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The grandson of biologist T. H. Huxley, Aldous Huxley had a privileged background and was educated at Eton and Oxford despite an eye infection that left him nearly blind. Having learned braille his eyesight then improved enough for him to start writing, and by the 1920s he had become a fashionable figure, producing witty and daring novels like CROME YELLOW (1921), ANTIC HAY (1923) and POINT COUNTER POINT (1928). But it is as the author of his celebrated portrayal of a nightmare future society, BRAVE NEW WORLD (1932), that Huxley is remembered today. A truly visionary book, it was a watershed in Huxley's world-view as his later work became more and more optimistic - coinciding with his move to California and experimentation with mysticism and psychedelic drugs later in life. Nicholas Murray's brilliant new book has the greatest virtue of literary biographies: it makes you want to go out and read its subject's work all over again. A fascinating reassessment of one of the most interesting writers of the twentieth century.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780349113487
ISBN-10: 0349113483
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 131mm x 35mm)
Pages: 512
Imprint: Abacus
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 6-Nov-2003
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions


UK Kirkus Review » Sybille Bedford published her biography of Aldous Huxley, the writer best known for his satire Brave New World, in 1973. As Huxley's new biographer Nicholas Murray points out, early in his ambitious and readable account, a wealth of unpublished material about the writer's life has emerged since then, including letters and diaries from contemporaries such as Virginia Woolf and D H Lawrence, plus evidence of the menage a trois which Huxley, his wife Maria and Mary Hutchinson created in the 1920s. Although a fire in Huxley's home in 1961 obliterated many important documents, Murray has turned to 'hundreds of unpublished letters which survive and which are scattered throughout library collections' to allow his subject to speak 'to our current condition in more interesting and thought-provoking ways than has [previously] been allowed'. Born in 1894, Huxley died on the same day as JFK in 1963. His early life was shaped by three events: the sudden death of his mother while he was a teenager at Eton; a severe eye infection which left him nearly blind for up to three years, and partially sighted thereafter; and the mental breakdown and suicide of his elder brother Trevenen. The eldest Huxley brother, Julian, said of their mother's death: 'I am sure that this meaningless catastrophe was the main cause of the protective cynical skin in which [Aldous] clothed himself and his novels in the twenties.' Murray concludes that these events 'injected a greater bitterness into his early writing than might otherwise have been there'. This book takes us through the writer's life chronologically: the relationships of his 'Bloomsbury years', his emigration to the States in the 1930s and his various experimentations and obsessions. It also unwraps a private, more vulnerable Huxley, described early on as 'that gigantic grasshopper', a 'young bird' and a 'tall sad tulip'. Packed with absorbing detail, this account does justice to the many differing aspects of Huxley's life but at the same time allows a coherent figure to emerge. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » Capable biography capturing the English writer in his many guises: artist, aesthete, acidhead, even happy and well-loved man. Born in 1894, Huxley died on the day JFK was assassinated; understandably, news of his passing was buried deep inside the papers, and soon he was all but forgotten save as a kind of psychedelic prophet, thanks to his consciousness-expanding experiments with LSD and mescaline in the 1950s. But in his time he had acquired considerable fame for such fiction as Point Counter Point and After Many a Summer Dies a Swan, better liked by general readers than critics. In between his many novels, Huxley wrote travel journalism, essays, and eccentric philosophy that blended his psychotropic voyages with the wisdom of the East by way of southern California ("Like everyone else," he wrote, "I am functioning at only a fraction of my potential"). Only a few of his 50-plus books are now in print, though he is well-known for (and, really, only for) the dystopian Brave New World. Murray makes a good case for Huxley's value as a writer on a level with at least some of the Bloomsbury crowd; Virginia Woolf, it happens, was an early champion, though she warned in print that "we would admonish Mr. Huxley to leave social satire alone, to delete the word 'incredibly' from his pages, and to write about interesting things that he likes." His biographer also finds reason to criticize Huxley's work (as did the self-aware author himself) for its didacticism and undervaluing of plot and drama in favor of proselytizing on such matters as the generation gap and the dangers of totalitarianism. Nonetheless, Huxley emerges from Murray's pages as a decent, contented, and pleasant person whose life and work merit our regard. A useful addition to Sybille Bedford's two-volume authorized life of Huxley, drawing on letters and memoirs that have surfaced in the 30 years since its publication. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Nicholas Murray

Nicholas Murray was born in Liverpool in 1952. He has written acclaimed biographies of Bruce Chatwin, Matthew Arnold and the poet Andrew Marvell. He is married and lives in the Welsh Marches.

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