Daily Trivia : Aldous Huxley and Brave New World


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 Huxley completed his first (unpublished) novel at the age of 17 and began writing seriously in his early 20s.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.”


Writers Almanac


Daily Trivia: George Orwell

George Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair in Bengal, India (1903). He didn’t care for his birth name; he found “Eric” too Norse and “Blair” too Scottish. When he began writing in earnest, he adopted what he felt was a solidly English name; his surname comes from the River Orwell in East Anglia.

His father was a British civil servant, and the family was, in Orwell’s words, “upper lower middle class”; nevertheless, the boy went to several exclusive boarding schools, including Eton, on a scholarship. He didn’t enjoy the experience, feeling alienated from his well-to-do classmates, and chose not to go on to Oxford or Cambridge.

He became a military policeman instead, serving in Burma, where he came to hate imperialism, totalitarianism, and the class system. He returned to England a literary and political rebel. He called himself an anarchist for many years, and later a socialist who was nonetheless critical of the existing socialist movement.

He’s most famous for his anti-communist and dystopian novels Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), but he was also a master of literary nonfiction, using deceptively straightforward prose to describe moments of personal insight. His 1931 essay “A Hanging” describes his role in the execution of a prisoner in Burma:

Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) was a retelling of time he spent among the poor in England and Europe; The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) was both a pro- and anti-socialist look at unemployed miners in the north of England. His posthumously published essay “Such, Such Were the Joys …” (1952) recalled his boarding school days and the classism he encountered there.

He also wrote an essay decrying the abuse of language by politicians and the media, called “Politics and the English Language” (1946). In it, he includes five rules for effective written communication:

   (i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
   (ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.
   (iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
   (iv) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
   (v) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.