Saturday, November 17, 2007

Speaking of dystopians. . .

or we were here, yesterday, once again going over which society we found more chilling, the one in 1984 or the one in Brave New World, and now here's Margaret Atwood weighing in on the matter:

In the latter half of the 20th century, two visionary books cast their shadows over our futures. One was George Orwell's 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, with its horrific vision of a brutal, mind-controlling totalitarian state - a book that gave us Big Brother and thoughtcrime and newspeak and the memory hole and the torture palace called the Ministry of Love and the discouraging spectacle of a boot grinding into the human face forever.

The other was Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932), which proposed a different and softer form of totalitarianism - one of conformity achieved through engineered, bottle-grown babies and hypnotic persuasion rather than through brutality, of boundless consumption that keeps the wheels of production turning and of officially enforced promiscuity that does away with sexual frustration, of a pre-ordained caste system ranging from a highly intelligent managerial class to a subgroup of dim-witted serfs programmed to love their menial work, and of soma, a drug that confers instant bliss with no side effects. (The Guardian)


  1. Several years ago, when JFS and I had what amounts to the same conversation, we were stymied. Both visions are unspeakably horrible -- and enduring.

    For a "light" dystopian read with lots of pop-cultural vibe, read Feed (MT Anderson) with your son. It'll take you about an evening. It yielded some neat conversations here.

  2. I'll look for it. Thanks. I picked up Gemma Malley's The Declaration (drugs do away with old age) last summer, but no one here's read it yet. I'm still trying to nudge him into reading Handmaid's Tale.

  3. Several of us read 'We' by Yevgeny Zamyatin for the books in translation yahoo group. It was written in the 20's and was said to have heavily influenced both books.

    I loved it. I really love dystopian novels.

  4. I've heard of We. One of these days I'll have to read it. I'm quite fond of dystopian novels myself.

  5. When I read this on Saturday I realised that I hadn't read either novel since I was a teenager (i.e for the last 40 years!). Then there was no doubt in my mind that I preferred the Brave New World view but I really ought to go back and re-read them and see how or if my views have changed.

  6. You may very well find that you still feel the same. I still feel that if I had to chose, I'd go with the Brave New World. At least dissenters could opt out and go to the island. . . although after reading Cloud Atlas, you'd think I'd know better than to put much stock in the opt out option. :)


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