BBC Radio 7, 29 June - 3 July 2009
Aldous Huxley's classic tale, read by Anton Lesser, envisages a world of total uniformity, whose inhabitants are controlled in mind and deed, and who are given soma - a form of sedative - if they should dare to rebel. While they do have periods of unrestrained sexual activity (orgy-porgy), their lives are regimented in pursuit of 'happiness.' While the novel shows some of the characters mounting resistance - Bernard, the Savage - this is eventually shown to be futile. The Savage's scourging himself for his guilt is transformed into a public sideshow, an experience so humiliating that he eventually hangs himself. Brave New World takes up an issue in Tod Browning's Freaks, the MGM film released a year before Huxley's novel appeared in 1932. Browning's film ran into censorship problems, as viewers did not know whether to identify with or reject the freaks. Huxley has no such scruples - anyone departing from the behavioural norms laid down by society is automatically regarded as a freak.
Anton Lesser's reading of the novel emphasized how 'normal' the brave new world seemed, especially its citizens. The fact that it promoted conformity was represented as a virtue, both by the rulers and Huxley himself. It is this kind of acceptance that constitutes the novel's most chilling aspect - unless they remain vigilant, people will readily sacrifice their individuality. The producer was Duncan Minshull.