Volume Five, December 2004

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With Huxley, the world of ideas is defined through the characters themselves, each of them being the embodiment of an idea. The predominant grotesque element in Antic Hay results from the chaotic dance and the unhappy association of ideas. It is not the ideas themselves that are grotesque or ridiculous, but their representation in the real world. The materialized idea that has been transformed from consciousness into the objective reality becomes inevitably ridiculous and absurd, according to Huxley. Everything that seems to be ideal, beautiful, true, falls easy prey to the shallowness of the world. Almost all the characters of Antic Hay are true intellectuals, for each of them is characterized by an impossible passion, by a profound discontent, by an evident handicap in facing the world. Thus, the characters’ existence becomes a grotesque dance without any aim or direction, with the more or less accidental “clashes” of “the dancers” doing nothing than contributing to the hideous character of the scene.
The characters of Antic Hay are, therefore, losers on the level of objective reality: Gumbril Senior projects cities and buildings that will never be built, Myra Viveash longs for a dead lover, Rosie tries in vain to get rid of the monotony of her existence, Shearwater is interested in useless experiments that are incapable of giving a really significant answer to humanity. In this respect, Theodore Gumbril is the most interesting. His innovative endeavors are most “dangerous” as they aim to adapt the world and its values to the imperfect nature of the human being. Pneumatic trousers meant to ease off sitting down are nothing else than the expression of the desire to adapt the system of values that man is forced to constantly relate himself to, to the small human weaknesses that actually characterize our existence:

But this was all nonsense, all nonsense. One must think of something better than this. What a comfort it would be, for example, if one could bring air cushions into chapel! These polished oaken stalls were devilishly hard; they were meant for stout and lusty pedagogues not for bony starvelings like himself. An air cushion, a delicious pneu.
“Here endeth,” boomed Mr. Pelvey, closing his book on the back of the German eagle.
As if by magic, Dr. Jolly was ready at the organ with the Benedictus. It was positively a relief to stand again; this oak was adamantine. But air cushions, alas, would be too bad an example for the boys. Hardy young Spartans! it was an essential part of their education that they should listen to the word of revelation without pneumatic easement. No, air cushions wouldn’t do. The real remedy, it suddenly flashed across his mind, would be trousers with pneumatic seats. For all occasions; not merely for churchgoing. (1)

Theodore Gumbril comes closer in this way of thinking to Gelu Ruscanu, the protagonist of Jocul ielelor who, becoming aware of man’s impossibility to attain perfection, understands that the only solution is exchanging the actual ideals with goals that are more human and, thus, easier to accept and follow. The great system of values that includes also religion (one of the most difficult to understand concepts in Antic Hay) is based on man’s capacity to be good, dignified, superior, on man’s capability to perfect himself – but these very concepts are turned upside down in Antic Hay. Gumbril’s wish is to make the ideas accessible to the people of a lower cultural standing. The superiority of the intellectual lies in his awareness that beauty, truth, and morality are not accessible to the “normal” human being because living by the rule of ideas entails difficulties that only few are ready to accept and most of these few do it for a short time only:

Gumbril remembered his own childhood; they had not been very diligently taught to him. “Beetles, black beetles” – his father had a really passionate feeling about the clergy. Mumbo-jumbery was another of his favorite words. An atheist and an anticlerical of the strict old school he was. Not that in any case he gave himself much time to think about these things; he was too busy being an unsuccessful architect. As for Gumbril’s mother her diligence had not been dogmatic. She had just been diligently good, that was all. Good; good? It was a word people only used nowadays with a kind of deprecating humorousness. Good. Beyond good and evil? We are all that nowadays. Or merely below them, like earwigs? I glory the name of earwig. Gumbril made a mental gesture and inwardly declaimed. But good in any case, there was no getting out of that, good she had been. Not nice, not merely molto simpatica – how charmingly and effectively these foreign tags assist one in the great task of calling a spade by some other name! – but good. You felt the active radiance of her goodness when you were near her… And that feeling, was that less real and valid than two plus two? (4)

