The Out of Print Collection: Phantastes by George MacDonald
My newest Out of Print title, Phantastes by George MacDonald.
Coming to the shop on March 15th at 10am CST:
Phantastes is the book that CS Lewis picked up at a train station bookstall, a chance decision that completely changed the trajectory of his life. In Surprised by Joy, Lewis writes, “I did not yet know (and I was long in learning) the name of the new quality, the bright shadow, that rested on the travels of Anodos. I do now. It was Holiness. … Up till now each visitation of Joy had left the common world momentarily a desert … Even when real clouds or trees had been the material of the vision, they had been so only by reminding me of another world; and I did not like the return to ours. But now I saw the bright shadow coming out of the book into the real world and resting there, transforming all common things and yet itself unchanged. Or, more accurately, I saw the common things drawn into the bright shadow. … That night my imagination was, in a certain sense, baptized; the rest of me, not unnaturally, took longer. I had not the faintest notion what I had let myself in for by buying Phantastes.”
Published in 1858, Phantastes was MacDonald’s first major work of fiction. Self described as “a fairy tale for grown ups,” some consider it to be the first work of fantasy written for an adult audience. At the time of its publication sales were disappointing, so MacDonald returned to the writing of realistic fiction in the 1860s. However, he did eventually return to fantasy, penning The Princess and the Goblin in 1872 and Lilith in 1895. Despite its unpopularity at the time it was published, Phantastes made a huge impact on one of the greatest theological thinkers of all time – in fact, when CS Lewis picked the book up for the first time he was an atheist, and by the time he closed it he was awakened to the possibility of a god. The book was the “baptism of [his] imagination”, and his conversion to Christianity followed shortly thereafter. Indeed, after Phantastes, Lewis always considered MacDonald his “master,” the one who led him to salvation. He quoted him in many if not all of the books he wrote, and included him as a character in The Great Divorce.
George MacDonald was a Victorian Scottish writer and a Christian minister. He wrote theological works and was a pioneer in the fantasy genre – though he always considered himself a poet first and foremost. His unorthodox views resulted in his expulsion from the pulpit relatively early in his life, at which point he pursued his writing career with fervor. He wrote sermons, essays, fantasy, and romance novels.
His works inspired many great authors: G.K. Chesterton (“[MacDonald is] one of the three or four greatest men of the 19th century”), W.H. Auden (“[MacDonald is] one of the most remarkable writers of the 19th century”), Oswald Chambers (“how I love that man!”), and most notably C.S. Lewis. The Christian author Oswald Chambers wrote, “it is a striking indication of the trend and shallowness of the modern reading public that George MacDonald’s books have been so neglected.”
Though many of the authors he influenced have remained wildly popular today, MacDonald himself remains relatively uncelebrated.
“It is by loving, and not by being loved, that one can come nearest the soul of another.”
On his twenty-first birthday, Anodos opens an antique secretary desk he inherited from his father and finds there a little woman. “You shall find the way into Fairy Land tomorrow,” she tells him. From there, he embarks on a fanciful pilgrimage through a land of magic; as he physically endures the trials of Fairy Land, his soul moves from disenchantment to spiritual rejuvenation.
Published in 1858, Phantastes is a vintage MacDonald and a classic Victorian. C.S. Lewis picked this book up one fateful day before he became a Christian, and walked away from it totally changed. He said that reading it was the “baptism of [his] imagination,” and that he owed the debt of his salvation to MacDonald. High praise for a book that some consider to be the very first work of fantasy written for an adult audience.
This exciting title is now available with beautiful cover art by Haleigh DeRocher, found exclusively at sweetsequels.com.