Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) was a British writer. He was known for his novels, but especially his fifth one, Brave New World (1932).
Huxley was born into a family of renowned scientists. Two of his three brothers, Julian Huxley and Andrew Huxley were important biologists and his grandfather, Thomas Henry Huxley, was a famous, controversial naturalist in his time, nicknamed “Darwin’s Bulldog”.
Huxley is mostly known now as a novelist and essayist but he also wrote some short stories, poetry, travel books and screenplays. Huxley always played the role of a critical observer of accepted traditions, customs, social norms and ideals. Importantly, he was concerned in his writings with the potentially harmful applications of scientific progress to mankind. Huxley was deeply concerned about the changes occurring in his time. They prompted him to write great novels in the 1930s about the serious threats posed by the combination of power and technical progress.
His best known novel, and arguably his most important, is Brave New World. Huxley wrote it in only four months. At that time Adolf Hitler was not yet in power in Germany and Joseph Stalin‘s purges had not yet begun in Russia. Huxley wrote about a dictatorial future before it had happened. He imagined a society that would use genetics and cloning in order to condition and control individuals. In his future society, all children are conceived in test tubes. They are genetically conditioned to belong to one of the five categories of populations, from the most intelligent to the stupidest.
Brave New World pictured what the perfect dictatorship would look like. It would have the appearance of a democracy, but would basically be a prison without walls in which the prisoners would not even dream of escaping. It would essentially be a system of slavery where, through entertainment and consumption the slaves “would love their servitude“. After 88 years, it still resonates with our contemporary status quo.
The title of the book comes from William Shakespeare‘s The Tempest (1610), Act 5 Scene 1:
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.
In 2019, the BBC chose Brave New World on its list of The 100 Most Influential Novels. In 1999, the Modern Library ranked Brave New World fifth on its list of the 100 Best English Language Novels of the 20th Century. The American Library Association ranks Brave New World Number 52 on their list of most banned books.
Brave New World has been adapted to stage, radio, television and film. A new adaptation is currently streaming on NBC’s new streaming service Peacock.