The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis

The Front Cover illustration by Stephen Lavis

I honestly struggled to read C. S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” back in the ’90s. His writing was very trying since it was verbose and not succinct. When my sister bought this book back (from England), I hesitated to pick it up. How exciting could this be? I guess I was really bored at that time because I eventually read the book. Mind you, this is the last book of the Narnia series; so I came into it with absolutely no background story, no build up of themes, and no knowledge of the Narnia world. 

Fortunately, the first chapter of the book was targeted for new readers to the series. This was a good move as it allowed me to enter into Narnia through the interaction between two characters – the ape and the donkey. I was intrigued by the pacing – it was faster than what I expected.  Pauline Baynes’ illustration for the inside of the book helped tremendously. Although unfamiliar with the backstory, I quickly turned page after page, as the theme of confusion and growing darkness built. It was not until I came to the turning point of the book, when the Lion finally appeared, that I realised the Christian connection. 

Back Painted Cover

I highly recommend reading this book. In fact, after reading the whole series (because of this stellar book) my favourite is still “The Last Battle”. The theme of the book matches the theme of the Bible – what we call the apocalyptic theme. Even if you are not a Christian, there is the striking parallel with today’s events – of rising conflict which are caused by differences in beliefs. I particularly liked the role of a particular group (I will not name them here) who chooses the “middle-ground”, only to become another player in the violent conflict! 

A note of caution though: there are certainly some Christian doctrines conveyed in the book, however, some are entirely Lewis’ own interpretation and belief – that is not orthodox or evangelical. Let that be the only caution I put on a book that is commonly categorised under “Christian Fiction – for Children”. The snippet that I truly remember, and often used to illustrate, to others:

“Aslan,” said Lucy through her tears, “could you – will you – do something for these poor Dwarfs?”

“Dearest,” said Aslan, “I will show you both what I can, and what I cannot, do.” He came close to the Dwarfs and gave a low growl: low, but it set all the air shaking. But the Dwarfs said to one another, “Hear that? That’s the gang at the other end of the stable. Trying to frighten us. They do it with a machine of some kind. Don’t take any notice. They won’t take us in again!”

Aslan raised his head and shook his mane. Instantly a glorious feast appeared on the Dwarfs’ knees: pies and tongues and pigeons and trifles and ices, and each Dwarf had a goblet of good wine in his right hand. But it wasn’t much use. They began eating and drinking greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn’t taste it properly. They thought they were eating and drinking only the sort of things you might find in a stable. One said he was trying to eat hay and another said he had got a bit of an old turnip and a third said he’d found a raw cabbage leaf. And they raised golden goblets of rich red wine to their lips and said “Ugh! Fancy drinking dirty water out of a trough that a donkey’s been at! Never thought we’d come to this.” But very soon every Dwarf began suspecting that every other Dwarf had found something nicer than he had, and they started grabbing and snatching, and went on to quarreling, till in a few minutes there was a free fight and all the good food was smeared on their faces and clothes or trodden under foot. But when at last they sat down to nurse their black eyes and their bleeding noses, they all said:

“Well, at any rate there’s no Humbug here. We haven’t let anyone take us in. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.”

“You see,” said Aslan. “They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.”

Chapter 13, pages 140-141, from the 8th Impression printed in 1983

The dwarfs portrayed here is frightfully similar to many today. 

You SHOULD buy this book if you have never tried the Narnia Series, or you need a book to help a teenager ‘grow up’ and think of ‘greater life issues’. On Bookdepository (where you get FREE shipping), it is listed for around RM30… this is much CHEAPER than many local bookshops in Malaysia. 

I prefer the 1983 cover, which I posted above. Lovely painted cover.

Hope you enjoy the book! I give it an 8.5/10.

KONFESI PREBET ADAM: “Malam Sial Untuk Adam, Membunuh, Dibunuh Atau Mampus Bunuh Diri” – A Review

Private Adam Front Cover

Even though Dubook Press publishes an English version of this book, I preferred reading it in the original Malay language. Mind you that this book is about the confession of Private Adam, who was forgotten and left to rot in his past. One can be too harsh to call focus on the wrongs he had done: taking out of his camp a fully loaded M-16 machine-gun and running amok in the bustling city of Kuala Lumpur in the 80’s. We can forget that Adam was a victim of mental illness. He had a traumatic experience that unfortunately pushed him over – past what a normal person would be able to endure. He lost control over his emotions and his actions. What he did was wrong, but this book seeks to give us the ‘context’ of that incident. 

Adam Bin Jaafar is a Penangnite, born in 1964. He is a Malaysian born in hardship and with the trauma of losing his younger sister in a horrible fire early in his years. The writer, Syahril A.Kadir, writes it in the first person narrative, and faithfully sets the reader as the invisible audience to an old man’s recollection of his past. You could almost imagine sitting with Syahril as he interviews Adam, hearing the pauses, the shame and the tears of this retired soldier. 

This simple book sets out in chronology the events that lead to Malaysia’s horrible shoot-out in its main city of Kuala Lumpur and the aftermath for the man who lost his mind. As a short digression, I can actually remember the events as a small boy of 8 (Primary Two) because of the news coverage given on TV and on newspaper! I knew something had happened in Kuala Lumpur but was not sure what it was.

Honestly, this is a depressing look at the reality of life in Malaysia; 30+ years and not much has changed. There are certainly many talking points from this book. The army ragging described is one such controversy. It is a tradition that does not seem to die, even though it has been made illegal within the military system. Just a few months before reading this book, I actually met a soldier-in-training from (***hidden for privacy sake***) who actually faced similar ragging – which was so severe that the case was brought up to the higher-ups. My high school friends who attended a ‘military-type’ school also shared similar experiences. This is a form of ‘bullying’. Many excuse such form of bullying as a type of ‘initiation’ or ‘toughening’ activity. Frankly, these are poor excuses that are put forth by sick characters who enjoy perverted pleasure in the hurt and pain of others.

The other thing that truly pained me in reading is Adam’s ‘recovery’. One would argue that he did not recover because he ended up a drug-user and homeless. This 50+ year old man looks older than his age, weak and without much hope for the future. He lost everything that he had, and he remains lost. Our healthcare did not help him; in fact, one could argue that it made his condition worse!

I would commend all to read, especially those who are maturing and need a healthy dose of reality in their life. Be mindful that there are ‘adult words and subject matter’ that are discussed. The bullying received is graphically described. Be warned. But we must not just read and enjoy the ‘confession’. There is much to discuss for us in the 21st century Malaysia Baru. I wish Private Adam bin Jaafar well, and hope through this little contribution he has made, his life is slowly steering to the right path.

The book can be obtained from https://dubookpress.com/produk/konfesi-prebet-adam/ at the price of RM30. I think they have gone through a few printing editions since the cover is different from mine.

Private Adam Back Cover