Monday, 23 May 2016


It is one of those books you think  you know because you've read it well and you have also studied two or three related articles. But you still get surprised by the author's insight and the new elements you discover every time you read it. "Brave New World" by British intellectual Aldous Leonard Huxley is so multilayered and multi-thematic that it actually calls for a re-read not only for the pleasure of its literary narrative but also to review your opinions on most of the very-current affairs. 

London, 632 A.F. (After Forde, i.e. in 2540 AD). In the Central London Hatchening & Conditioning Centre, the Director and his assistant give a tour to a group of students on site, presenting and analyzing the various methods used to reproduce and condition the human species. Their aim is to create the perfect, almost identical humans to fit the global slogan - "Community, Identity, Stability". Thus, fetuses are placed into sterile bottles and, throughout the period of gestation, they are under constant and complete control – moving on conveyor belts, the bottles are gradually directed into five sectors of the factory-like building,  each one differentiated from the others by the corresponding decrease in oxygen supply. So, sector Alpha is for embryos destined to become great leaders and thinkers of the world while in the next ones (Beta, Gamma and Delta)  embryos would give less impressive people, both physically and intellectually. The bottom-last sector, Epsilon, is for embryos that have been seriously deprived of oxygen and so, they are destined to be fools, docile, non-skilled manual workers.

Students are guided through all chambers of the Centre and observe from up-close the technical procedures of planning and conditioning of the babies, which are always in accordance with the clear instructions the World Government dictates. In the Delta sector, for example, those are to hate books and flowers and to be the perfect consumers, while under hypnopaedia (sleep-learning) babies are conditioned to similar morals of the World State. Meanwhile, in the adult world,
"everything belongs to everyone" thus, happiness and sexual pleasure are available to all - the very popular soma (a hallucinogenic drug that alleviates any strong emotion, desire or diverting thought) is for free.

At the Centre, there is a somewhat aloof and peculiar employee – Bernard Marx. Although he is an Alpha Plus, Bernard is a misfit because he is unusually short for an Alpha and he's got quite an independent mind - in discussions with his only friend, Helmholtz Watson, he expresses passions, concerns, fears and aspirations. His unconventional views on many key issues raise the interest of Lenina Crowne, an impressively beautiful young Beta nurse. So, when Bernard invites her on a trip to the New Mexico Savage Reservation, Lenina accepts with pleasure although she is in a relationship with Henry Ford, the assistant director of the Centre. A rather unpleasant turn for the director himself, as he intends to banish Bernard to Iceland and this trip spoils his plans.


In the Reservation, Bernard and Lenina come in contact with a primitive and decaying human culture. On arrival, they meet John, a young blond who tells them the story of his mother, Linda an ex-World State citizen who was left stranded in the Reservation, twenty years ago, when her then-companion disappeared. The natives offered her a shelter but as Linda was used to the World State morals (i.e. being very willing to sleep with every man around the tribe) the villagers isolated her. John, who grew up with her, was also isolated - not accepted at school, he taught himself to read by reading the complete works of Shakespeare. John is, now, eager to see the world his mother has told him so much about, so Bernard invites him along. After official permission, they all fly back to London.

At the Centre, the director is waiting to announce his decision to send Bernard to exile. Bernard, however, spoils his plans once again as he introduces John and Linda. The latter turns out to be the once-beautiful woman the director had an affair with. Humiliated by
his procreative nature and his extramarital affair being revealed in front of so many people, let alone his being a father to such an uneducated primitive, the director resigns.  

John and Bernard become extremely popular in London. Sleepless nights and wild fun are on a daily basis. However, John gets really confused as he is not at all accustomed to crowds and modern World State manners. Things become even more complicated as he falls in love, the old-fashioned way, with Lenina and keeps asking for something more than a soma session with her. His claim is incomprehensible to her and, thus, unacceptable. The same goes foany resident in After-Ford London, actually, making John's overall attitude nastier and nastier. In the end, the violent expression of his frustration  has a terrible impact on everyone.


Published in 1932, and then banned many times, for many years and in many countries around the world due to the author's provocative thoughts, the book was translated for the first time in Greek in 1971. As with the other, equally important, dystopian novels "We" by Yevgeny Zamyatin and "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury, "Brave New World" has had much impact on literature fiction or notKazuo Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go" is the first  example that comes to mind. The effect of the novel is, however, more evident in movies – the wonderful "Gattaca" and Michael Winterbottom's "Code 46" are just two of a plethora of science fiction films that are influenced by Huxley's novel as well as by Orwell's "1984" – a book which "BNW" is usually compare to.

In "Brave New World Revisited", an essay collection published after almost 30 years, (i.e. in 1958), Huxley notes that the real world resembled the dystopian universe he envisioned in his novel in a much faster pace than he had originally anticipated. I wonder, thus, what he would have been thinking now that technology has evolved so much (see Artificial intelligence, artificial insemination, bionic body parts, etc.) that already defines our life the pursuit of endless happiness and perfection is the norm (with the aid of psychotropic drugs and plastic surgery) while the uniformity in appearance covers almost perfectly inequality and injustice. As far as eugenics is concerned, I cannot even think about what his reaction as Huxley was known to be a pacifist and a humanist, not to mention his addiction to hallucinogens. On the other hand, he also had a distinctive sense of satire and it would be a delight to hear his comments on the transmutation of society in arena terms and conditions - this is dystopia, too, you know. In the populist manner.

While writing this post, I was thinking that "Brave New World" was indeed our very own real life habitat (mutatis mutandis, of course) and lasted for almost 15 years: from the artificial bliss of the period between 1985 and 2000, we find ourselves, today, living in a deeply miserable and impoverished society (mutatis mutandis, always). In that sense, I do not consider George Orwell's "1984" as contradictory to "BNW" but only as its continuation.

Complex and pervasive, "Brave New World" is a novel that you can not easily forget. And despite its unpleasant theme, you cannot but enjoy Huxley's lucid writing style and the way he makes you wonder about human beings, totalitarianism and utopia. And besides all, which novel we are going to live through next. 


Notes: The Greek edition of the book contains an informative foreword as well as an extensive report on the writer's life and career that are both a great key to the understanding of the novel. // The first photo is an advertising poster drawn at random from the internet. In the second photograph you can see Daniel Brühl  as a robotics researcher at the low-key sci-fi thriller "Eva". The last photograph is a detail from a Gelah Penn installation, the "Clash by Night" (2009).

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