Aldous Huxley believed that the dystopian society of Brave New World would follow naturally from that of Orwell’s 1984. “It is possible to make people contented with their servitude,” he says in this old video clip.
If “what Orwell feared were those who would ban books,” Neil Postman argues, 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.” He goes on:
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, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny ‘failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.’ In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.
In his Paris Review interview, Huxley talks about his struggles to “integrate what may be called the essay element with the fictional element” of the novel. “When you can find storytelling which carries at the same time a kind of parable-like meaning (such as you get, say, in Dostoyevsky or in the best of Tolstoy),” he says, “this is something extraordinary.”
Stuff I Like
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- Dump Your Significant Jerk Day—the NYRB Way.
In honor of Dump Your Significant Jerk Day (today!), we offer you this picture of Kingsley...
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