The Screwtape Letters

by C. S. Lewis

Paper Book, 2001



Call number



HarperOne (2001), Edition Reprint, Paperback, 209 pages, 2001.


In this humorous and perceptive exchange between two devils, Lewis delves into moral questions about good vs. evil, temptation, repentance, and grace.--From publisher description.

Media reviews

Biblion recensie via
Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963), hoogleraar literatuurgeschiedenis, schrijver van kinderboeken (de Narnia-verhalen) en apologeet van het christelijk geloof, heeft grote naam gemaakt met zijn 'Brieven uit de hel', waarin oom Schroeflik tegenover zijn neef de waarheden van het christelijk geloof omdraait en ze beschrijft als belemmeringen voor inlijving in het rijk van de duivel. Op paradoxale wijze en in een stijl die nog niets van zijn levendigheid heeft verloren, wordt hier een klassiek geworden apologie van het christelijk geloof gegeven. Toegevoegd is 'Schroeflik heft het glas'. Het nawoord en de aantekeningen zijn van de vertaler. De laatste vertaling dateerde uit 1947; deze vertaling is uit 2002 en sluit dus beter aan bij het hedendaagse taalgebruik. Paperback; normale druk.


User reviews

LibraryThing member ncgraham
I am not being facetious when I say that The Screwtape Letters is like nothing I have ever read before. Even for Lewis, who, after all, wrote everything from literary criticism to sci-fi, from practical theology to children’s fiction, this is a unique and fascinating achievement. The book exists in the form of a series of letters by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, the novice Wormwood. These letters are filled primarily with advice as to how to tempt Wormwood’s “patient,” how to keep him from eternal salvation and instead seal him unto eternal damnation. For Lewis as well as myself, the spiritual matters dealt with in these letters are very real, but he uses the fictional framework of Screwtape and Wormwood’s correspondence in order to explore them. That’s where the book becomes difficult to classify: Is it fiction or nonfiction? Fantastical or practical? Serious or a farce? At times, it’s hard to tell.

Although I would probably identify right living in the light of eternal judgment the major theme, it is really incredible the number of topics Lewis touches on over the course of the Letters. I wrote a heading for each letter as I read, and ended up with such varying titles as “Jargon,” “Church/New Believers,” “Family,” “Prayer,” “War,” “Extremism/Fear of the Future,” “The Demons’ Existence,” “Undulations,” “Exploring Troughs,” “Worldly Friends,” “Laughter,” “Falling Away,” “Real & Redemptive Pleasures,” “Humility,” “Time,” “Church-[S]hopping,” “Gluttony,” “Eros,” “The [Un]reality of Love,” “Desire & Temptation,” “Time & Ownership,” “Love, Noise, & Centipedes,” “Corrupting Christianity,” “Spiritual Pride,” “The Same Old Thing,” “Marital ‘Unselfishness,’” “Piety & Perception,” “Persevering,” “Fear, Hate, & Despair,” “Fatigue & Reality,” and “Final Destinations.” I do not list all of these to show off or to boost the word count of my review (though the latter is, I admit, a strong temptation), but merely to show how much is here. Because of Screwtape’s complexity and diversity, it makes for a very good group read. That was how I read it this summer, and I was continually astonished at how many great insights the varied perspectives brought to the table.

These would be impossible, of course, without Lewis’ own insights, which are often mind-boggling and convicting. I found that the chapter on “Prayer” in particular haunted and pursued me, making me think harder about how I pray. For the most part I agree with what he has to say—unfortunately the exception to this is an assumption that underpins a great deal of The Screwtape Lettters: the idea that, once a Christian, you can lose your salvation. This has been an underpinning of the Anglican Church since the get-go, but this concept simply isn’t scriptural (2 Corinthians 1:21, John 10:28, John 6:39, 2 Timothy 2:19) and cheapens the power of God’s saving grace. I do not believe in throwing the baby out with the bathwater, however, and after noting this discrepancy, I calmly proceeded and gleaned all I could from the rest—which was, I repeat, a not inconsiderable amount.

Along with the insights, the humor was great throughout. You know a book is going to be good when it begins with a disclaimer like, “I have no intention of explaining how the correspondence which I now offer to the public fell into my hands.” Oh, Jack, you were a funny one, weren’t you?

