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Crome Yellow de Aldous Huxley
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Crome Yellow (1921 original; edició 2004)

de Aldous Huxley

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1,769417,104 (3.28)1 / 95
Though Aldous Huxley would later become known as one of the key early figures in the genre of dystopian science fiction, his first novels were gentler satires that played on the manor house genre. Crome Yellow tells of the goings-on at a house called Crome, an artists' colony of sorts where thinkers and writers gather to work, debate, and sometimes, to fall in love.… (més)
Títol:Crome Yellow
Autors:Aldous Huxley
Informació:Dover Publications (2004), Paperback, 176 pages
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Crome Yellow de Aldous Huxley (Author) (1921)

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Aldous Huxley

Crome Yellow

Vintage Classics, Paperback [2004].

12mo. [xxii]+170 pp. Introduction by Malcom Bradbury [vii-xi] and Biographical Introduction by David Bradshaw [xiii-xxi].

First published, 1921.
Vintage Classics, 2004.


Did one ever establish contact with anyone? We are all parallel straight lines.

This casual aside early on (in Chapter IV, to be exact) summarises the whole book. It is full of people – rich, snobbish, pretentious, frustrated and tedious people, to be exact – who love to talk of themselves and their ideas but are not able to listen to others, much less to other ideas. The book is full of conversations, but there is hardly any dialogue. It is a long string of monologues. Only Jenny, “a little more parallel than most”, has a valid excuse: she’s almost totally deaf.

Crome Yellow, Huxley’s first novel published a century ago when the author was 27 years old, is not really a novel. Little happens in it, and even that is not organised into anything like a plot. The characters are simplistic, to say the least. They have little individuality, less complexity and almost no real life in them. They are not really characters, not even in the sense of strange or amusing cranks. They are merely chatterboxes designed to impart the author’s ideas on just about anything, often enough without rhyme or reason.

Denis Stone, as disagreeable as young, arrogant, sensitive, intellectual and passionate men usually are, is sort of protagonist and something of a poet, but he often all but disappears for chapters on end and is not much missed. Mr Scogan is a philosopher who simply adores hearing himself talk, at wearisome length, on every topic from the essence of the modern novel (III) to the existential meaning of holidays (XXV). Then there is Mr Wimbush, the master of Crome (the manor where the whole bunch talk themselves to death), whose great ambition is to finish the history of his estate he’s been writing for the last twenty-five years and to print it on his home press. The ladies are limited to the sexually frustrated and rigidly intellectual Mary who thinks too much, the easygoing and superficial Anne who thinks too little, and Aunt Priscillla who doesn’t think at all. There are also a painter of sorts, a pop journalist and other gadflies that come and go without leaving the faintest trace on the poor reader’s memory.

Only Huxley’s lucid prose, mordant humour and vast erudition make the book readable. Even so, it feels a lot longer than 170 pages organised into thirty short and rather disjointed chapters. Indeed, one of the chapters, the dwarfish story of “Sir Hercules” (XIII), later found a place among Huxley’s short stories, where it fits better. Why the hilarious courtship of George Wimbush (XIX), the granddad of the present Mr Wimbush, never made it as a short story is a mystery to me. It is as fine a satire of romance and Romanticism as anything in such a short space.

If Crome Yellow has any value at all, this is not because it is generally considered roman à clef or because, in the words of Malcolm Bradbury, “it captured the intellectual, social and emotional flavour of the unhappy Twenties”. Nope. There are tons of fiction and non-fiction that would give you a far better taste of Lady Ottoline Morrell and her legendary parties at Garsington Manor or the pervasive depression and reckless gaiety of the dreadful decades between the World Wars. The “novel” is worth reading by fans of Huxley curious to explore the origins of his satirical genius.

One can certainly see the master satirist emerging in minor characters like Mr Barbecue-Smith, the patron saint of self-help authors, a regular word processor who manages to turn fifteen hundred words an hour, and the source of immortal aphorisms such as “The flame of a candle gives Light, but it also Burns.” What greater profundity could be imagined?

