I was in a bookshop in Hay-on-Wye and I had a question running through my head: How do you distinguish between a General Fiction book and a so-called Classic?
I thought there was no one better to ask than a man who has devoted his life to books. The answer was fairly disappointing: “Well, you know, Literature [read Classics] has to be well written. For example, some people put Aldous Huxley in Science Fiction, but I think he’s good enough to stay between the Classics.”
It wasn’t a convincing reply, but as he spoke he lifted a copy of ‘Brave New World’, my eyes alighted and I stopped listening.
However, being it the first bookshop we met and being me on a budget, I strongly opposed my instinct to run and buy it.
Then my partner shows up and glances at the book. Ten minutes later we are walking down the street, me keeping the book close against my chest, like a treasure.
This is what a good relationships looks like.
A few days later, I step into the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, a place where humans are produced in vials and grow up being mentally engineered into being what the society needs them to be.
It’s the year 632 A.F. It’s a perfect world, where everybody is happy – and if they are not happy, then there’s SOMA to make them feel less… well, just less.
Here I met Lenina Crowne, a perfect example of what a Beta should be.
But I also met Bernard Marx, an Alpha man whose vial must have been sprinkled with a bit too much alcohol at some point during production. He is short and doesn’t like soma. Not to mention, he is strangely opposed to promiscuity, a pillar of this peaceful and happy civilisation.
Then a holiday into the savage lands happens and Bernard’s life changes. The modern, perfect civilisation meets the rough life of people deprived of technology and progress, where children are born and there still is a religion to speak of.
Amongst endless Shakespearean quotes (even the title is a line from ‘The Tempest’), Huxley depicts a perfect world that couldn’t be further from perfection.
In these days, when technology seems to have taken over every aspect of our life, when consumerism is every day closer to a religious practice, this story seems to transcend time and speak directly to us.
Then again, isn’t this what Classics do?
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