The thing that surprises me most about this book is the fact that a large number of atheists and agnostics seem to have read and enjoyed it, judging from various online reviews. In a way this makes me glad, for it shows Lewis’ relevance and how, to quote The Washington Post, “he seems to speak to people where they are.” Yet, looking over said reviews, I cannot help but wonder if they’re missing the point. Screwtape (and, by extension, Lewis) says multiple times throughout Letters that the issue is not the individual sins, but where we are ultimately going. I am glad if, in reading this, it helps others become “better people,” but in the great scheme of things this is not purpose or message. Take it, leave it, but don’t misrepresent it.

In closing, I will mention that certain editions feature an essay following the letters entitled “Screwtape Proposes a Toast.” I had heard other Lewis fans make a great to-do about whether this was included or not, but while it contained some interesting thoughts on education, I didn’t find it to be anything special. Anyway, the Letters have such a great ending already that it seems a shame to add anything to them: they make such a perfect whole as is.

Highly recommended to all who are attuned to its message.
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LibraryThing member Januraqua
what a reflection! shows how easily we are manipulated into wrongdoing.
LibraryThing member MarieFriesen
Who among us has never wondered if there might not really be a tempter sitting on our shoulders or dogging our steps? C.S. Lewis dispels all doubts. In The Screwtape Letters, one of his bestselling works, we are made privy to the instructional correspondence between a senior demon, Screwtape, and his wannabe diabolical nephew Wormwood. As mentor, Screwtape coaches Wormwood in the finer points, tempting his "patient" away from God.
Each letter is a masterpiece of reverse theology, giving the reader an inside look at the thinking and means of temptation. Tempters, according to Lewis, have two motives: the first is fear of punishment, the second a hunger to consume or dominate other beings. On the other hand, the goal of the Creator is to woo us unto himself or to transform us through his love from "tools into servants and servants into sons." It is the dichotomy between being consumed and subsumed completely into another's identity or being liberated to be utterly ourselves that Lewis explores with his razor-sharp insight and wit.
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LibraryThing member ex_ottoyuhr
Excellent spiritual advice, memorable writing (sometimes extremely funny in a thoroughly deadpan way), and Calvin's first-grade teacher. I would say that the only problem with this book is that it isn't longer, but that would be a reflex -- it's diminuitive, at 209 pages of liberally-spaced type, but in that small space it does everything that it wants to, and then some. A masterpiece even by Lewis' standards.… (more)
LibraryThing member tronella
A though-provoking book if ever there was one. CS Lewis's books are always interesting to me, because although they're written from a Christian point of view (er, 'although' because I'm agnostic, not because Christian implies bad or anything!), Lewis was a relatively late convert and so tends to write from a viewpoint that I can relate to. Books on religion written by those people who were brought up in that religion tend to seem a little... not biased, exactly... but like they assume you already know what they're talking about, if that makes sense? Plus it also means that a lot of his things are true from the point of view of any religion, or even from an ethical/moral viewpoint with no religious connections at all. Well, in my opinion, anyway.

And the humourous style of this book just makes his points all the clearer. Screwtape's insistence that it is impossible that love does not require some ulterior motive... well, that gave me a lot of things to think about, anyway.

If you like thinking about religion and morality and so on, as I seem to spend a lot of time doing these days, I recommend this, as well as The Problem Of Pain (by the same author) as good for that purpose :)
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LibraryThing member Zathras86
A thoroughly enjoyable read even for the non-Christian. The Screwtape Letters provide an insightful look at the human tendency to undermine ourselves morally and psychologically. Lewis describes clearly, in plain understandable terms, all the little ways in which we justify and hide our own inadequacies, making ourselves ever more unhappy even in the pursuit of happiness. The book is food for thought even if you don't agree with all the Christian dogma - whether the goal is the salvation of an immortal soul or the attainment of a truly happy and balanced life here on earth, the details are ultimately much the same. What I took away from the book was the idea that no human impulse is inherently good or bad, but each can be shaped by circumstance or will into one or the other. By achieving a clearer awareness of ourselves, and openly acknowledging both our weaknesses and strengths, we are better people for it than if we merely try to smother our weaknesses and pretend to strengths we do not have.

