A scintillant and surreal narrative that can, at a moment's notice, explodes outward into metaphysical mysticism. It is not unusual for half of the chA scintillant and surreal narrative that can, at a moment's notice, explodes outward into metaphysical mysticism. It is not unusual for half of the characters in a Williams' novel to be ghosts, doppelgangers, and golems, despite their being set in 1940's England. Despite this book being about the gradual damnation of a human soul - who consistently chooses himself over greater reality - its cosmological vision is deeply redemptive. Williams is one of those rare authors who is able to be true to both the glories and the horrors of human experience. He comes down on the side of glory, but not by lying about the realities of evil and suffering.
Williams sometimes seems to blissfully disregard the audience's need to understand him: he is content to bemuse where he does not communicate. He seems to understand everything he says, but doesn't promise that the reader will. This is only true in those bursts of transcendence which he tries to infuse throughout his work; the more mundane passages are a delight to read for the story and the language.
This book has that characteristic of a classic which teaches you something new each time you read it. Perhaps because of Williams' complexity, I have read this book with pleasure several times, and each time have found some new argument or image to consider. It has informed the way I live my life, in its depictions of grace and of the gradual change of a life for good or evil.
If you are interested in a genre of literature that draws on surrealist or science fiction, in Christian spirituality, and in an engaging read, I recommend Williams' fiction in general and Descent into Hell in particular. ...more