Surprised By Joy

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Lewis’ purpose in writing was not primarily historical. His aim was instead to identify and describe the events surrounding his accidental discovery of and consequent search for the phenomenon he labelled “Joy”, his best translation of the idea of Sehnsucht (German: longing). This Joy was so intense for something so good and so high up it could not be explained with words. He is struck with “stabs of joy” throughout his life.

The book overall contains less detail concerning specific events than a typical autobiography, although it is not devoid of information about his life. Lewis recounts and remembers his early years with a measure of amusement sometimes mixed with pain. However, while he does describe his life, the principal theme of the book is Joy as he defined it for his own purpose.

Lewis ultimately discovers the true nature and purpose of Joy and its place in his own life. The book’s last two chapters cover the end of his search as he makes the leap from atheism to theism and then from theism to Christianity.

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