Classics and Commercials: A Literary Chronicle of the Forties

By Edmund Wilson | Go to book overview

ALDOUS HUXLEY IN THE WORLD BEYOND TIME

ALDOUS HUXLEY'S NEW NOVEL, Time Must Have a Stop, is a good deal better than his last one, After Many a Summer Dies the Swan. For one thing, he has returned to Europe for his characters and his settings, and he is much more successful with the English intellectuals in the London and Florence of the twenties than he was, in the earlier book, with an American millionaire and his hangers-on. His people, in many cases, are still conventional figures of satire: the disgusting voluptuary who lives in Italy and talks about the art of life, the rude rich old lady who has a pet Pomeranian and raps out imperious orders, and an up-to-date version of the hard Gradgrind parent, who is a socialist instead of a utilitarian; but Huxley does not run here the same risk of an obvious and purely external caricature that he did in his California fantasia. Here there is much more that is piquant in the social observation, much more wit in the talk and the unspoken thoughts of the characters, much more novelty of invention in the action. And along with this there goes an improvement in his handling of the religious element which has lately come to figure in his fiction. Huxley's peculiar version of the life of contemplation and revelation was expounded in After Many a Summer by a boring non-satirical character

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