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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Genius and the Goddess, by Aldous Huxley

The Genius and the Goddess: A Novel (P.S.)

Written in 1955, this is advertised as the "unforgetable novel of a beautiful, amoral woman, her brilliant husband -- and the man she loved."

We were not familiar with Huxley's work beyond Brave New World and Point Counter Point. The content and style of this novel reminded us a little of Graham Greene's End of the Affair. The beauty of both books is the way they describe love, through the affair of a married woman, and its effects.

The author/narrator listens to "a little orgy of reminiscence:" a story of a friend, nearing the end of his life, who, many years earlier, was employed by a genius -- a moronic baby with a giant intellect. While this friend handled the affairs of the genius, and tutored the children of the genius, he also fell in love with the wife of the genius, who he considered a goddess. What he did not predict and could never have imagined is the effect his actions would have on the genius.

Since that experience, the friend has learned that wallowing in the past makes for good literature, but poor wisdom. "If you want to live every moment as it presents itself," he says, "you've got to die to every other moment." But this is a lesson he seems not to have learned. Or perhaps he has since forgotten. For it is in the recounted moments of the past that he comes alive again in the novel.

The blurb above, though, does a poor job of describing the novel. The longer description on the rear wrapper does a better job. The titular goddess is actually a matchless woman, a well-spring of life and a wealth of tenderness. She doesn't seem to be amoral, nor in love with another man. Perhaps that is the essence of the friend's self-deception. Or maybe the story he tells is meant to be deceptive. As he notes in the beginning: "I'd rather entrust my daughters to Casanova than my secrets to a novelist."

The Age published a rather beige review of the novelette. They found it both lacking and derivative of his earlier works. Over fifty years removed from the novel, and more from the novelist's heyday, we thought the novel quite pleasing, and an easy read. It has a strong literary style, and deals with its subject with a 1950's restraint. There is little politics or social commentary. The Genius and the Goddess was a pleasant surprise from what we expected from Huxley.

1 comment:

  1. I ve read a bit of Huxley and i, for one, really enjoyed this one. the depiction of the household in diasarray, coupled with the turmoil created by the coming of age of the teenaged Ruth, is brilliant. the narration is interspersed with Huxley's insights on life generally, which, like always, are a pleasure. the book does waver off and slackens a bit towards the end once the affair begins, but all in all, is a highly recommended reading.