Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World has the modern age firmly in its sights. With devastating irony and fascinating precision, the novel, published in 1932, describes a futuristic world some six centuries hence in which mankind has been re-engineered for maximum efficiency, and contained and controlled by the constant satisfaction of pleasure. It is a less violent vision than that of Huxley’s friend and former student George Orwell, in 1984, but it is possibly even more disturbing.
Aldous Huxley (1894–1963) is one of the most interesting figures English literature produced in the early 20th century. His early work bespoke his origins, as the well-bred son of one of England’s most distinctive families (his grandfather helped realize Darwin’s theory of evolution and his great-uncle was Matthew Arnold). But Huxley’s clever, stinging satires of English intellectual life (Crome Yellow, Antic Hay) quickly gave way to a new seriousness with the publication of Brave New World. A vision problem had kept him from pursuing a career in medicine, and maturity brought about in him a spiritual restlessness that was encouraged by his friend D.H. Lawrence. For the remainder of his life—much of it spent in southern California—Aldous Huxley explored political and philosophical issues in his essays and his “novels of ideas.” Brave New World remains his best-known work, and it inspired a sequel in the form of essays, entitled Brave New World Revisited.