08 December 2006

A grief observed

In ‘A Grief Observed’, C S Lewis wrote about his bereavement when his wife, Joy, died from bone cancer. Yet, he wrote the book, an autobiography, under a pseudonym, N W Clerk, hiding his authorship from the public and referring to his wife as ‘H’ (her first name was Helen). Perhaps, he wanted to keep his grief private and, yet, use his writing as a therapeutic tool to come to terms with it.

We may never know the truth behind his wish to remain anonymous when ‘A Grief Observed’ was first published. However, what we do know is that Lewis later decided to make his authorship public, apparently, upon receiving advice from friends. And, hence, we now have with us a wonderful autobiography… a look inside a man and his loss.

This thought, of this act of writing a personal narrative of one’s grief, while toying with the idea of remaining anonymous, made me wonder if Lewis’ ‘A Grief Observed’ is indeed an autobiography. I mean, if it is a 100% autobiography in first person… and not a semi-fictionalised account of C S Lewis’ life and his bereavement.

Mind you, I’m not accusing C S Lewis of deceit; nor am I suggest anything derogatory. I’m merely wondering if Lewis wrote down exactly what he felt about his grief… as it ought to be in an autobiography. Or, did he come out of himself and, as if he were an observer observing someone else’ grief, write down what he thought C S Lewis would have felt at that moment?

Would C S Lewis have sacrificed some of his real feelings in order to write a book? And, if that were so, wouldn’t ‘A Grief Observed’ contain some fiction?

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