Thursday, 8 May 2008

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

Brave New World is a wonderful book and my latest visit was long overdue. This is a novel of ideas that Huxley later realised was, perhaps, simplistic. It’s overall thesis certainly seems to present a stark choice between two states of social existence. Yet it is more subtle than that and it makes effective and sophisticated arguments, most often when it stops being about ideas and concentrates on the individuals in the story. The moment, for example, when John finds a momentary peace is both touching and instructive. Wisely, Huxley chose to leave it alone.

Like Orwell’s later Nineteen-Eighty Four this is a dystopian novel. Unlike Orwell’s grim vision, Huxley saw a bright, well-managed and relentlessly jolly future maintained by carefully managed eugenics. The visions are equally frightening. However, where Orwell was warning us, Huxley was exploring an idea which, to him, seemed to have merit. Yet it is a strength of the novel that he is able to find as much fault with his own view as he did with the one he saw standing in opposition.

As a classic, of course, it is ‘one of those books that everybody should read’. So please don’t be put off by that. The story is simple, necessarily so, but powerfully told. The language is simple, yet manages to convey complex ideas. And when Huxley forgets about expounding ideas, it offers some startling and unforgettable imagery.