At the beginning of November, C. S. Lewis’s life and work was celebrated in a beautiful Symposium in Iasi, at the University Alexandru Ioan Cuza, the Faculty of Letters, organized by PhD Student and Teacher of English and Theology Denise Vasiliu and Professor Rodica Albu (who translated The Lion, the Witch and Wardrobe into Romanian for the first time and was co-author & Editor to the volume Inklings). For the course of two days, we had great speakers from Europe presenting different aspects of his vast and wonderful work.
I must admit, some papers were a bit too academic for my taste*[to be read understanding] , which I expected to meet, but even so, I enjoyed it very much and should something similar happen again next year, I’m already on the list !
On the first day we had the British Ambassador to Romania, Martin Harris, open up beautifully, talking about Lewis’s relevance in our modern times and made clear the fact that he had an ability to communicate the essence of Christianity by showing the common and not the difference in the Christian denominations.
Then, the Rector of the University Vasile Ișan had a short message about what little (he admitted) he knew of C.S. Lewis and was really amused of the type of conversation he would have at the Eagle and Child with his friends and fellow men. ” Do the trees ever actually die, or do they live forever? ” was a question that would raise a lot of debate on the matter.The Dean of Faculty of Letters, Codrin Liviu Cuțitaru had also a welcoming message.
Walter Hooper who was the personal secretary to Lewis sent us a recorded message from Oxford University. One of the writer’s quotes from his short interview: “If you continue to love Jesus, nothing much can go wrong with you!”
The organisers of the symposium had too an introductory message, Denise Vasiliu and professor Rodica Albu, both very passionate on his literary work, so and so that made possible this wonderful celebratory conference .
After a well deserved coffee break we had two plenary sessions followed by an amazing play.
Emanuel Conțac, Doctor in Philology, Lecturer at the Pentecostal Theological Institute in Bucharest and translator on the works of C.S. Lewis started off the session with his view on how the Don was received in România after the fall of the Iron Curtain. If during Communism The Lion,the Witch and the Wardrobe and Mere Christianity were forbidden literature and were published underground (the former appeared in România around 1970) after 1989 it became quite popular and were read with a lot of enthusiasm. Even if he was a known Anglican, his entire work doesn’t show exactly what religious denomination he belonged to. C.S. Lewis is not as popular in România as in other countries, but surely, the more books are being translated, the more his image and popularity would be consolidated.
Professor Doctor John Lotz, Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and Associate Professor at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Iași presented him as a brilliant academic, a great, talented communicator and an imaginative story teller . He was quoting Walter Hooper when presenting the great works and writings and essays that were relevant in his life as an Undergraduate and a Postgraduate : ”Don’t be content with just reading one or two books, you must read all of his books”. John Lotz explained to us why C.S. Lewis was arguably the most influential writer of the 20th century. Some of the works mentioned in his presentation were: “The problem of pain”, “The Trilogy” , “Miracles”, “The great divorce”, “The four loves”, “The Pilgrim’s regress”, “Image and Imagination” .
Then came the end of day 1 . There was a play by the Searchlight Theatre Company from England that took us back in time to an evening where Jack was present, mentoring one of his students, James. Most of the phrases and paragraphs were excerpts from his books. A quote stood out, from one of the few books I read, “Fern-seed and Elephants” in which Lewis was tackling [among other subjects] the problem of those “modern” Biblical Scholars who seem to be doubtful when it comes to believing the message of Salvation that the Bible writes,doubtful to Jesus’s true glory as Son of God , but keep their public face as intellectuals, as people highly respected in society for what they are, people who “claim to see fern-seed and can’t see an elephant ten yards away in broad daylight”.
[to be continued …]