Such notions like God, beauty, purity must constantly be adapted to man, otherwise the latter will drop them. Concepts that do not belong to the human sphere, but to that of the absolute, need disguised versions so that man should not perceive them as being absolute. Perfection always generates fear which, in its turn, can be gradually transformed into hate and a desire to destroy. The grotesque aspect of the human being lies in one’s instinct to annihilate everything that is superior to him. If classicism spoke of the grandiosity of the human being engaged in the permanent search of the absolute, the modern perspective offers us the image of a mean man that is incapable of accepting truth and beauty and is trying to destroy them – because they make him aware of the misery in which he lives and which he cannot escape.
Thus, the grotesque in Antic Hay is brought about, first of all, by the fact that man cannot but also does not want to desire the absolute. Communication with God is impossible because of the hardness of the benches in church. The hideous aspect of the world comes from the fact that misery, shallowness are capable of turning absolute values upside down. The grotesque character of the world and of the human being is mirrored similarly upon the beautiful and the absolute. The idea of God’s existence becomes impossible because of most people’s inability to rise to its level. God cannot exist but by means of pneumatic trousers. What man asks for is not God but a relativistic and ridiculous jester. The illusion that man aims at the truth and perfection is brutally annihilated. The average human being cannot understand the notion of the absolute but does not even want to. His happiness is ensured as long as he can dwell in the spiritual nonsense of his debatable wishes. The moment he is compared with lofty ideals and he realizes he is hideous the tendency is not to go up but to destroy the ideal.
In contradiction with Gelu Ruscanu, who, being characterized by a blind idealism, applies absolute ideas to objective reality, Theodore Gumbril’s ingenuity lies in the fact that he realizes from the very beginning the sharp disjointedness between the ideal and reality. While Gelu Ruscanu is crushed by the desire to see his ideal of absolute justice fulfilled on the objective level, Gumbril is constantly searching for a way to adapt the ideal to reality:

One would introduce little flat rubber bladders between two layers of cloth. At the upper end, hidden when one wore a coat, would be a tube with a valve: like a hollow tail. Blow it up – and there would be perfect comfort even for the boniest, even on rock. How did the Greeks stand marble benches in their theaters?…
Gumbril sat down again. It might be convenient, he thought, to have the tail so long that one could blow up one’s trousers while one actually had them on. In which case, it would have to be coiled round the waist like a belt; or looped up, perhaps, and fastened to a clip on one’s braces. (7)

We do not find here any proof of mediocrity, on the contrary. The ideal remains an abstract and useless notion as long as man does not look at it with nostalgia. What is the use of an ideal if no one aims at it? The idea embodied by Theodore Gumbril is that the ideal should look as if it were accessible to man, otherwise man will abandon it. The ideal remains, of course, untouchable but the way to it should be accessible, otherwise no one would decide to follow it. Gelu Ruscanu does not succeed in annihilating the idea of absolute justice as it is beyond human powers to continuously relate his existence to perfection, in other words, he asks for what no one can offer. In this respect, Theodore Gumbril is more convincing as a character than Gelu Ruscanu, who appears as a rather infantile idealist. Of course the trousers invented by Gumbril shed a rather ridiculous light on the character – but the idea that lies at the basis of the invention (and the idea, not its representation is important) is superior to Gelu Ruscanu’s pointless idealism. What brings the two characters closer is the awareness of human misery and the impossibility to get rid of it. The difference between Aldous Huxley and Camil Petrescu is the intellectual’s attitude that comes from this awareness. While Gelu Ruscanu chooses suicide and thus gives in but rejects moral misery, Theodore Gumbril prefers to analyze everything from a distance, without getting directly involved in the process. His hypothetical departure for Paris at the end of the novel is, for example, not an act of cowardice but a proof of his taste for novelty:

