Now I'm getting the chance to read books I didn't have time for before. Think of me whenever you see the slogan "So many books, so little time!" Now I've got the time.  Cheers, Fred.

Island

Book Number: 
731
Date Fred Read: 
December 2017
Fred's Rating: 
5
Author: 
Aldous Huxley
Total Pages: 
354
Publisher: 
Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Year: 
2009

This 1962 novel by Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) proposes the remote utopian Pacific island of Pala, which is his idea of what is required to achieve such an ideal nation. It includes a conspiracy of new “modern” events that lead to the end of the Palan way. (For his books I’ve read, click on his name.)

The Amazon website for the paperback edition is

https://www.amazon.com/Island-Aldous-Huxley/dp/0061561797/ref=sr_1_1?s=b...

[None of the ISBN-10, ISBN-13, or ASIN numbers on Amazon’s websites for the three editions (Kindle, hardcover, or paperback) are recognized by Amazon, thus the ‘no image Circle' appears. I think this new change by Amazon is not good. However, you can see the images of this books' covers at the website above.]

The home page has a single line summary. Scroll down to a better summary From the Back Cover. More about him and this book is given in the Top Customer Reviews by Joanne and by Brandon. This book is followed by a 24-pp PS section that contains 6-pp of About the author (Aldous Huxley: A Life of the Mind), 11-pp of About the book (“Mind at Large” by Aldous Huxley), a 2-pp Complete Aldous Huxley Bibliography, and 5-pp of Have You Read? (More by Aldous Huxley). I choose to read (or reread) these brief plugs for 7 other books before I began to read Island.

All of the PS section is available online. Use the option ‘Look inside’ and enter in the ‘Search Inside This Book’ window the words ‘About the book’ and click on the p1 option. This allows you to scroll down all of the PS section. There is a lot of good info about Huxley and this book to read.

Last October I reread Huxley’s 1932 BNW (Brave New World) and read for the first time his 1958 BNWR (Brave New World Revisited). Both are included in Book 724. It seems he finally decided to write a utopian novel he named Island to allow one to compare this utopian novel to his dystopian novel BNW and his nonfiction BNMR.

Before comparing the novels I quote from the Island review by The Times (London): “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 into motion when an agent of the conspirators, a newspaperman named Farnaby, is shipwrecked there. What Farnaby doesn’t expect is how his time with the people of Pala will revolutionize all his values – to his amazement – give him hope.”

The story in Island revolves around Farnaby, as only a few pages don’t include him, as most of this novel is about how he slowly learns about the peaceful and joyful life that follows from the worldview of the people of all ages in Pala, except for two members of the royal family. Farnaby survives his shipwreck on the only small beach of Pala but is wounded during his steep climb away from the beach into the mountain-ringed Pala. The people who found him treat his wounds and later take him on a tour of Pala – a tour in which he comes to realize that these people have indeed created an ideal world that was led by a wise royal family – wise until the last royal mother and son become greedy – more about them below. On his tour Farnaby learns the way of the ideal life in Pala.

Drugs, families, sex and work are things that serve very different purposes in BNW and Pala. In BNW the drug ‘soma’ makes the humans there live as slaves to the rulers of BNW – soma gives them an a false bliss, a hunger for frequent sex, a tight binding with all others of their class, and a dreamless sleep – they are captives of their brain washing and soma. They seem less than human. Children come from a laboratory for all women are born sterile. There are no families in BNW. Island has both normal birth and families – mother, father, and two siblings. But a child in Island is a member of a Mutual Adoption Club (MAC) consisting of as few as 15 or as many as 25 families. Any child can decide to live with another family for a few days or weeks. They become, in effect, cousins (but sometimes like brothers or sisters) to most of the kids in their MAC. They learn that families in their MAC can have somewhat different ways of living, allowing each child to learn how to fit well with other’s family lifestyle.

But all lifestyles in all MACs follow a sort of secular buddhism – they follow the eight-fold way – the eight right ways of living. Their rituals involve a group all using a drug called ‘moksha’ under the spell of which a new group of mid-teens experience the bliss, beauty, awe, compassion, and love as part of this light/music experience that cannot by described with words like seeing or hearing. This is done annually after the teens have used the ‘moksha’ event to guide them to become better at understanding others and better at living by the eight-fold way. Farnaby was allowed to witness and then participate in a ‘moksha’ event. Inventing drugs like the soma of BNW and the moksha of Island are the result of Aldous Huxley’s experiments with mind-altering drugs like LSD and mescaline in his pursuit of spiritual experiences.

As for sex, in BNW nearly everyone made plans for sex after they finished their type of work. In Island everyone over 16 was given a condom every day by the postman. Those too young had accepted the idea of restraint until they had reached the proper stage in their life.

As for work, in BNW the five classes had been brainwashed to fit the style of their work. So miners, for example, were bred to love the air, light and temperature of mines. In Island, everyone tried out all kinds of work or fitness – physical or mental. This was the result of training that a well-rounded person should be able to relieve someone at nearly any job – for their achieving different training goals, they got ‘merit badges’ like boy/girl scouts.

Much was said and shown as Farnaby was conducted through the education system of Pala, to see how it was done. It short, very wisely, with very well-educated teachers. It is too much for me to give here.

There is a fifth item to compare. In BNW the dictators were chosen from the alpha class. (It was the ones that didn’t accept the government’s decrees that were the most interesting characters in BNW.) In Island it was a very wise and kind sage – the Raja – that had initiated Buddhism as the right way of living. Island had a Privy Council to advise the leader. This worked well for the first 120 years. The Raja’s wife, the Rani and her son had lived in London for several years because she had the vision that Pala should become more modernized, like London. She sent her son to be educated along with the upper class boys. He believed the Rani when she said she had seen the light to modernize Pala. She had the arrogance to think she knew all truth. She had made a deal with Farnaby’s boss to extract the oil-rich land in Pala. In the last chapter the dictator of a neighboring land and Farnaby’s boss together had the Rani’s son, soon to be the next Raja, made a contract to extract Pala’s oil riches. The people of Pala had no weapons to stand against the armed invasion of these outsiders.

The last chapter initiates the downfall of the way of Pala. Farnaby, who was changing his lifestyle to fit the way of Pala, had no hope of being able to live by the way of Pala, so I can’t understand why the review by The Times (London) ends this review as they did. Perhaps they imagined an Island of Pala with a new humble Raja and Rana who kept to the way of Pala. But how could a nonviolent isolated island like Pala keep the outside world from invading and ‘modernizing’ it due to greed for what they did not need? I think Aldous Huxley’s last book proclaims an ideal, according to Huxley, way of life that cannot survive in today’s world.

Although it has a sad ending, the concept of living in the way of Pala makes Island is a very thought-provoking book, so I rate it at five stars.