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on 22 June 2017
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on 28 July 2015
I first read this novel in my youth, and was more impressed by it than anything else Huxley wrote. I liked the evolution of the characters, from schooldays to adulthood, all with their undercurrent of extreme seriousness, whatever their surface proclivities.

Rereading it, I was struck mainly by the exquisite turns of phrase Huxley was capable of, whether describing nature, scenes of domestic ordinariness, or varieties of inner turmoil. He clearly came from an era, shared with Evelyn Waugh, where good writing was paramount. There are some marvellously described set pieces, where the words, intoning in my head as I read them, rise and fall like sublime music.

I was also struck by his rapier like dissection of the way the mind works during social intercourse. His characters are uniformly two sided, or multi faceted, in that they repeatedly say and do what they know, even as they are saying and doing them, are not what they - their true or better selves - really want.

This withering insight into the operation of the psyche isn't done with hindsight, regret or annoyance. It is as if his characters become suddenly and unbearably aware of their capacity for love, and yet, in that same moment, watch in astonishment and anguish as they fail to acknowledge it in their actions. In fact, most of the time, they are appalled to discover themselves overreacting to their fear of expressing tender feelings by veering off to the other extreme, becoming more or less brutal instead. On the rare occasions when tenderness emerges, it is ridiculed mercilessly.

I had forgotten how much Huxley emphasises the bleakness of life. He is a master at exposing the futility of existence. What is the point, he keeps asking; and really, for his characters, the only possible answer seems to be in acknowledging their aching love for, and dependence on, each other, which is the one thing they are utterly incapable of doing.

As a novel, it is a bit disjointed, with too many ideas vying for the story line; but the good writing and the passionately conveyed evolution of some sublimely drawn characters, vivisecting the workings of their inner selves, revealing the near impossibility of anyone escaping the walls of their own prison, to bask with another escapee, on the outside, more than make up for this.

Ultimately, it's a sad story of disconnection. Most people, Huxley implies, only meet in anger or in superficial accord.. Even those who do find love, and welcome it, end up derided by him for acceding to something so simplistic. There must be more to life than this, he bemoans, while simultaneously reaching the forlorn conclusion that there isn't.
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on 15 October 1999
Huxley seems to be the master of pretty much everything an author should be the master of. Here we have an impressive argument as to why we should all ditch belligerence and restart the peace pledge union: a convincing pacifist novel. On the other hand it's a story of a man who is at complete liberty to do whatever he chooses, finds that he lives exactly the sort of life he would be expected to and finds it very disatisfying. Bizarrely he bumps into a strange Scot who changes it all for him, and convinces him to live altruistically. It reads a bit more interestingly than that, I promise!
'Eyeless at Gaza' refers constantly to the Bible (see the title) - somewhat incongruously for one of Britain's most noted atheists. Yet it is the enduring strength of Biblical narratives, images and thinking which is one of the most revelealing aspects of this novel. Should the church be as radical as Huxley proposes we all should be, perhaps it would regain some legitimate, voluntarily yielded, authority.
Bar the disappointing ending - a ramble through New Age nonsense which is out of place with the intelligence of the rest of the novel - a truly mind-broadening and challenging novel by a sadly neglected great author.
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on 13 October 2008
I struggled when I first picked up this novel. The only Huxley I had read before was 'A Brave New World', and I was expecting/hoping for something similar, and so the beginning of the novel disappointed me. The novel is written with a jigsaw-puzzle structure, so that the storyline jumps from era to era somewhat joltingly at first, which can be disorienting until you get a grip on each storyline. Once you pass the halfway point, however, it all begins to flow very smoothly. Unlike one other reviewer, I didn't find the death of a character "thrown in", but rather inevitable, as I found the change in tone towards the ending. The novel is interesting in its historical perspective, however the message it carries is, like 'A Brave New World' pretty much timeless (and of course, greatly ignored). Although the story starts off as a rather society-based drama, Huxley does imbue it with philosophy, as well as a certain feeling of hopelessness and inevitability brilliantly built up using the jigsaw structure; the message is definitely present from the beginning, it just takes a while to become obvious.
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on 6 December 2011
Kierkegaard warned that in forgetting how we become ourselves we are left more an animal than human. An injunction which Anthony Beavis, the novel's protagonist, evidently pays little attention to with his early denunciation of lost time, "How I hate Proust... forever squatting in the tepid water of his remembered past". Beavis has no past, only the "old corpses of dead Etonions", now remote and unfamiliar. Eyeless in Gaza recounts Beavis' developing detachment from himself and others, and his attempt at reconciliation.

As with all early Huxley novels, the tone of Eyeless in Gaza is willfully bleak. His characters, all flawed, are an unhealthy clot of "oddly hideous hairstyles", "grotesque marriages", and "other hells". Thankfully, Huxley does have his comic moments, but often I found his sombre mood drained any empathy I may have had with his characters, along with the will to carry on reading.

Huxley's experiment with the structure of Eyeless didn't encourage my attention either. The novel simultaneously follows several sub-narratives in a non-chronological series of admissions, with the more difficult, darker revelations kept to the end. The simple sin of adultery, the obvious pain of losing ones mother, predictably loiter the first chapters. And it's only as we learn more about Beavis that he confesses the prime motives behind his personal philosophy of denial.

I found little to inspire in this book. Yes, Huxley's obviously an intelligent chap, but his message appears simplistic, his tone unnecessarily downbeat, and his choice of structure is laborious. Read Eyeless by all means, but if you could only take one book with you on that long long train ride, I wouldn't take this one, really.
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on 3 May 2000
Once again I finish a Huxley book and feel as if I've been forced to sit through a political broadcast on behalf of the middleclass wannabe intellectual party. On a few occasions I felt that the narrative had stopped and Huxley's was attempting to tell us about his life. If so, he really must have been miserable (possible as Godalming is awful).
It's easy to see why all but the literature buffs ignore Huxley's work. It's as if he wrote purely to impress a peer or two (thesaurus on permanent standby). Had made the effort to make his material interesting, he surely would have succeeded in broadcasting his messages, or sell more books!
The only part of the book I found interesting is purely from a historic perspective. The story contains a few references to Hitler and his work - the book was published in 1936. Though the related death of a character (which I won't name) seems out of context and artificial. Almost to the point where one feels Huxley added the character after the manuscript was complete purely to kill him off, just to capture the mood of conflict building in Europe.
If you're not studying literature, you may prefer to borrow a copy from your local library before parting with any cash. I wish I did.
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on 9 April 2002
There is an old saying the arabs used to say that words have an almost sword-like effect and it is exactly this feeling that Eyeless in Gaza imbued in me when i was reading it. The words and the sentences, the way they are so poignantly structured is magical to say the least. I think this is the greatest achievement of the book. It may be true that some of the ideas that he extrapolates i find disaggreable at some levels, but the beauty of the book lies in its literary ingenuity and it is for that reason that i shall recommend this book to everyone interested in literature. I believe if the purpose of life be the pursuit of happiness then books are its poetry and this book is that poetry that illuminates the hearts and the intellect in such a complimentary way that it is difficult to see who can write as greatly as this man did.
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on 16 April 2016
Gift well received
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on 11 January 2015
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on 12 September 2014
LOVE this book!
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