Aldous Huxley’s Island – 21st Century Themes In 1962!

The prolific English writer Aldous Huxley is most famous for his novel Brave New World, published in 1932.  Many comparisons have been drawn between the aforementioned and George Orwell’s 1984. In Huxley’s last novel, Island, published in 1962, the author creates a “better place.” While you may well have read Brave New World (required reading for many), the perspective in the pages of Island is well worthwhile.

Island is set in the nineteenth century. Unlike any other place on earth, the island of Pala and the Palanese people have created a utopian society, isolated and virtually free from the influences of the modern industrialized world, while at the same time selectively adapting to scientific development and worldly knowledge that will enhance their idyllic lifestyle.  In Island, Huxley examines whether the best of both worlds is possible.

 The author, whom some have referred to as a social scientist, delves head long into the great issues looming in the 1960s; overpopulation, drugs, money, ecology, religion, Buddhism and even obliquely advances ideas on raising teenagers!  Will Pala become part of Greater Rendang, the surrounding territory controlled by decades of greedy Sultans, now that Pala’s rich deposits of oil, gold and other minerals have become objects of desire?    Will the modernity of a new generation of Palanese leadership sell out to the temptations of vast wealth and the “  creature comforts” of the outside world?

In reading Island  you will be amazed at the  contemporary themes!  “ We don’t give ourselves coronaries by guzzling six times as  much saturated fat as we need. We don’t spend a quarter of the gross national product preparing for World War III. Our economic system doesn’t permit anyone to become more than four or five times as rich as the average.  Electricity minus heavy industry plus birth control equals democracy and plenty.  We never allowed ourselves to produce more children than we could feed, clothe and house. We have managed to resist the temptation to which the West has now succumbed , over consumption. ” 

Wonderful writing here. Huxley tells all, exposes his very soul through a protagonist that comes full-circle in the midst of a predictable downward spiral fueled by that all to common twenty-first-century destructive force, greed. “ If you’d been shown how to do things with the minimum of strain and the maximum of awareness, you’d enjoy even honest toil.”

In lieu of a Preface Huxley quotes Aristotle: In framing an ideal we may assume what we wish, but should avoid impossibilities.

You may wish to read Huxley’s Brave New World Revisited ( 1958) , abundant with many of the themes astutely developed in Island.

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