An even better example is Mr Bodiham, the local preacher, and his sermon how the Book of Revelation predicted, not just the Apocalypse in general, but the First World War in particular (IX). Four years have passed since that sermon was preached and published, and yet the Apocalypse is in no hurry to come. No wonder Mr Bodiham is dejected. But there are still plenty of troubles boiling all around the world, for instance “the Chinese boycott of Japan, and the rivalries of that country and America in the Pacific, might be breeding a great new war in the East” (a frightfully accurate prediction of Pearl Harbor and a good deal of WWII). Mr Bodiham can afford to be optimistic. I, for one, am sorry this curious specimen of humanity is virtually never heard of again after his momentous appearance:

In the midst of this brown gloom Mr Bodiham sat at his desk. He was the Man in the Iron Mask. A grey metallic face with iron cheek-bones and a narrow iron brow; iron folds, hard and unchanging, ran perpendicularly down his cheeks; his nose was the iron beak of some thin, delicate bird of rapine. He had brown eyes, set in sockets rimmed with iron; round them the skin was dark, as thou it had been charred. Dense wiry hair covered his skull; it had been black, it was turning grey. His ears were small and fine. His jaws, his chin, his upper lip were dark, iron-dark, where he had shaved. His voice, when he spoke and especially when he raised it in preaching, was harsh, like the grating of iron hinges when a seldom-used door is opened.

It was nearly half-past twelve. He had just come back from church, hoarse and weary with preaching. He preached with fury, with passion, an iron man beating with a flail upon the souls of his congregation. But the souls of the faithful at Crome were made of india-rubber, solid rubber; the flail rebounded. They were used to Mr Bodiham at Crome. The flail thumped on india-rubber, and as often as not the rubber slept.

Denis himself is ruthlessly used to poke fun at the literary mind intoxicated by the sound of words but paying no attention to their meaning (XX). But he is also the only person on these pages who is at least a little humanized occasionally. The minor incident with the pig scratching (V) is revealing: “If only one could always be kind with so little expense of trouble...” Indeed, if only one could! Another example is a powerful passage later on (XXIV) which shows Huxley at his finest as a vivisector of human nature:

Denis was his own severest critic; so, at least, he had always believed. He liked to think of himself as a merciless vivisector probing into the palpitating entrails of his own soul; he was Brown Dog to himself. His weaknesses, his absurdities – no one knew them better than he did. Indeed in a vague way he imagined that nobody beside himself was aware of them at all. It seemed, somehow, inconceivable that he should appear to other people as they appeared to him, inconceivable that they ever spoke of him among themselves in that same freely critical and, to be quite honest, mildly malicious tone in which he was accustomed to talk of them. In his own eyes he had defects, but to see them was a privilege reserved to him alone. For the rest of the world he was surely an image of flawless crystal. It was almost axiomatic.

I guess some readers might need to look up that “Brown Dog” online. I, for one, was not in the least aware of that great vivisection controversy in the early twentieth century. It must have been still hot by the time Crome Yellow was first published. Huxley’s prose is riddled with such allusions, including some that time has made more than a little obscure. I could deal with “an Eve by Cranach”, “bad Rubens” or “a brilliant Lisztian tremolo”, but I was fairly defeated by French poetry in the original, English seaside resorts or the pop ditties of the time. I also expanded my vocabulary with the word “carminative”, including its German translation. I admit Huxley used it to a fine comic effect.

The attempt to humanize Mr Wimbush (XXVIII) is contrived and not nearly so successful. Yet it does yield another insight into human nature, rather appalling indeed, but nevertheless thought-provoking:

It’s appalling; in living people, one is dealing with unknown and unknowable quantities. One can only hope to find out anything about them by a long series of the most disagreeable and boring human contacts, involving a terrible expense of time.

Long live the quiet scholarly life spent among books! The case of Mr Wimbush is admittedly extreme, but there is something to be said about this way of life. The master of Crome has learned some tolerance and understanding from his study of the past on paper, which is more than can be said of most lit professors and all bookworms. Alas, his prophecy about “the proper study of mankind” has remained entirely unfulfilled a century later, nor does it seem likely that it ever will be:

The world, you must remember, is only just becoming literate. As reading becomes more and more habitual and widespread, an ever-increasing number of people will discover that books will give them all the pleasures of social life and none of its intolerable tedium. At present people in search of pleasure naturally tend to congregate in large herds and to make a noise; in future their natural tendency will be to seek solitude and quiet. The proper study of mankind is books.