“I propose to leave the country tomorrow morning,” said Gumbril.
“Ah, the classical remedy… But not to shoot big game, I hope?” She thought of Viveash among the Tikki-tikkis and the tsetses. He was a charming creature; charming, but… but what?
“Good heavens!” exclaimed Gumbril. “What do you take me for? Big game!” He leaned back in his chair and began to laugh, heartily, for the first time since he had returned from Robertsbridge, yesterday evening. He had felt then as though he would never laugh again. “Do you see me in a pith helmet, with an elephant gun?”
Mrs. Viveash put her hand to her forehead. “I see you, Theodore,” she said, “but I try to think you would look quite normal; because of my head.”
“I go to Paris first,” said Gumbril. “After that, I don’t know. I shall go wherever I think people will buy pneumatic trousers. I’m traveling on business.” (181)

What is really annoying about vice and misery is their underlying constant character: vice, spiritual misery, evil are never unexpected, as they are forever the same. The constant search of the intellectual originates in an avid mind that is incapable of being content with the shallowness of immorality. Thus, the intellectual spends a lifetime in search of novelties, his bitterness coming from the impossibility to find them. Being aware of the fact that the absolute is not going to make him happy because it is untouchable, Huxley’s intellectual tries desperately to integrate himself into the external world to which, in actual fact, he does not belong. The difference between Camil Petrescu’s intellectual and Huxley’s intellectual is that the latter can have a split personality and pretend he does not while the former finds it impossible to look like what he is not. Theodore Gumbril’s disguise in Complete Man by means of a false beard offers him access to the essence of the surrounding world whose knowledge represents a direct and fundamental experience:

What happened next was that the Complete Man came still closer, put his arm round her, as though he were inviting her to the fox, trot, and began kissing her with a startling violence. His beard tickled her neck; shivering a little, she brought down the magnolia petals across her eyes. The Complete Man lifted her up, walked across the room carrying the fastidious lady in his arms and deposited her on the rosy catafalque of the bed. Lying there with her eyes shut she did her best to pretend she was dead. (86)

Only by means of direct or interactive experiences is objective knowledge possible. By simply observing from the outside, the image is often distorted and incomplete . Direct experience of immorality and the grotesque leads to a complete comprehension of them (but comprehension does not mean acceptance). While Theodore Gumbril manages by means of a false beard to fit into the external reality, such a fact would be inconceivable for Gelu Ruscanu or Stefan Gheorghidiu who cannot be but who they are. Pretending would not only be impossible, but also inconceivable, this being equal to spiritual prostitution:

All that was mild in him, all that was melancholy, shrank with what consequences delicious and perilous in the future or, in the case of the deserved snub, immediately humiliating? – a silence which, by the tenth or twelfth shop window, had become quite unbearably significant. The Mild and Melancholy One would have drifted to the top of the road, sharing, with that community of tastes which is the basis of every happy union, her enthusiasm for brass candlesticks and toasting forks, imitation Chippendale furniture, gold watch bracelets and low-waisted summer frocks; would have drifted to the top of the road and watched her, dumbly, disappearing forever into the green Park or along the blank pavements of the Bayswater Road. Would have watched her forever disappear and then if the pubs had happened to be open, would have gone and ordered a glass of port, and sitting at the Bar would have savored, still dumbly, among the other drinkers, the muddy grapes of the Douro and his own unique loneliness.
That was what the Mild and Melancholy One would have done. But the sight, as he gazed earnestly into an antiquary’s window, of his own powerful bearded face, reflected in a sham Hepplewhite mirror, reminded him that the Mild and Melancholy One was temporarily extinct and that it was the Complete Man who now dawdled, smoking his long cigar, up the Queen’s Road toward the Abbey of Theleme. (77)

With Camil Petrescu, the intellectual’s creed is to preserve his identity even at the cost of being an outcast. With Huxley, (in this novel, at least), the aim of the intellectual’s existence is absolute knowledge, no matter by what means. What offers unity and credibility to his personality that is spread out into a multitude of individualities is the unified mind, with mind being the same in the case of the inventor of the pneumatic trousers as well as in the case of The Complete Man. This unity of the personality is achieved only at the level of the consciousness, however.
His love for Myra Viveash is for Theodore Gumbril, like it is with Stefan Gheorghidiu of Ultima noapte de dragoste, întâia noapte de rãzboi, an existential experience that once achieved at the level of the consciousness, separates the object of love from the one who loves. Myra Viveash’s constant boredom is due to her permanent status as an object of knowledge and revelation. She contributes to the shaping up and self-awareness of those around her without being able to come to know herself:

