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To be inducted into the Everyman's Library, rubbing shoulders with the Venerable Bede and Shakespeare, with The Thousand and One Nights and Peer Gynt, was, until recently, a sort of beatification. Lately, however, this narrow gate has widened, admitting Pierre Loti and Oscar Wilde. And now Aldous Huxley has entered. There are 160,000 of his words in this volume divided into four unequal parts: stories, travel accounts, articles, and poems. The articles and travel accounts demonstrate Huxley's just pessimism and almost intolerable lucidity; the stories and poems his incurable poverty of invention. What is one to think of these melancholy exercises? They are not unskillful, they are not stupid, they are not extraordinarily boring; they are, simply, worthless. They engender (at least in me) an infinite bewilderment. Occasionally a single isolated line saves him. This, for example, that refers to the flowing of time:
The wound is mortal and is mine.The poem "Theater of Varieties" wants to be like Browning; "The Giaconda Smile" wants to be a detective story. That at least is something, or is quite a lot, as it demonstrates the intention. I know what they want to be, even if they are nothing, and for that I am grateful. But as for the other stories and poems in this book, I cannot even imagine why they were written. As it is my job to understand, I make this public declaration in complete humility.
Aldous Huxley's fame has always struck me as excessive. I realize that his literature is of a type that is produced naturally in France and more artificially in England. There are readers of Huxley who do not feel this discomfort; I feel it continually, and can only derive an impure pleasure from his work. It seems to me that Huxley always speaks with a borrowed voice.
- Borges, trans. Weinberger