Society & Culture

Reading Huxley Between the Headlines

“Is it time to reread Brave New World?” asks the distinguished historian Anthony Beevor, in a recent article on Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election.  I think it is.

Of the two great fictional casts into the future, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), Huxley’s imaginative prophecies look ever nearer.  Orwell’s dark vision of the Thought Police and the Ministry of Truth is well recognizable today, but Huxley cut deep with his insights into the society of the future.  He is at least by implication as pessimistic as Orwell.  Brave New World—the phrase is Miranda’s in The Tempest—is set 600 years into a future whose period is After Ford.  There has been a great war, and the world is at peace.  England is governed by the Resident Controller of Western Europe, Mustapha Mond (a deeply significant name).  History, the past, has been abolished following Ford’s great doctrine, “History is bunk.”  The only language is English, all others including French and German being “dead.”  The Bible is unobtainable save in the Controller’s private pornographic-books collection.  People are made content by social arrangements based on the drug “soma,” which has no harmful side effects...

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