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Aldous Huxley (1894 - 1963)

Related: British literature - science fiction literature

"Universal education has created an immense class of what we may call the New Stupid"-- Aldous Huxley, 1934.


Aldous Leonard Huxley (July 26, 1894 - November 22, 1963) was a British writer who emigrated to the United States. He was a member of the famous Huxley family who produced a number of brilliant scientific minds. Best known for his novels and wide-ranging output of essays, he also published short stories, poetry, and travel writing. Through his novels and essays, Huxley functioned as an examiner and sometimes critic of social morés, societal norms and ideals, and possible misapplications of science in human life. While his earlier concerns might be called "humanist," ultimately, he became quite interested in "spiritual" subjects like parapsychology and mystically based philosophy, which he also wrote about. By the end of his life, Huxley was considered, in certain learned circles, a 'leader of modern thought'. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldous_Huxley [Jan 2005]

Brave New World (1932) - Aldous Huxley

Brave New World is a 1932 dystopian novel by Aldous Huxley. The book anticipates developments in reproductive technology, eugenics and mind control that combine to change society. It is Huxley's most famous and enduring novel.

The term brave new world is also used in print media when referring to a plan of action that may have undesired or negative outcomes. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_New_World [Feb 2005]

Negative visionaries: Piranesi and Géricault

Piranesi's Carceri series was, in Huxley's phrase, the creation of a 'negative visionary'. He explained this concept in one of his appendices to Heaven and Hell, 1956, a section concerning Romantic painter Théodore Géricault.

Appendix VII
Géricault was a negative visionary; for though his art was almost obsessively true to nature, it was true to a nature that had been magically transfigured, in his perceiving and rendering of it, for the worse. 'I start to paint a woman,' he once said, 'but it always ends up as a lion.' More often, indeed, it ended up as something a good deal less amiable than a lion -- as a corpse, for example, or a demon. His masterpiece, the prodigious Raft of the Medusa, was painted not from life but from dissolution and decay -- from bits of cadavers supplied by medical students, from the emaciated torso and jaundiced face of a friend who was suffering from a disease of the liver. Even the waves on which the raft is floating, even the over-arching sky are corpse coloured. It is as though the entire universe had become a dissecting room. And then there are his demonic pictures. The Derby, it is obvious, is being run in hell, against a background fairly blazing with darkness visible. The Horse startled by Lightning in the National Gallery, is the revelation, in a single frozen instant, of the strangeness, the sinister and even infernal otherness that hides in familiar things. In the Metropolitan Museum there is a portrait of a child. And what a child! In his luridly brilliant jacket the little darling is what Baudelaire liked to call 'a budding Satan,' un Satan en herbe. And the study of a naked man, also in the Metropolitan, is none other than the budding Satan grown up.

From the accounts which his friends have left of him it is evident that Géricault habitually saw the world about him as a succession of apocalypses. The prancing horse of his early Officer de Chasseurs was seen one morning on the road to Saint-Cloud, in a dusty glare of summer sunshine, rearing and plunging between the shafts of an omnibus. The personages in the Raft of the Medusa were painted in finished detail, one by one, on the virgin canvas. There was no outline drawing of the whole composition, no gradual building up of an over-all harmony of tones and hues. Each particular revelation -- of a body in decay, of a sick man in the ghastly extremity of hepatitis -- was fully rendered as it was seen and artistically realised. By a miracle of genius, every successive apocalypse was made to fit, prophetically, into a harmonious composition which existed, when the first of the appalling visions was transferred to canvas, only in the artist's imagination. -- http://www.cyberzone.it/cyberzone%20n16/prisons.html

see also: Aldous Huxley - Giovanni Piranesi - Théodore Géricault - visionary

Aldous Huxley on Salvator Rosa

Another more celebrated fantasist was Salvator Rosa -- a man who, for reasons which are now entirely incomprehensible, was regarded by the critics of four and five generations ago as a great artist. But Salvator Rosa's romanticism is pretty cheap and obvious. He is a melodramatist who never penetrates below the surface. If he were alive today, he would be known most probably as the indefatigable author of one of the more bloodthirsty and adventurous comic strips. --Prisons (1949) - Aldous Huxley via http://www.cyberzone.it/cyberzone%20n16/prisons.html

from Prisons (with the Carceri Etchings by Piranesi). Los Angeles, CA: Zeitlin & Van Brugge.

see also: Aldous Huxley - Salvator Rosa


  1. The Doors of Perception (1954) and Heaven and Hell (1956) - Aldous Huxley [Amazon US]
    Sometimes a writer has to revisit the classics, and here we find that "gonzo journalism"--gutsy first-person accounts wherein the author is part of the story--didn't originate with Hunter S. Thompson or Tom Wolfe. Aldous Huxley took some mescaline and wrote about it some 10 or 12 years earlier than those others. The book he came up with is part bemused essay and part mystical treatise--"suchness" is everywhere to be found while under the influence. This is a good example of essay writing, journal keeping, and the value of controversy--always--in one's work. - amazon.com editorial review

  2. Devils of Loudun (1952) - Aldous Huxley [Amazon.com]
    My first experience w/this story was the movie, The Devils, w/Vanessa Redgrave and Olvier Reed (directed by Ken Russell, need I say more?) which is a bit of a warped account of the book which is vastly superior. I also found a play by Whiting based on the book and an opera by Penderecki! What prompted so much interest and imitation? An outstand and very spiritual book. I actually enjoyed the narration and the way it would "interrupt" the voice of the book. It was somewhat similar to Camus' The Plague. It was in these passages of narration that Huxley really shows the profound message this book has to offer. To find that message, you must find a copy, it's worth it! --Susan Hernandez, amazon.com

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