I suspect I will return to this book in the future when I need to put life in perspective. Lewis's argument that human beings are ultimately a good bunch and that it is indeed possible to stop screwing yourself over is reassuringly convincing.
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LibraryThing member njones2010
I enjoyed reading this book, especially because it took on such a different view of Christianity. CS Lewis does a great job at really contrasting God and the Devil. In church I have come to hear God referenced as 'Our Heavenly Father' and the devil as 'The enemy.'. This book shows it from the point of view where God has now become the enemy. I had never thought about in that way before. Just as God desires for humans to resist the temptations and sins given by demons, the demons desire for humans to cling to this temptation.
While God is viewed as one who cares about others, the devil is one that only cares about himself. He feels that God has an alternate plan that he has not disclosed and the devil wants to find out what it is. He doesn't believe in hope or even love, only sin, desire, and selfishness.
I felt that this was a really good book to read for someone who feels strong in their beliefs and can really take the time to analyze and think about this book.
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LibraryThing member ben_a
One of the great works of moral instruction of the past, or any century. Lewis' fame as an explicitly Christian apologist, has led to him being tremendously neglected as a moralist. He understands how our vices from ourselves, how easily we can be swept up in selfishness and pride ourselves on the flimsiest virtues. If you are reading this book honestly, you will at times find it very painful. It is also often very funny.

Highly recommended, perhaps even more so for non-Christians (like myself).


"In the heat of composition I find that I have inadvertently allowed myself to assume the form of a large centipede."
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LibraryThing member CATCubano
This book was very creatively done. It is a humorous read from a devil's point of view. Not only that, but it has a way of making you stop and realize when you are exhibiting some of the traits / actions / vices that the senior devil (Screwtape) is describing to the junior devil / tempter (Wormwood). A terrific read, though the style of English used in the letters slowed me down a little bit.… (more)
LibraryThing member AlexTheHunn
Lewis adopts the old epistlatory technique to serve his ends of Christian apology, and with delightful results. Whether or not one accepts and agrees with Lewis's theology, his style and method win the reader's approbation.
Screwtape is a senior demon in Hell writing advice to his protege on the front lines here on Earth. As Lewis himself remarked, once one hits upon the concept, the execution is fairly easy. Simply take standard moral advice and turn them inside out, upside down, or backwards.… (more)
LibraryThing member MickyFine
In a series of letters to his nephew, Wormwood, the demon Screwtape provides advice to his nephew on how to tempt an unnamed human and separate him from the Enemy that is God.

An interesting approach that is both a good read and prompts some serious thought on any believer's relationship with God.… (more)
LibraryThing member Ameliaiif
READING THIS FOR MY C.S. LEWIS CLASS!!OMG this is my favorite CS Lewis book of all-time!!! *fangirly time*Seriously, this book is incredible, eye-opening, memorable, a little creepy, and very insightful! If you like CS Lewis, or are interested in reading some of his more "grown-up" books, please please give this one a shot! I promise you, you'll never read anything else like it again.… (more)
LibraryThing member Arctic-Stranger
Or, How To Drive the Living Hell Out of Thoughtful Christians. As a moral theologian, this is Lewis at his absolute best. Unlike his other more theological works, here he gets to mix in fiction and fantasy with his musings, and he does so wonderfully.

