Daily Trivia : Aldous Huxley and Brave New World

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Aldous Huxley was born on 26th July, 1894, in Godalming, England. Huxley completed his first (unpublished) novel at the age of 17 and began writing seriously in his early 20s.

He spent much of his time in Italy until the late 1930s, when he settled in California. He established himself as a major author with his first two published novels,  CromeYellow and Antic Hay.

But it is for Brave New World that he is most remembered today. Published in 1932, Brave New World arose out of Huxley’s distrust of 20th-century politics and technology.

He started out intending to write a parody of H.G. Wells’ utopian novel 
Men Like Gods (1923). He ended by envisioning a future where society functions like one of Henry Ford’s assembly lines: a mass-produced culture in which people are fed a steady diet of bland amusements and take an antidepressant called soma to keep themselves from feeling anything negative.

Brave New World is often compared with George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1948), since they each offer a view of a dystopian future. Cultural critic Neil Postman spelled out the difference between the two books as follows:

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.”

“Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism.”

“Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.”

“Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture. … In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.”

Sources:

Writers Almanac
Wikipedia
Biography.com

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On Language : Aldous Huxley

“What a gulf between impression and expression! That’s our ironic fate—to have Shakespearean feelings and (unless by some billion-to-one chance we happen to be Shakespeare) to talk about them like automobile salesmen or teen-agers or college professors. We practice alchemy in reverse—touch gold and it turns into lead; touch the pure lyrics of experience, and they turn into the verbal equivalents of tripe and hogwash.”

Flashback Friday : Island by Aldous Huxley

flash back friday

Flashback Friday is a meme hosted by Bookshelf fantasies  focusing on showing some love for the older books in our lives and on our shelves. 

My pick for this week is Aldous Huxley’s Island. The synopsis goes somewhat like this:

In Island, his last novel, Huxley transports us to a Pacific island where, for 120 years, an ideal society has flourished. Inevitably, this island of bliss attracts the envy and enmity of the surrounding world.

A conspiracy is underway to take over Pala and events begin to move when an agent of the conspirators, a newspaperman named Will Faranby, is shipwrecked there. What Faranby doesn’t expect is how his time with the people of Pala will revolutionize all his values and — to his amazement — give him hope.

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I must have been eighteen when I read this book. It got under my skin the way all good books do. It stayed with me long after I read it and I drew me back to it again and again. Island is a novel, but it is so much more than that. It is a book of ideas… about living and it grabs you and makes you think.

The story is set on a fictitious island called Pala. This is a place that is largely cut off from the rest of the world. The remarkable thing about this island, is that it is, quite literally, a happy place.
Pala is a country whose government, economy and society are all organised in way that promotes maximum human happiness. This was Huxley’s vision of a Utopia and unlike other such visions, it isn’t filled with irritatingly idealistic folks, but with real people with real problems.

It is not a utopia because it is a place without problems. It is a place where people have learnt to deal with their vices and their unhappiness in a rational manner. The basis of their lives is Buddhist, but they are not steeped in religion, nor do they follow it slavishly.

They believe in paying attention to life and living it moment to moment, accepting both the good and the bad and and not  yearning for something they cannot have. Given the circumstances of their lives, they try to be as happy as possible.

Will Farnanby, the protagonist, is a journalist, hardened by his experience of life. He finds himself shipwrecked on Pala after an accident. He’s injured and he has to stay on the island for a couple of weeks as he slowly gets better. He meets a few people and talks to them and begins to get to know their way of life which is unlike anything he has ever seen before.

He begins by being skeptical, but he’s open minded enough to observe and listen to what the people of the Pala tell him about their way of life and their beliefs and much to his surprise, he finds himself thinking that this way of life could actually work and that human beings are maybe, not so bad after all.

This is a book that is a bit heavy on ideas and philosophy and there are times when you have one character talking for nearly three pages. But the ideas are so unique and interesting that I didn’t mind at all.

I’ve read this book many times over and it continues to amaze me. It has a wisdom and a breadth of vision that is incomparable.