Out of the Silent Planet - overview

by Antolin
(Westmoreland, England)

I'd like, if I may, to contribute this review to your site!

Out of the Silent Planet - Man and Landscape

There are some books, as some paintings, whose landscapes become an inverse emblem of the inner being of the human protagonist, so that the world without seems outside in, and the protagonist within seems inside out. Few books, in this connection, match C.S.Lewis’s “Out of the Silent Planet” – perhaps only “A Voyage to Arcturus” by David Lindsay approaches it. Such a book, obviously, depends on one character, to achieve the miracle of the one-to-one – and, if a tale, upon the trance of instinctive poetry, transcending style or logic – and, if philosophy, upon the belligerent and brilliant vision of John Ruskin. Perhaps “Robinson Crusoe” is the linear ancestor of such a tale – certainly not the picaresque “Odyssey”.

“Out of the Silent Planet” is, I think, the most sustained and wonderful outing in this most elusive of genres, the “one-to-one”: human to landscape.

“A Voyage to Arcturus” is a greater book, but destroys its own genre, as it were, by its nihilistic philosophy. C.S.Lewis’s own “Perelandra” (“A Voyage to Venus”) is a greater book – but destroys its own genre of landscape/psychology by its theological allegory. Not to say that the theology is bad, or the nihilism is bad – I think they are both good, in the contexts of the works created, and perhaps it is irrelevant to say that the philosophies merely get in the way! But, there is a branching: what begins as a “one-to-one” of landscape/psychology, develops into “landscape/philosophy”. But, in rare works – and, perhaps, of these “Out of the Silent Planet” is the greatest – there is no branching, there is the sustained and visionary and passionate one-to-one of a landscape, and a human soul.

Or, rather, “hnau”! because Lewis is not fool enough to say that souls belong to humans alone. There are “hnau”, and Lewis’s intriguing, and sometimes agonizing, theories of animals-and-pain-and-souls, is ventured upon, the probing stage of “Out of the Silent Planet” is set.

And always the sustained, brimming, untrammelled truth of the landscape: the disciplined wildness of the author:-

“The silent, purple half light of the woods spread all around him as it had spread on the first day he spent in Malacandra, but everything else was changed. He looked back on that time as on a nightmare, as on his own mood at that time as a sort of sickness. Then all had been whimpering, unanalysed, self-nourishing, self-consuming dismay. Now, in the clear light of an accepted duty, he felt fear indeed, but with it a sober sense of confidence in himself and in the world, and even an element of pleasure . . .”

The three races – the Hrossa, the Sorn, and the pfifltriggi – in some way represent the three aspects of man: the poetic, the philosophic, and the practical. But of course – as befits a wild Irishman with an oversized brain – the distinctions are blurred. The Sorn is the most poetic in the end, during the passage upon the very rim of the harandra, the edge of the world; the Hrossa is the most practical, with the capture of Weston and Devine; and the pfifltriggi are portrayed as cute, in that way C.S.Lewis has of portraying such with dignity, as he has the way with the bacchanalia with intellectuality – the latter set out in the extraordinary romp in chapter eleven of “Prince Caspian”.

The domains of the handrammit are the cosy climes – but also the climes that are technologically achieved. The almost Lovecraftian sequence, when the building and excavating of the sheltered lands are revealed, is surely the most poignant in Lewis’s works – only deduced and accepted by the man, as he withdraws from the doomed planet, in the – (possibly) – doomed spacecraft of Professor Weston.

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Sep 12, 2022
Hressa-Hlab, Hlab-Eribol-ef-Cordi, Old Solar, and a nonexistent lexicon
by: darkwater4213

As anyone who has attempted to locate a full lexicon for the aforementioned languages knows...
There is none. None that is of any practical use, at any rate. FrathWiki (a site dedicated solely to the cataloguing and preserving conlangs -- fictional and/or artificially constructed languages) houses the most comprehensive lexicon for this language (they are, as far as I am aware, distinct dialects of one language). As anyone who cares to visit it will find, it is painfully small. The minuscule taste of the way the language rolls off the tongue in such a pleasing manner was simply too little. If it has yet to become clear: I want a comprehensive lexicon and grammar for hressa-hlab.

By the way: I'm darkwater4213! I don't have an account yet, but I stumbled upon this fascinating little corner of the internet not long ago and have spent several happy hours browsing through it. I am no philologist (much less a scholar of languages) but I still enjoy the feel of a language that has been crafted by an expert. As you can guess, I'm a big fantasy and Sci-Fi fan. I have yet to complete my first read-through of Asimov's works (which is a sort of initiation ritual as far as I can gather) but have read many of Tolkien and Lewis's works multiple times. That should count for something, right?

I should get on with it. Obviously, I'm not very familiar with the way this site operates, but I would really like to work with someone to continue Lewis's work on a cosmic language. Or not. But I would like a lexicon :)

Quite the diversion. Now for the article. It was quite well-thought out and I rather enjoyed it. That being said, I think (and this is largely a matter of opinion) that the author's offhand dismissal of the allegorical elements of the Space Trilogy seems a bit uncalled-for. I, for one, quite enjoyed the allegorical aspect of the first two books in the Space Trilogy. It presented many theological concepts largely considered extremely difficult to comprehend in a surprisingly digestible, readable format. Perhaps the plot is left wanting somewhat from the faint sense that this plot is a repeat (though I cannot imagine what of). Perhaps it was written to be reminiscent of the old Robert Louis Stevenson adventure stories; essentially the literary equivalent of an action film. That is, in that the plot is not so paramount as the points contained within. I should probably sign off at this point, seeing as how this has turned into my own criticism of Lewis's epic rather than a review of an article about said epic. My spelling's needing ever more correction is another indication. :){Don't worry - I've dealt with that. Z}

Comment from Zendexor:

Many thanks for this, Darkwater4213! Your ref to FrathWiki is one fascinating eye-opener. I also very much like your attachment to the idea of expanding upon the meagre clues left by CSL concerning the Old Solar tongue. It reminds me of the urge I had to work out more of the dates in various sf future histories. It's all to do with filling in gaps and filling out structures and, in general, further enriching the riches available. Whether or not you manage to find a collaborator in your philological enterprise, I suggest as a technique that of the "implicizer", a sort of mental machine which I outline elsewhere on the site - see the references in the Themes page for the links you can follow up.

It's not often that I can find anything to complain about in CSL's masterful trilogy, but one point which stretches my credulity a bit too far is the expedient of turning the speech of the hross in volume 1 into the Ursprache of the entire System in volumes 2 and 3. I accept it, as I tend to accept everything when I'm under the spell of a great writer, but in this case it's somewhat of a strain.

Aug 26, 2016
Welcome to the System!
by: Dylan

Blessings are falling from me onto your wonderful personage, Antolin!

Welcome to the site, it certainly is busy these days!

What a well-written and thoughtful review; this concept of the one-to-one is especially interesting. You are postulating, I think, that the way we percieve Malacandra changes to reflect the way Ransom grows as the story goes on?

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