Since last years’ reading project (the goal was to read 12 Classics in 12 months) was both a success and such great fun, I decided to do it again and read 12 Classics this year – one each month. I chose twelve Classics that had already been waiting for me on my bookshelf, of which six will be Classics written in German, as well as six written in English. Those Classics have been titled as such over the course of a few centuries and vary greatly in terms of length, date of publication and genre.
Starting off with Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave new World’, I chose this 1932 Classic that can both be categorized as dystopian and utopian novel for the month of January. And let me tell you, it was both shocking and fascinating to read.
A L D O U S H U X L E Y – B R A V E N E W W O R L D
‘You got rid of them. Yes, that’s just like you. Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them… But you don’t do either. Neither suffer nor oppose. You just abolish the slings and arrows. It’s too easy.
Aldous Huxley | Brave new World | p. 236
I can barely put into words how this book has made me feel. It was such a gripping story, no wonder I managed to finish it in no time.
This book tells the story of a world where there is no pain, no hunger or poverty, where people live in happiness and readily accept their position within the social order. Economy is flourishing and there is no social unrest, no war, nothing to upset an individual. Because there is no individual, there is only the unit. Because everyone belongs to everyone.
Sounds too good to be true? Well, actually, yes. One look behind the façade tells another story. Children are produced within petri dishes in innumerable amounts of sets of twins, raised to believe whatever the recorded voices whisper in their ears at night. Every social rank is distinguishable by its own colour coordinated clothing, and any member of any social rank is conditioned to believe that they are glad to be where they are now. Whether you are an Alpha, a Beta or a low, semi-idiotic Epsilon, you are happy with your position and therefore with your life.
‘You remind me of another of those old fellows called Bradley. He defined philosophy as the finding of bad reason for what one believes by instinct. As if one believed anything by instinct! One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.’ – p. 232
Then there is Bernard Marx, who somehow feels different. He looks different, too. Although he is an Alpha, he looks like a Gamma and is eyed suspiciously by others. He feels uncomfortable with the way the other people act and think and believe and even refuses to take soma, a little pill that makes life seem sunnier, brighter and happier.
‘I want to look at the sea in peace,’ he said. ‘One can’t even look with that beastly noise going on.’
‘But it’s lovely. And I don’t want to look.’
‘But I do,’ he insisted. ‘It makes me feel as though…’ he hesitated, searching for words with which to express himself, ‚as though I were more me, if you see what I mean. More on my own, not so completely a part of something else. Not just a cell in the social body. Doesn’t it make you feel like that, Lenina?‘ – p. 99
‘Brave new World’ is a story that begins as a utopian novel, picturing a perfect world with perfect conditions for human beings to thrive in. But as the story follows its protagonists and the reader learns more and more about this brave new world, it turns into a dystopian novel as it unravels its negative consequences on human individuals. How can one live without strong feelings, without love, jealousy, fear, anger and sadness, how can one know utter joy when one has not experienced grief? Is it really better to alter your view on reality by swallowing pill after pill than to actually work for your happiness? Is it fulfilling to live a live that – without those happiness-instilling pills – is lacking meaning?
‘And why should we go hunting for a substitute for youthful desires, when youthful desires never fail? A substitute for distractions, when we go on enjoying all the old fooleries to the very last? What need have we of repose when our minds and bodies continue to delight in activity?’ – p. 231
As I see it, Aldous Huxley wrote a masterpiece when he wrote ‘Brave new World’. It is timeless in its topic and will make you think twice about the world you live in. Huxley discusses the advances of science in terms of the effects they have on human beings and with this describes a world that has no place for individuals. A place that keeps you active and occupied, where you won’t have to think for yourself. It is a place where any individual who thinks outside the box is seen as a threat to the system and will wither like a flower without a drop of nurturing water. This book made me tear up when I reached its last pages. I was breathless and sad and overwhelmed by the story I just read. I loved Huxley’s writing and how he builds a world that seems almost too believable to not somehow become reality in the future. It was only the first of twelve Classics and I’m already more than glad I decided to continue this reading project in 2019.
‘But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.’ – p. 237
Author: Aldous Huxley
Title: Brave new World
Press: Grafton Books
Year of publication: 1932 [this edition: 1977]
Genre: [Classic | Dystopian Novel | Utopian Novel | Science Fiction]
Übersicht der 12 Klassiker im Jahr 2019:
Januar: Aldous Huxley – Brave New World
Februar: Hermann Hesse – Siddhartha
März: Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale
April: Stefan Zweig – Sternstunden der Menschheit
Mai: Charles Dickens – Great Expectations
Juni: Theodor Fontane – Irrungen, Wirrungen
Juli: Jules Verne – Around the World in Eighty Days
August: Max Frisch – Homo Faber
September: Bill Bryson – A Short History of Everything
Oktober: Thomas Mann – Mario und der Zauberer
November: Henry James – The Portrait of a Lady [abgebrochen]
Dezember: E.T.A. Hoffmann – Nussknacker und Mausekönig