeness, healing, Christian love, jealousy, anger, fear, faithfulness, joy, life and life eternal.

(Note: This novel is one of a series that also includes these titles, by the same author and from the same publisher: All Hallows Eve, War in Heaven, Many Dimensions, The Place of the Lion, The Greater Trumps).

If you find this review helpful you might want to read some of my other reviews, including those on subjects ranging from biography to architecture, as well as religion and fiction.

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