Sunday, May 11, 2008

Book Notes: Lament for a Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff




I heard someone raving about this book recently. She works in a hospice and is face-to-face with death, especially the death of children on a regular basis. So I tried getting hold of a copy, which proved to be quite hard. Eventually though, via abebooks.co.uk, I managed to trace one.

Nicholas Wolterstorff lost his son in a climbing accident. In this book, which is a series of short meditations he reflects on his life, and probes for meaning in his horrific experience. He remembers his son Eric, he writes of his grief, and the way that living through the death of his child has coloured every day of his subsequent existence. He writes tenderly, with great gentleness and passion, making the book utterly compelling, and very, very moving. He writes with complete honesty, of both his faith and his questioning, of his coping and not coping, of his belief in eternal life, but his overwhelming incurable anguish in the now. He speaks of joys, of regrets, of guilt, of those who came to help him and why some did, but why others made things worse.

Despite Wolterstorff's academic credentials, this is not an academic work of impenetrable philosophy, but on that level an easy read. In terms of the effect it has on the reader it is far from easy-reading.

Very sobering, deeply affecting, wonderfully profound; there is not a trite phrase in this book. If you see a copy, get it. Here's an extract, from p34. If the text is too small to read, please click on the image and it should enlarge.


11 comments:

His Girl Friday said...

very sobering, indeed. My emotions tremble at the thought of even contemplating that situation for one moment. It's as if, I tell myself, no, don't even go there.

I'm not sure that I could read that book, yet I so feel for any person in that situation. (and would want to do and say the right, and comforting thing...so perhaps, the book would be good to read) :/

Anonymous said...

Have read not the book, but contrary-wise to your comment on it being hard to find I've discovered viva a quick google that it isn't that hard to get. I exhort and otherwise exclaim that you & your good readers should go to the likes of
http://gb.bookbutler.com/
All that said it looks like a good book

Yours et al inter alia etc
Mark

Steg said...

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lament-Son-Nicholas-P-Wolterstorff/dp/080280294X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1210799433&sr=8-1

It's currently in stock at Amazon. they recommend 'A grief Observed' by CS Lewis to go with it...........

That Hideous Man said...

Thanks Mark & Steg for pointing that out - when I was searching about a month ago Amazon didn't have any - and I haven't com accross that 'bookbutler' site before

I haven't read 'Grief Observed' (I don't think I even have a copy). Is this a scandalous omission or just as well??

steg said...

'A Grief observed' is good I think. I haven't read it for years, but I found it thoughtful. I can probably lend you a copy. It just made me laugh that Amazon were doing a special offer 'buy this grief book with another grief book and you get money off'.

Anonymous said...

THM,
A Grief Observed is a book I have not read in more than a decade - but I remember it as spectacular. Very honest. Lewis had (I'm told) an ability ro write almost in one draft and this comes across no more clearly than in this book. It is vivid (with all the dread palid colourlessnes that only death and it terror and horror can give) and straight from the heart. As if listening to a man with is guard down, shield fallen to his side, sword slack in his hand, bewildered by a defeat he could not have seen.
A book as raw from battle as I've ever read.
Incidentally Lewis's general ability to write with little revision was a thing, which if I recall correctly, irritated Tolkien enormously. While Tollers spent years revising and refining and re-writing and revising again the Lord of the Rings - taking years at the project, Lewis could push out a Narnian book a year with no visible effort. Of course the Narnian Chronicles & the Ring Trilogy are not quite the same literary animal -but none the less apparently it irked JRRT a little to see CSL get his success with such apparent ease.
Mark

That Hideous Man said...

1st draft success to the immense annoynance of his contemporaries? Just like your PhD then?

Anonymous said...

Yes, a list of comparisons between my PhD thesis and the Narnian Chronicles - could make very entertaining reading, although alas I can't think of a witty reposte at present to start any ball rolling...
Let's see the Narnian Chronicles are readable, have sold in their millions, have generated a substantial secondary literature, and have been turned into hugely successful movies.....
Nop, really don't think this one is going to work.
Mark

Mike Giggler said...

Also, Lewis didn't download a thesis off the Internet and pass it off as his own work.....

'Ionisation processes in multielectron ion-atom collisions', I ask you!
Pah!

Anonymous said...

most amusing

Anonymous said...

You know now that I think about it I'm not even sure we actually had the internet when I did my PhD....