“That would have been a just retribution,” Gumbril went on, “after what you’ve done to me.”
“What have I done to you?” Mrs. Viveash asked, opening wide her pale blue eyes.
“Merely wrecked my existence.”
“But you’re being childish, Theodore. Say what you mean without these grand, silly phrases.” The dying voice spoke with impatience. (180)

Her constant anxiety, her permanent desire to move and change are only proofs of a profound fear caused by the lack of meaning that defines her own existence. Myra Viveash’s only means of self-awareness and fulfillment would be Tony, but he is dead. Together with the object of love the possibility of self-awareness also disappears. If Camil Petrescu had offered us an image of Mrs. T from Patul lui Procust after Fred Vasilescu’s death, this would have certainly overlapped with Myra Viveash’s. Hardly being a tempting mermaid, Myra is only a woman that is just as bored as Theodore Gumbril, vicious and immoral. Coming to know them and perceive their flat character, she cannot understand how other people are fascinated by them. (That is why she does not react to Shearwater’s advances.) Her escape into the search for novelties that would create the illusion of filling the spiritual emptiness is a must. Her position is similar to Mrs. T’s from Patul lui Procust, both women having the status of hunted beauties. But this sheds an ironical light upon her and pushes her into the turmoil of the grotesque dance. Just like Gumbril, Mrs. Viveash is perfectly aware that absolute fulfillment is impossible to attain, but in contrast to him, she abandons herself to boredom, giving up on any attempt to acquire true knowledge. Her continuous search means actually running away from herself. The time spent downtown, the taxi ride at night time are nothing but desperate attempts to diminish the time spent in loneliness as loneliness increases one’s awareness of spiritual emptiness:

Their taxi that evening cost them several pounds. They made the man drive back and forth, like a shuttle, from one end of London to the other. Every time they passed through Piccadilly Circus, Mrs. Viveash leaned out of the window to look at the sky signs dancing their unceasing St. Birus’s dance above the monument to the Earl of Shaftesbury.
“How I adore them!” she said the first time they passed them. “Those wheels that whiz round till the sparks fly out from under them: that rushing motor: and that lovely bottle of port filling the glass and then disappearing and reappearing and filling it again. Too lovely.”
“Too revolting,” Gumbril corrected her. “These things are the epileptic symbol of all that’s most bestial and idiotic in contemporary life. Look at those beastly things and then look at that.” He pointed to the County Fire Office on the northern side of the Circus. “There stands decency, dignity, beauty, repose. And there flickers, there gibbers and twitches – what? Testlessness, distraction, refusal to think, anything for an unquiet life.” (184-185)

Myra Viveash does not try to adapt reality to an ideal or the ideal to reality – her life is a continuous running away towards an expected and desired end. Her seeming indifference is her way of living: “My ambition and pleasure are to understand, not to act,” said Huxley (ix). This holds good for Myra Viveash, too. The pleasure offered by the complete understanding of matters replaces the lack of an objective activity. Boredom is only superficial, being caused just like in the case of Theodore Gumbril, by the constant nature of evil and mediocrity. In fact, the mind is all the time active, hence its permanent unrest and constant search of other realities, or of “intellectual food.” Boredom comes from the fact that nothing of what she comes across meets her intellectual needs: Casimir Lypiatt’s dramatic love bores her just as much as Shearwater’s insistent courting. Although they bore her, she needs their presence because she chooses shallowness, even the grotesque, rather than be lonely. The mind constantly needs “food” otherwise it becomes a mechanism of destruction. In the absence of beauty, it is nourished with the grotesque, the hideous. But as they are not capable of satisfying her, the state of unrest does not stop but is enhanced up to the moment of self-destruction.
At the beginning of this study we argued that the main idea, the basic feature of the characters in Antic Hay is that of dissatisfaction. Each of those characters involved in the grotesque dance of absurdity permanently carry with them the heavy load of discontent. This discontent becomes a tormenting idea that haunts their consciousness – that is why we can say that both Theodore Gumbril and Myra Viveash, Shearwater, Mercaptan or even Coleman are virtual intellectuals. With each of them what really guides existence is an over-possessing idea. The limited plot of Antic Hay is due to the fact that it is not the events themselves that are important but the ideas that generate them, as well as the perspectives that generated these events. For example, the grotesque character of “the dance” is caused by the clash between the varying material representations of ideas, not between the ideas themselves.
Theodore Gumbril’s frustration stems, as we pointed out earlier, from man’s spiritual separation from the ideal. Myra Viveash will always feel a lack of fulfillment because of Tony’s death. But how are things with the other characters? Gumbril Senior is of particular interest. With him dissatisfaction is most evident. Gumbril Senior’s only preoccupations are to make maquettes of buildings and towns that will never be built and to watch for hours on end the starlings in the backyard trees:

