Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Classic #11

I read this book for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2016.

Jesting Pilate – Aldous Huxley

In 1925, writer and public intellectual Aldous Huxley did what virtually every other English writer did between the wars: go on a trip and write a book about it. Huxley went to India, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Japan, and the US. He deals with heavy issues such as British imperialism in Asia to the search from truth and values. But his tone is always witty, his manner always light.

The personality of a travel writer determines if the travel narrative will be worth-while. Huxley had a fiercely independent intelligence. He was inquisitive about both the natural and social sciences. He was impatient with tired dogmas. His analyses blend sophistication and hard common sense. This is a travel book for a reader who like big observations of life along with gritty observations of why Asia smells so frickin’ bad. I mean, Huxley can get big lessons about life out of watching potatoes being unloaded or analyzing a mortician’s advertisement in Chicago.

He wrote this as a diary and then lightly edited it. Therefore, various statements were shot from the hip and one trusts that later he regretted the casual racist asides. The book expresses ideas about Henry Ford and the concept of “pneumatic” (full of nothing, vacuous, empty of quality) that he would use later in Brave New World in 1932.

Huxley is one of my intellectual heroes. Also, I like travel writing from between the wars. So this book was a natural for me. I’d recommend this “lesser Huxley” to readers who want get to know Huxley better.

My Reviews of Books by AH

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