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Brave New World

Cover of Brave New World

Brave New World

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In the end, it was Aldous Huxley, not George Orwell (whom Huxley taught at Eton), whose vision of the future had the touch of prophecy. The modern world did not collapse into the cold, damp totalitarian hell Orwell described in his 1948 novel 1984. What has happened is closer to Huxley's vision of the future in his astonishing 1931 novel Brave New World -- a world of tomorrow in which capitalist civilization has been reconstituted through the most efficient scientific and psychological engineering, where the people are genetically designed to be passive, consistently useful to the ruling class. As scathingly satirical as it is disturbing, Brave New World is set some 600 years in the future, in "this year of stability, A.F. 632" -- the A.F. stands for After Ford, meaning the godlike Henry Ford -- when mankind exists in an institutional form of happiness, managed by the World State. "Community, Identity, Stability" is its motto. Reproduction is totally controlled through genetic engineering. People are literally bred into a rigid class system and designed for specific purposes. As they mature, they are conditioned to be happy with the roles for which society created them, working without complaint or incident. The rest of their lives are devoted to the pursuit of pleasure through meaningless sex, elaborate recreational sports, the getting and having of material possessions and the taking of a pleasure drug called soma. Concepts such as family, freedom, love and culture are considered grotesque. Against this backdrop, a young man known as John the Savage is brought to London from the remote desert of New Mexico. What he sees in the new civilization he naively calls a "brave new world," quoting the Shakespeare (The Tempest) on which he was raised in the wild. But John soon challenges the very premise of this modern society, an act that threatens and fascinates its citizens, leading to a shocking but inevitable conclusion. Huxley throws the idea of utopia into reverse in Brave New World, and the result is what became known as a "dystopian" novel. In 1931, when Brave New World was written, neither Hitler nor Stalin had risen to power. Huxley saw the enduring threat to civilization coming from the dark side of scientific and social progress and mankind's increasingly insatiable appetite for simple amusement. While it seemed, after the publication of Orwell's 1984 and the onset of the Cold War, that Huxley's vision was dated and even a bit naive, time has proved the opposite. Brave New World retains its power as it continues to indict the idea of progress for the sake of progress -- breathtaking in its precise and gripping imagination, its cauterizing irony and its bold exploration of ideas.
In the end, it was Aldous Huxley, not George Orwell (whom Huxley taught at Eton), whose vision of the future had the touch of prophecy. The modern world did not collapse into the cold, damp totalitarian hell Orwell described in his 1948 novel 1984. What has happened is closer to Huxley's vision of the future in his astonishing 1931 novel Brave New World -- a world of tomorrow in which capitalist civilization has been reconstituted through the most efficient scientific and psychological engineering, where the people are genetically designed to be passive, consistently useful to the ruling class. As scathingly satirical as it is disturbing, Brave New World is set some 600 years in the future, in "this year of stability, A.F. 632" -- the A.F. stands for After Ford, meaning the godlike Henry Ford -- when mankind exists in an institutional form of happiness, managed by the World State. "Community, Identity, Stability" is its motto. Reproduction is totally controlled through genetic engineering. People are literally bred into a rigid class system and designed for specific purposes. As they mature, they are conditioned to be happy with the roles for which society created them, working without complaint or incident. The rest of their lives are devoted to the pursuit of pleasure through meaningless sex, elaborate recreational sports, the getting and having of material possessions and the taking of a pleasure drug called soma. Concepts such as family, freedom, love and culture are considered grotesque. Against this backdrop, a young man known as John the Savage is brought to London from the remote desert of New Mexico. What he sees in the new civilization he naively calls a "brave new world," quoting the Shakespeare (The Tempest) on which he was raised in the wild. But John soon challenges the very premise of this modern society, an act that threatens and fascinates its citizens, leading to a shocking but inevitable conclusion. Huxley throws the idea of utopia into reverse in Brave New World, and the result is what became known as a "dystopian" novel. In 1931, when Brave New World was written, neither Hitler nor Stalin had risen to power. Huxley saw the enduring threat to civilization coming from the dark side of scientific and social progress and mankind's increasingly insatiable appetite for simple amusement. While it seemed, after the publication of Orwell's 1984 and the onset of the Cold War, that Huxley's vision was dated and even a bit naive, time has proved the opposite. Brave New World retains its power as it continues to indict the idea of progress for the sake of progress -- breathtaking in its precise and gripping imagination, its cauterizing irony and its bold exploration of ideas.
