I learned about Brave New World through Grace Coddington’s autobiography. She mentioned former Vogue editor Lady Clare Rendlesham, who I googled and later learned had a grandson who committed suicide in 2011 after reading the book by Aldous Huxley.
The dystopian novel is set in 2540 London, where science has made everything so perfect it’s become terrifying. To create a harmonious society, a caste system has been established, where individuals have been programmed as early as fetuses to be satisfied with their roles; parents are eliminated—the mere mention of mother shocks anyone because it’s such a blasphemous concept; and monogamy is extremely frowned upon. The idea is that no one feels passionate for anything or anyone since passion makes people impulsive, volatile, and erratic, and may therefore lead to an unstable society.
The first few pages may be jarring for the reader because of the clunky sci-fi terms—the novel was written in 1931 and science then has yet to reduce technology to extreme brevity. Take for example, his description of a reporter attempting to make a live broadcast:
“And rapidly, with a series of ritual gestures, he uncoiled two wires connected to the portable battery buckled round his waist; plugged them simultaneously into the sides of his aluminum hat; touched a spring on the crown-and antennæ shot up into the air; touched another spring on the peak of the brim-and, like a jack-in-the-box, out jumped a microphone and hung there, quivering, six inches in front of his nose; pulled down a pair of receivers over his ears; pressed a switch on the left side of the hat-and from within came a faint waspy buzzing; turned a knob on the right-and the buzzing was interrupted by a stethoscopic wheeze and cackle, by hiccoughs and sudden squeaks. ‘Hullo,’ he said to the microphone, ‘hullo, hullo.'”
Nevertheless, going past that, Huxley offers a world which is chilling in its despotism and pragmatism. I’ve always considered the latter as a virtue, as one’s anchor to logic and reason, but the novel offers a different, perverse perspective, and for that I am impressed (by the enlightenment it offers). One has to surrender himself to love, and consequently, to pain. In the context of the suicide incident I noted above, it’s almost as if he did it to live.
You may download Brave New World from this site.