Everyman's Library

Read Aldous Huxley’s Letter to George Orwell About ‘1984’


There may very well be two types of 20th-century English literature readers — those who think Brave New World is a more realistic dystopia and those who prefer 1984. While we’re fans of both novels, and see some of contemporary life in both of them, we tend to come out on Aldous Huxley’s side: medicated contentment, a widely accepted, eugenics-supported caste system, and a government-enforced obsession with consumerism. Yup, sounds about right to us.

But what did Huxley think about George Orwell’s nightmare vision of the future? In a 1949 letter to the author — who had, coincidentally, been his student at Eton over three decades earlier — he echoed the positive reviews for 1984 while focusing on the differences between their predictions for the future. “The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it. Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful,” Huxley wrote. “My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World.” Read the entire illuminating missive at Letters of Note. [via io9]