The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is a classic masterpiece of religious satire that entertains readers with its sly and ironic portrayal of human life and foibles from the vantage point of Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to “Our Father Below.” At once wildly comic, deadly serious, and strikingly original, C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters is the most engaging account of temptation—and triumph over it—ever written.
This adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s biting satire received a 1999 Grammy nomination for best spoken-word performance, and it’s easy to see why–the story fits the format perfectly. It’s relatively brief (the unabridged reading takes a mere four hours), and contains only one character–the demon Screwtape, who writes letters to his novice nephew Wormwood, instructing him on how to best tempt his “patient” (a wayward soul on earth) into the bosom of “our Lord below.”
Obviously, the book wasn’t written with former Monty Python John Cleese in mind, but it’s hard to imagine a better Screwtape. Cleese’s voice provides the perfect vehicle for Lewis’s dry, razor-edged wit. His uncanny comic timing and ability to milk each phrase for maximum effect betray an infectious enthusiasm for the story. It’s clear that he’s having a great time reading, and it’s impossible not to laugh along with him. This inspired pairing of two of the 20th century’s greatest wits makes for a meditation on the dark side of spiritual guidance that’s as relevant and funny today as it was in Lewis’s war-torn England. (Running time: 4 hours, 3 cassettes) —Andrew Neiland