Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (4/81)

Category: Dystopia
(would also fit 1001 Books to Read Before You Die category if I need to overlap)

I dropped another category before the challenge began in favour of the Dystopia category after reading “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro. I realised that I am fascinated by these visions of the future and whilst I’d read 1984 and A Clockwork Orange, there were still some classics of the genre that I had shamefully never read. The most obvious example being “Brave New World”, which I was determined to read this year.

I’ve no idea why it has taken me so long to get around to reading “Brave New World”. Perhaps it was just never in stock in the library! I suspect I might have felt a little bit daunted by it too. I think I had in my mind that it was going to be a challenging read. This misconception was blown away within a few pages. It is actually an incredibly easy read in terms of the language used and the accessibility of the plot, but that is not to say that it is a light read as Huxley’s novel provides much food for thought.

Before reading it, I didn’t actually know what the future society in the book was like and again I was surprised to find that it wasn’t portrayed as entirely bleak. Rather than a totalitarian state oppressing the masses, the society could be seen as a utopia. Unhappiness, loneliness, old age and disease do not exist, everyone knows their place in society and is happy with their lot. Unfortunately certain things have been sacrificed to achieve this, namely God, the family, individuality and creativity. The question is raised as to whether “happiness” is the highest goal man can achieve, and the happiness portrayed here is a hollow state, reached through a combination of chemicals, meaningless sexual encounters and rabid consumerism. The portrayal of this “ideal” society where all of our accepted morals and foundations of society (religion, parenthood, marriage, monogamy and nature) are considered “savage” and their opposites held as civilised makes some parts of the novel very humorous to read on one level.

Brave New World was written in the 1930s and Huxley’s predictions for the future were scarily accurate and he saw many of these things come true in his lifetime as materialistic values replaced traditional values. Before reading it, I did wonder if it may now seem dated, but it is just as relevant now, perhaps more so as we are in some ways almost living in this brave new world.

I absolutely loved this book and would encourage anyone who hasn't read it to read it immediately. A deserved classic.

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