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Island Paperback – October 20, 2009
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“A mirror for modern man. . . . Should be read and reread.” (Saturday Review)
From the Back Cover
In his final novel, which he considered his most important, Aldous Huxley transports us to the remote Pacific island of Pala, where an ideal society has flourished for 120 years.
Inevitably, this island of bliss attracts the envy and enmity of the surrounding world. A conspiracy is underway to take over Pala, and events are set in motion when an agent of the conspirators, a newspaperman named Faranby, is shipwrecked there. What Faranby doesn't expect is how his time with the people of Pala will revolutionize all his values and—to his amazement—give him hope.
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Fortunately, I have Eckhart's teachings now within and guess that any reader should have a background understanding of Buddhism prior to reading. I would treat this book like a spiritual text and read it when you are ready, otherwise you may find it boring and babbling.
It was fun to see how a utopian society based on "being present" might play out in a modern world. If only we could have such daily reminders as those birds squawk "Attention, here and now".
Thoughtful, critical, humorous and serious. A lovely novel.
Set on the fictional Polynesian island named Pala, this is a kind of bookend to Huxley’s classic futuristic masterpiece, Brave New World (1932), and was Huxley’s final novel. On Pala life is peaceful and happy, with scientific and technological advancements blended with a way of living that is heavily influenced by Eastern philosophy and branches of Buddhism. Peace and harmony, a tropical utopia.
Not the typical novel, there isn’t an obvious direct conflict or much physical action. It is more a philosophical journey for the main character, Will Farnaby, a journalist on a secret mission to secure a contract for oil drilling on Pala. Will wants nothing more than to get the contract and a large personal financial bonus for himself. The closest neighboring island, Rendang-Lobo, is ruled by Colonel Dipa, a military dictator who is hellbent on modernizing his kingdom, and threatens Pala’s peaceful way of life. Will arrives after being washed ashore after a shipwreck, shortly before Pala’s new ruler will be assuming control. The young heir to the throne, Murugan, is a spoiled young fool, completely under his devious mother’s thumb - and Murugan is envious of Rendang-Lobo’s new modernization and its embracing of ideas from the outside world; he wants to see Pala mimic Colonel Dipa’s economic and social goals.
That’s the overall thrust of the plot, but there’s so much underneath: how can societies exist with consumerism and greed? What responsibility do society’s members have to each other? And ideas about ecology, overpopulation and mysticism are a central part of Will Farnaby's growth as a character. There is a lot here, and after reading this, Aldous Huxley instantly became a favorite author for me.
While this novel will probably never get the recognition of Brave New World, I was completely bowled over after reading it. I really favor this novel over Brave New World - no mean feat because that book is superb and I’ve loved it for years - but the ideas in Island were quite profound and will have me thinking for a long while. And it is amazing that it was published in 1962. Will Humans ever learn? I doubt it. Excellent book, highest recommendation.