If this wasn’t satire, then Huxley was, to say the very least, extremely wide of the mark as a prophet. But I do suspect it is one of the most devastating satirical touches in the whole “novel”.

The book isn’t especially rich in anticipations of Huxley’s later work, but there are some tantalising exceptions. Mr Scogan’s “vast state incubators, rows upon rows of gravid bottles [that] will supply the world with the population it requires” (V) is quite an accurate prediction of Brave New World a decade in advance. So is much of his description of the utopian “Rational State” (XXII), although it is hardly possible to recognise the precursor of Pala from Island (1962). Aunt Priscilla’s childish attempt to predict with “the Stars” anything from football and cricket matches to the horse races anticipates with quarter of a century the author’s late immersion in mysticism which led to the writing of by far the worst book in Huxley’s massive bibliography. Ironically, it is one of his most famous as well.

Aldous Huxley was really an essayist who sometimes lost his way and wrote fiction. The body of essays he produced in the early 1920s makes his first two novels, this one and Antic Hay (1923), look even duller than they are. David Bradshaw, in his excellent biographical introduction which I have read and recommended multiple times, quotes Huxley as saying that his aim was “to arrive, technically, at a perfect fusion of the novel and the essay”. Revealing remark! To my mind, trying to unite the novel and the essay is a misguided business. No two literary forms could be more different. If you ask me (supposing you have nothing better to do), a novel should be bursting with exciting incidents carefully crafted into a story arc (i.e. a plot) and alive, complex, unpredictable creatures (i.e. characters). But that’s me.

Huxley disagreed. He thought a novel should be bursting with arresting opinions and provocative ideas. I think these are very fine things indeed. But they don’t make a novel, much less a good one. And yet, Huxley’s most famous books – apart from that little tome of psychedelic rubbish – are his most essay-like novels, while his essays are by far the most forgotten among his works (well, with the possible exceptions of his poems). So, I guess he was right to write no fewer than eleven “novels of ideas” (a contradiction in terms, really).

But let me say that again by way of conclusion. If you’re seriously interested in Aldous Huxley, do yourself a favour and skip Crome Yellow. Read the first volume of his Complete Essays instead. ( )
1 vota Waldstein | Mar 15, 2021 |
Huxley's satire ranges between the mild and the vicious. Largely directed towards second tier Bloomsbury, there is plenty of room for send-ups of others who drop into the house party and fair at Crome. The types that populate Crome include Priscilla, the mystic, Scogan, the rationalist, and the solipsistic Denis, the novel's protagonist, who serves as the epitome of dramatic irony, all underscored when he finally awakens to himself after seeing Jenny's caricature of him. The description of Scogan as "saurian" points towards Bertrand Russell, just as Priscilla takes on the characteristics of Lady Ottoline Morrell. And consider this passage: ". . . and of old Lord Moleyn one wondered why he wasn't living in gilded exile on the island of Capri among other distinguished persons who, for one reason or another, find it impossible to live in England." This is a sideways jab at the travel (mainly) writer Norman Douglas who exiled himself to Capri following one scandal (among others) with an underage boy.

Well, you can see from just the above paragraph what Huxley had in mind. So it's no surprise that any large scale appreciation of the book would be mostly gone today, almost a century after it was published. Even first tier Bloomsbury has begun to fade into obscurity. And but for Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forster there is not all that much to get excited about when it comes to the group's literary and artistic endeavors--Clive and Vanessa Bell were second rankers, as were Roger Fry, Duncan Grant, and even Lytton Strachey. As for Leonard Woolf, he is remembered only because of his wife. Bloomsbury and the types of people who populated the Bloomsbury world served up a daily dose of pretension, amateurism, and arrogance. Much of that comes through with the second teamers depicted in Crome Yellow.

