80 years on and it’s still a Brave New World

Baby, it’s [still] cold outside!

On Friday, I made my virginal trip to the Senate House in Gower Street for the BNW conference, dealing with its legacy 80 or so years after its publication. I was very fortunate to come across this nugget of information, and as usual, it was an impulsive trip that ended out very well!

The rooms, although grand and ornate and downright gorgeous, however, is not always conducive to the talks as the temperature can fluctuate and the chairs are just a little *too* comfortable, but superficialities aside the talks were all great. Angles from speculative fiction to technocracy and high art to the  autobiographical stories behind Huxley and son (an amazing opportunity to hear such personal accounts) as well as the tropes of mass manufacture, eliminating justification for pleasure and shortening the route between want and reward, to seeing how writing novels in the future can be seen as old fashioned – the “anachronisms” show us just as much about the present as it does for the future, if not more so. Of course, the hedonistic, mass manufactured society with its “Imax/3D” esque “Feelies”, the parallels between Apple and Ford, the visible increase in promiscuity and so on are very much a part of our society now – threads of the real woven in with these little knots that tie the novel back to its actual time. There was something that I pointed out at the seminar having re-read the book after 7 years, that surprised me. Remember the scene where Lenina Crowne decides whether or not she wants to erm, dip her toes in the water in terms of her sexual availability to others?

‘”I’d simply love to come with you for a week in July,” she went on. (Anyhow, she was publicly proving her unfaithfulness to Henry. Fanny ought to be pleased, even though it was Bernard.) “That is,” Lenina gave him her most deliciously significant smile, “if you still want to have me.”‘ (Chapter 4, Brave New World)

What struck me as a misnomer was the word “unfaithful”. In this world, there doesn’t seem to be a context or meta text of faith in that sense. People are encouraged to be promiscuous – monogamy is obsolete and pretty much vaporised from the vocabulary. Bizarre!

It was lovely to see researchers from different universities and get a handle on what everyone is working on. I also happened to have a nice sushi dinner with them in Bloomsbury (because there’s only so much sandwiches can do, although they were lovely) and overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience! Here’s to more!

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