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Excerpts-
  • Chapter 1 A SQUAT grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE and, in a shield, the World State's motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY. The enormous room on the ground floor faced towards the north. Cold for all the summer beyond the panes, for all the tropical heat of the room itself, a harsh thin light glared through the windows, hungrily seeking some draped lay figure, some pallid shape of academic goose-flesh, but finding only the glass and nickel and bleakly shining porcelain of a laboratory. Wintriness responded to wintriness. The overalls of the workers were white, their hands gloved with a pale corpse-coloured rubber. The light was frozen, dead, a ghost. Only from the yellow barrels of the microscopes did it borrow a certain rich and living substance, lying along the polished tubes like butter, streak after luscious streak in long recession down the work tables. "And this," said the Director opening the door, "is the Fertilizing Room." Bent over their instruments, three hundred Fertilizers were plunged, as the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning entered the room, in the scarcely breathing silence, the absent-minded, soliloquizing hum or whistle, of absorbed concentration. A troop of newly arrived students, very young, pink and callow, followed nervously, rather abjectly, at the Director's heels. Each of them carried a notebook, in which, whenever the great man spoke, he desperately scribbled. Straight from the horse's mouth. It was a rare privilege. The D.H.C. for Central London always made a point of personally conducting his new students round the various departments. "Just to give you a general idea," he would explain to them. For of course some sort of general idea they must have, if they were to do their work intelligently-though as little of one, if they were to be good and happy members of society, as possible. For particulars, as every one knows, make for virtue and happiness; generalities are intellectually necessary evils. Not philosophers but fret-sawyers and stamp collectors compose the backbone of society. "To-morrow," he would add, smiling at them with a slightly menacing geniality, "you'll be settling down to serious work. You won't have time for generalities. Meanwhile . . ." Meanwhile, it was a privilege. Straight from the horse's mouth into the notebook. The boys scribbled like mad. Tall and rather thin but upright, the Director advanced into the room. He had a long chin and big, rather prominent teeth, just covered, when he was not talking, by his full, floridly curved lips. Old, young? Thirty? Fifty? Fifty-five? It was hard to say. And anyhow the question didn't arise; in this year of stability, A.F. 632, it didn't occur to you to ask it. "I shall begin at the beginning," said the D.H.C. and the more zealous students recorded his intention in their notebooks: Begin at the beginning. "These," he waved his hand, "are the incubators." And opening an insulated door he showed them racks upon racks of numbered test-tubes. "The week's supply of ova. Kept," he explained, "at blood heat; whereas the male gametes," and here he opened another door, "they have to be kept at thirty-five instead of thirty-seven. Full blood heat sterilizes." Rams wrapped in theremogene beget no lambs.
Synopsis-
  • Huxley's novel of a grim, over technologized and dispirited future was published in 1932 and has never been out of print. Amazingly predictive in some ways, happily wrong in others, its vision of a world dominated by the spirit of Henry Ford and loveless procreation also prefigures his student George Orwell's 1984.
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    RosettaBooks
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  • Copyright Protection (DRM) required by the Publisher may be applied to this title to limit or prohibit printing or copying. File sharing or redistribution is prohibited. Your rights to access this material expire at the end of the lending period. Please see Important Notice about Copyrighted Materials for terms applicable to this content.

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Brave New World
Brave New World
Aldous Huxley
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