Crome Yellow is a picture of post World War I Britain, particularly its upper middle classes. The history of Crome itself is built on a legacy of midgets who begat giants all too morally flawed to last the day. Undoubtedly, Huxley's book cost him friends and associates. But Huxley himself was always a man who could change. The mysticism of Priscilla, mildly mocked in Crome Yellow, would become part of the essence of Huxley's being later on. And the rationalized pacificism of Scogan would come to dominate Huxley's social outlook as well. Huxley, in fact, announced his "conversion" to pacisfism in 1935, just in time for Hitler's remilitarization of the Rhineland a few months later. Yes, Huxley could change. But why was it always for the worse? ( )
  PaulCornelius | Apr 12, 2020 |
Words - I wonder if you can realize how much I love them. You are too much preoccupied with mere things and ideas and people to understand the full beauty of words. Your mind is not a literary mind.

Goodreads is but a sea of possibilities, rife with points of contact albeit drifting and bobbing. Too often I don't hear the calls across the foamy expanses. It is with relief and gratitude that I thank Jim Paris for suggesting this novel.
Crome Yellow is Huxley's first novel.
It has wit and snark.
It overflows with pain and self-deprecation.
It takes place in a place called Crome.
It involves a bank holiday and there are references to oysters. ( )
1 vota jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
This is not the debut one would expect from Aldous Huxley. 'Brave New World's bleak future was bitterly funny and absurd and told clinically. 'Crome Yellow's humor is bright satire with any foreshadowing of the future undercut by the ridiculousness of everyone involved.

Crome is an English country house whose owners patronize the intellectual and artistic community. Denis Stone is a recently published poet who's been invited back to the house. He plans on dazzling the company with his wit, convince the lovely Anne Winbush he is in love with her and possibly write. Of course, the other guests have their own agendas and impressions to make. Not much happens, no one seems to succeed or particularly fail. The guests eat and drink and talk at each other, Mr. Winbush hijacks the novel with some of the Crome's history, Mr. Scogan talks about a future where lovers are freed from the burdens of conception by bottles, and the guests are enlisted to help with the annual village fair.

The novel is packed full of ideas and turns of phrase, particularly from Denis as he struggles with his identity and how to move forward in an artistically crowded world. Great fun and much too short. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
Wealthy people hang out at someone's country house. They talk art, politics, philosophy, and wish they weren't single. They pine after each other or try to figure out who might be a possibility. The host holds the annual day-long fair and they all assist.

There is definitely humor here, but it is 100-year-old upper class English humor, and doesn't really do it for me.

The best and most interesting part is when Mr Scogan spends a page expounding on what he thinks will be life in the future. His world sounds like an outline for Brave New World--which this book predates by 12 years. ( )
  Dreesie | Oct 21, 2018 |
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Aldous Huxley’s Chrome Yellow, if it be called a novel, violates all of the rules and regulations that I have just laid down so smugly. But why call it a novel? I can see absolutely no reason for doing so, save that the publisher falls into the error in his slipover, press-matter and canned review. As a matter of fact, the book is simply an elaborate piece of spoofing, without form and without direction... It is a piece of buffoonery that sweeps the whole range from the most delicate and suggestive tickling to the most violent thumping of the ribs. It has made me laugh as I have not laughed since I read the Inaugural Harangue of Dr. Harding...

Aldous is obviously less learned than his eminent grandpa. I doubt that he is privy to the morphology of Astacus fluviatilis or that he knows anything more about the Pleistocene or the Middle Devonian than is common gossip among Oxford barmaids. But though he thus shows a falling off in positive knowledge, he is far ahead of the Ur-Huxley in worldly wisdom, and it is his worldly wisdom which produces the charm of Chrome Yellow. Here, in brief, is a civilized man’s reductio ad absurdum of his age— his contemptuous kicking of its pantaloons.

afegit per SnootyBaronet | editaThe Smart Set, H. L. Mencken

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Human contacts have been so highly valued in the past only because reading was not a common accomplishment.... The world, you must remember, is only just becoming literate. As reading becomes more and more habitual and widespread, an ever-increasing number of people will discover that books will give them all the pleasures of social life and none of its intolerable tedium.
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Though Aldous Huxley would later become known as one of the key early figures in the genre of dystopian science fiction, his first novels were gentler satires that played on the manor house genre. Crome Yellow tells of the goings-on at a house called Crome, an artists' colony of sorts where thinkers and writers gather to work, debate, and sometimes, to fall in love.

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