Make friends with good writers

“Aldous Huxley was as tall as he was slim. He was almost six feet tall and radiated an impression of calm. He first remained silent, listening and examining faces, then he was animated and talked for a long time with assurance. […]. Always elegantly dressed in flannel, velvet, tie, which he will keep as a habit even in the California desert, he also clashed with his incomprehensible gaze. For no one knew what he saw.

The Belgian philosopher Pascal Chabot casts a loving and kind glance at the British author, whom he invites us to follow over the course of six days of his life. So we cross the English winter, in Eton in 1911, we cross the Atlantic on the deck of the liner Normandy, we taste the silence of the Mojave Desert, in California, we picnic in the dry rent of a river in the company of Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin, The Hubble astronomer that Huxley liked to spend a few afternoons with.

With The best of worlds, his masterpiece published in 1932, Aldous Huxley offered us a daring “painting of a universal happiness, in which people in a good mood, reconciled with death, get rid of the feeling of sin, enjoy without hindrance the fruits of ‘advanced and playful technical logistics’, sums up Pascal Chabot. Huxley, who has put “all his knowledge and all his fears” in this novel, manages to “show the light and blissful satisfaction of these people, who are happy to ignore their own bondage, by painting behind the scenes, which is propaganda, eugenics, control of conscience, omnipotence of the state. ” So much so that if George Orwell’s world in 1984 is “scary and scary”; Huxleys is an “industrial aphrodisiac”. “The first is apt for paranoid dictatorships; the second, much more subtle, glitters wherever it is believed that advertising LEDs from megalopolis can take the place of culture, and where untruths hide even the idea of ​​freedom.”

Being smart is not an end in itself

Aware of his talent, but haunted by a question – “What is the point of being smart?” Aldous Huxley did not want his gloomy Brave New World prophecy to be his only truth or his last words. In 1937, as he was on his way to America and Europe slipped into darkness, he sought to put an end to his cynicism and pessimism by wanting to put his intelligence in favor of freedom and peace. “If it can help to be intelligent, it is for this: to find ways to reinvent progress. Do not let useful and material progress alone prevail, but include it in a more general, more subtle progress, a human progress.

On fifty pages woven with anecdotes, Pascal Chabot guides us in the wake of Aldous Huxley, though he sometimes, he admits, no longer manages to follow in his footsteps, so much so that the author is as ingenious as he is complex, crossed by errors and missing. paradoxes. Either way: this little book is ideal for (re) immersing yourself in the writings of the British author.

The one who excites us

Another dimension also slips into Pascal Chabot’s book. Over the years, Aldous Huxley has formed a good friendship with “his exact opposite”: the British author DH Lawrence. The two men are not alike, but their affinity spans their differences. Such is the mystery of friendship, Pascal Chabot notes: it “is not an exercise in admiration or an admission of attachment.” The friend is never an idol: on the contrary, he expands our horizons.

“The friend, the author we like to read, is the one through whose eyes we accept to see the world. He is the one whose gaze suits us, whose remarks interest us, whose problems concern us, whose words speak to us. It is he who ‘agitates’ us, in the words of Lévi-Strauss. “

Let’s weave literary, artistic, and intellectual friendships. And let’s be true to it, Pascal Chabot implicitly urges. Let us patiently dig into the works we have been given and step over the misunderstandings to discover where their paths lead us.

In his text on DH Lawrence, Huxley said that we all live on a small island of clarity, a narrow bubble of light and understanding, where each one organizes a life protected from the surrounding darkness. In terms of supply, we sometimes manage to “bind our bubble to a larger, more luminous bubble”. It is then, through another’s genius, culture, art, word, or poetry, that “a new space to visit” opens up to us, a “great reservoir of oxygen” from which we can draw.

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