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Eyeless in Gaza by Aldous Huxley

Eyeless in Gaza (1936)

by Aldous Huxley

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That was the chief difference between literature and life. In books, the proportion of exceptional to commonplace people is high; in reality, very low.

Practically bed ridden, incapacitated and unable to sleep I completed this chewy hulk of a novel in 24 hours. Overflowing with ideas, Eyeless asks about Action: what is one to do? Anthony, one of the novels chief characters remains preoccupied with freedom throughout his life. The narrative rotates between 5 or so timelines and flips back to each periodically, like Moloch gleefully dealing Texas Hold'em. Others are debauched or likewise stalwarts in various ideologies. Huxley asserts through the fog of politics and history that a point might be, just keep it simple. Take it easy on your colon. Don't try to fuck people over. Make amends. There are no overt references to gardens, but I accept that such is implied. This was published in 1936 and with Spain and the Dark Times on the horizon, this is penned in a certain panic. I wondered whether our own anxiety will crystalize in such a masterful experiment. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
"... the sun came out, so that I was able to sit in the revolving summerhouse. Here I read Mr Huxley's new book Eyeless in Gaza and went to sleep." (Diary entry, 15 July 1935.) (Pym, A very private eye. Macmillan, 1984. p. 58.)
2 vote Barbara_Pym | Jul 11, 2017 |
A good book, perhaps, but not a particularly enjoyable one. "Eyeless in Gaza" is very well-written and its tone is surprisingly literary, particularly since I've always considered Brave New World's prose to be rather workmanlike. Still, it's hard to get away from the fact that it concerns a small group of impossibly rich, privileged, and well-connected British characters who seem to specialize in making themselves unhappy. Those who argue that most of the books in the literary fiction section written before 1950 are the tiresome bellyaches of rich, neurotic white guys will probably find a lot of ammunition here. Still, the novel effectively portrays the spiritual and intellectual disorientation that many felt during the nineteen thirties and serves as a Bildungsroman for an entire cohort of characters, most of whom come to bad ends. "Eyeless in Gaza" might also be considered a merciless psychoanalytical treatment of the previous age: almost all the Victorians in the book come off as impossibly repressed and emotionally crippled. Still, there are a few memorable characters here, such as Mark Straithes's tortured twentieth century ascetic and the louche, sensual Mary Amberly. The novel's main character, Anthony Beavis, remains something of an enigma, and I'd be curious to learn weather the philosophies that he adopted to overcome his spiritual torpor -- anthropology, trippy mysticism, vegetarianism and uncompromising pacifism -- survived the early forties intact. Still, the book is heavy and slow moving, and the tension that might have been built up by its various complex storylines is seriously diminished by its unusually disjointed temporal structure. Huxley puts forth some interesting ideas and writes some exquisitely cunning dialogue, but "Eyeless in Gaza" feels heavy and slow-moving, and its overall mood is one of frustration and impotence. One gets the impression that most of its characters are at the mercy of their origins. It's admirable and erudite, but it's not a book that I'm likely to read again. ( )
1 vote TheAmpersand | Aug 21, 2015 |
Anthony Beavis, an upper-class Brit, finds his life meaningless, and those of his friends also empty, until his finding God in the mid-thirties. Good epigrams. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Apr 1, 2014 |

Eyeless in Gaza combines some fairly brutal commentary about lefties in British politics in the late 1930s, but tells the story in a narrative which is sliced up between decades, several different strands interlacing. There are some particularly grim scenes, involving a dog, an amputation, and a suicide, which are a striking contrast with the theoretical philosophising of the main character. I thought this had some of Huxley's better women characters as well, with a frank depiction of shifting relationships among a group of friends. ( )
  nwhyte | Dec 7, 2013 |
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'Eyeless in Gaza at the Mill with slaves' - Milton
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The snapshots had become almost as dim as memories.
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The story of one man's quest to find a meaningful life, which leads him from blind hedonism to political revolution to spiritual enlightenment.

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