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Eyeless in Gaza: A Novel Paperback – October 20, 2009
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From the Inside Flap
Eyeless in Gaza offers a counterpoint to the biting cynicism of Huxley's earlier satirical novels, and is considered by many to be his definitive work of fiction.
From the Back Cover
Written at the height of his powers immediately after Brave New World, Aldous Huxley's highly acclaimed Eyeless in Gaza is his most personal novel. Huxley's bold, nontraditional narrative tells the loosely autobiographical story of Anthony Beavis, a cynical libertine Oxford graduate who comes of age in the vacuum left by World War I. Unfulfilled by his life, loves, and adventures, Anthony is persuaded by a charismatic friend to become a Marxist and take up arms with Mexican revolutionaries. But when their disastrous embrace of violence nearly kills them, Anthony is left shattered—and is forced to find an alternative to the moral disillusionment of the modern world.
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First, Huxley's writing is exquisite. Like James, Conrad, among others, and, yes, Shakespeare, he is able to craft language so adeptly to show his characters' beautiful and profoundly complex internal worlds and those separate worlds' couplings and collisions, and, in this case, setting those characters within an enthralling story. I can't give specifics, but many times as I read this book I thought to myself how I will need to reread it fully appreciate Huxley's better passages, of which there are many, many, many.
Second, Huxley's satire is brutal, reminding me a lot of Zola. All the characters are flawed to loathsome in their own special ways, and the main good, noble character, of course, dies. And, of course, he is flawed too. (Okay, Anthony's father and step-mother are cute in their late in life love.) This book also reminds me of a film like "La Notte," in which bored wealthy people lead empty, pointless lives and try in vain to fill that emptiness with art, philosophy, politics, making more money, adultery, substance abuse, etc. (I'm afraid that is a paltry synopsis.) The story is disturbing, scandalous, and engrossing.
I'll stop there. This book is great - please read it, and enjoy!
It has been decades since I last attempted an Aldus Huxley book. I remember being very happy with Brave New World, and Brave New World Revisited. After Many a Summer (Dies the Swan) was a warning that I probably missed much in all of 3 these books and should re-read them. I take up Eyeless in Gaza as a more mature and better read person. I do not believe I missed anything important, but I know I will not be re-reading this one.
Anthony Bevis is not a nice person. As a youth he was something of a victim to his father’s scholarly but boring and aesthetic preferamces. The mother to his future best and closest friend will provide for him holidays where the two boys can experience some of the good life but with constant urgings to lead spiritual lives. The friend, Brian Foxworthy becomes extreme about being exactly the perfect person his mother most wants and in so doing becomes the victim of Anthony’s casual disinterestedness and preference for compromise and accommodation.
By seeing Anthony in time slices assembled in thematic rather than temporal sequence Huxley maneuvers the reader from some level of sympathy to a full agreement with Anthony’s dissatisfaction with himself. This is the central conflict of the plot and upon its resolution hangs the pleasure in; or disappointment in the book.
There are some wonderfully deep thoughtful quotations and scholarly essays. These are 'heavy' thoughts on the human condition. For me these tended to be too long and to contribute to the heavy handed preachiness of this novel. The writer has an assumption that his reader is also well read and a deep thinker. Too much so. A lighter hand might have made this book more accessible and less like an extended sermon. I appreciate that this kind of writing is respectful towards the reader. I like being treated like an intelligent person, but this goes beyond that.
Having built the book on the assumption that we are thoughtful and well read, the resolution did not work for me. It approached the trivial and was almost predictable. We are asked to read a long pages in preparation for Anthony to squarely face himself only to be dropped into his life after an incomplete melodrama that is the climax of the book.
The question that Huxley may not have appreciated as he finished this book in 1936 was: Is the resolved Anthony Bevis ready for what is about to happen two years later?