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Born in Belfast in 1898, C.S. Lewis was the second son of a nominally Christian lawyer. Early in life, Lewis was fervently religious, but in his early teens he became an atheist. His school experience alternated between horror (in a vicious boarding school which he referred to later as "Belsen", after one of the more notorious Nazi prison camps) and bliss (with a private tutor in Surrey.) Lewis fought and was wounded in World War I, made it into Oxord on the strength of of status as a vet (which enabled him to bypass the requirement to pass a math exam), and found his calling teaching English at Oxford. He published two books of poetry, and was in the midst of his work on The Allegory of Love, a study of the concept of courtly love in Mediaeval literature, when he finally returned to a belief in God (in 1929) and became a Christian (in 1933.)
Lewis' conversion was sparked in part by his reading, especially the works of George MacDonald and G.K. Chesterton, and in part by discussions with believing friends, most famously Owen Barfield and J.R.R. Tolkien. (Later, in Surprised by Joy, his autobiography, Lewis wrote, "A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.") Once converted, Lewis became an able advocate of the faith, and is better known today for his Christian works than for his literary criticism.
Lewis first burst onto the North American scene with TheScrewtape Letters in 1942, although he is probably best known for his children's fantasy books, The Chronicles of Narnia. I have long recommended Mere Christianity as an excellent introduction to the Christian faith. However, Lewis' short essays are probably the least widely read, and that is a shame.
Lewis died in 1963, and thus 1998 was the centenary of his birth, and the 35th anniversary of his death. Many of his works were reprinted for the occasion, although it's not often that any of his works go out of print.
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