The "plot," as you probably know, is the temptation of a man by a Junior temptor who is given advice by his uncle and senior, Screwtape. Lewis lays bare many traps of modern thinking as well as the traps of ancient moral spirituality. (The Seven Deadly Sins were once the Eight Deadly Ideas, the point being that it is our thinking that gets in our way.)… (more)
LibraryThing member jarlalex
A series of correspondence from the lowerarchy in Hell, where a high-ranking bureaucrat provides advice to his rookie nephew. Lewis argues that it is not the "big" sins that get us in trouble, but the compilation of little ones.
LibraryThing member Kristelh
The Screwtape Letters was written by C.S.Lewis in 1942 with WW2 as the backdrop. This is a series of letters (epistolary style literary work) written by Screwtape to his young nephew, Wormwood, advising him on how to secure the soul of 'the patient'. It also contained the sequel, Screwtape Proposes a Toast in which Screwtape addressed the graduating class of tempters. This was published in 1959 and addresses the politics of the post war world. C.S.Lewis uses this satirical format to address the Christian life. Many of the chapters discuss love. Letter 19 addresses God's love for humanity. Letter 26 addresses courtship. I also very much enjoyed the letters on time, reality, music and noise. There is so much in this little book that rereading it many times would not exhaust the nuggets of truth.… (more)
LibraryThing member brewergirl
A very clever way to look at Christianity. What kinds of things or attitudes would a devil look for in you that would help him to tempt you? Each letter is a quick read but very thought-provoking ... and humorous!
LibraryThing member SugarPlumFairy
It was while reading The Screwtape Letters that I recognized my need for Christ in my life. I will be forever grateful to Mr. Lewis for his obedience to God in using his gifts for God's purposes.
LibraryThing member rybeewoods
Fun, easy to read, and classic Lewis. Helps give great insight into the devil that sits on your right shoulder whispering bad things for you to do.
LibraryThing member chosler
Perhaps better termed fictional essays than fiction, Lewis nonetheless tells a story of a man's awakening to Christianity, temptation, and final redemption through the literary device of letters of advice from a senior devil to the novice devil assigned to achieve the man's damnation. The author employs a dry sense of humor in Screwtape's correspondence to satirize the follies of contemporary English living, especially religious factions, philosophy of history, and, in "Screwtape Proposes a Toast," what Lewis considers to be a suppression of "great men" in everyday civic life and especially in the educational system. Non-explicit, theological discussions of sexuality; a brief scene of evisceration witnessed by the human during bomb raids on London during World War II.… (more)
LibraryThing member aratiel
While some of the theological arguments were a little above my head (not being a scholar of Christianity like C.S. Lewis), I found this to be an interesting and fairly quick read. And, though some of the discussions didn't quite click with me, some were immediately understandable, some so much that I wondered if I myself was being quietly seduced by some devilish spectre bent on leading me down the road to Hell. The bits about complacency and lethargy in particular were shockingly familiar. Quote, Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood: " will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his [the patient's] wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday's paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversations he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods." That certainly sounds like me... A short piece at the end called "Screwtape Proposes a Toast" also makes some relevant comments about the modern educational system, and how good students are no longer rewarded but held back, while poor students are coddled so that they do not feel "inferior." This is what Lewis calls I'm as good as you, a diabolical scheme to make the whole world aspire to mediocrity.… (more)
LibraryThing member Sonkissed
A am slightly embarrassed to admit I did not finish this book. I read it before essays and what I like to call 'intellectual fiction' were interesting to me, so I never finished it. I plan on getting back to it... but if you don't like to read essays, it will most likely bore you.
LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
CS Lewis has a way of pinpointing exactly where our most pressing dangers are - especially when we are trying to be "good".
LibraryThing member michcall
Insightful and revealing. I learned so much about myself. A most read for all Christians
LibraryThing member lpappas
The Screwtape Letters is a collection of letters from Screwtape, an experienced, senior level demon, to his nephew, Wormwood, on how to tempt his 'patient' away from God. Each of Screwtape's letters offers advice to his nephew on the using the human mind and logic to turn his patient to "Our Father Below". All of the letters analyze the actions and thoughts of humans. Screwtape is the master of reverse theology; however, he doesn't have much patience.

This novel connects to our theme because it shows the journey the patient is going thorough as Wormwood tries to destroy his Christianity. In the background of the correspondence between Screwtape and Wormwood, there is the saga of one man’s spiritual battle. He is attempting to find God while dealing with the many temptations presented by Wormwood. His search for himself is the main focus of the two main characters.

Overall, The Screwtape Letters was a good book. It presented many interesting ideas and made me think about my own actions and the motivations behind them. However, I found it tended to slow down and drag on at certain points. If you want to see a different perspective on spiritual struggles, then I would recommend this book.
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LibraryThing member afderrick
A good book that I would suggest to anyone. The premise of the book is a set of letters that Screwtape (a demon in the administrative department of hell) is writing to his nephew Wormwood (who is a demon new to the tempting job). At first the introduction of it made me wonder exactly how Lewis wrote these letters since it made me think that he did not write them himself at all but instead derived them from some outside source, this was not the case though. The letters were great to read and touched on every small aspect of temptations and the Christian life. There were many times I could see how these things have played themselves out in my life and made me want to re-evaluate many things. Along with the book being an easy read while still personally challenging it had many quotable quotes found within the pages. About every other letter there would be one line that would just jump out at me. Looking back I wish I had of written each of these down since they encapsulated the major points in the book to me at least. For instance, one set of advice Screwtape gave was "do not allow your patient (which was how they talked about the man to whom Wormwood was assigned) to pray in a fashion of not to who I think you are but to who you know you are". That's very fuzzy and I cannot quite get my words down in the way I would want them to be said.

Secondly on the second part of the book, Screwtape proposes a toast, this was written several years after the letters and was included in the book I have. It was short, only a few pages long in the edition I have, but if I skipped it I do not feel as though I would have lost any value in reading the book. So if you do read this book and you are tired at that point, I would recommend not reading that part simply because I did not see much value in it and found that Lewis was trying very hard just to get something out on paper.

Lastly in the way it was written, you will know that it was written in an old British proper language, but this did not hinder my ability into being able to read and understand the book
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Original publication date

1959 (Screwtape Proposes a Toast)
1942 (The Screwtape Letters)


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