Gumbril Senior expounded his city with passion. He pointed to the model on the ground, he lifted his arms and turned up his eyes to suggest the size and splendor of his edifices. His hair blew wispily loose and fell into his eyes, and had to be brushed impatiently back again. He pulled at his beard; his spectacles flashed, as though they were living eyes. Looking at him, Gumbril Junior could imagine that he saw before him the passionate and gesticulating silhouette of one of those old shepherds who stand at the base of Piranesi’s ruins demonstrating obscurely the prodigious grandeur and the abjection of the human race. (110)

The ridiculous note of the situation is evinced in the modern world’s non-acceptance of the individuals who get lost in “useless” preoccupations. What is typical of all the characters of Antic Hay, not only of Gumbril Senior, is their lack of efficiency. None of the personages in the novel manage to do anything that should be significant for humanity, although they all try it, one way or another. Their existence is, from the point of view of the modern world, meaningless. Thus the individuals are reduced to the status of ideas because outside themselves their ideas have no value. The characters of the novel do nothing but think. They are simple “islands” in the social sea, who, instead of pondering on the meaning of life, simply prefer to live it.
To come back to Gumbril Senior, he is extremely interesting as a character because the aim of his life is to build utopias, to make ideas and ideals come true. However, Gumbril Senior is more of a materialist than an idealist, for what is really disturbing for him is not so much moral misery but the misery that is noticeable on the objective level. It is true that he is aware of physical misery being the result of spiritual misery but he does not want to do away with the cause but with the effect. That is why his plans and hopes are utopian – because while moral misery is not to be admitted and is thus invisible, physical misery will always lurk “in the flesh.” What he misses, despite his efforts, is the cause of ugliness. He only finds its effects. Gumbril Senior does not admit that in order to change the world you have to change the people first and not the architecture of the buildings. From this point of view, his son has a superior way of thinking: Theodore Gumbril realizes that in order to bring the ideal closer to man, man must be helped to reach spiritually higher and not common objectives. Gumbril Senior is preoccupied with the evident forms of ugliness, of the grotesque – the visible ones. According to him, the ideal stays an ideal only as long as it is kept away from the external world. When one of his maquettes representing a cathedral falls from the table where it was displayed and breaks to pieces, Gumbril Senior wonders whether it will ever be the same after repairing it. The conviction of the intellectual is that the basic feature of any ideal is its need not to be touched – the moment when the ideal comes in touch with the telluric, it is destroyed. Although he does not give up the idea of “repair,” Gumbril Senior is aware that once an ideal is turned upside down, it is lost forever and it will cause the loss of other ideals because once the man is convinced that he has the power to destroy, he will not hesitate to do so.
We have already said that Gumbril Senior’s main preoccupation is to create utopias, to materialize ideals. He feels the need to transfer the absolute (which is abstract) into the objective realm (which is concrete). This will naturally lead to making the absolute look ridiculous. All Gumbril Senior manages to do is to make maquettes, imitations of a perfect model that will never be used, however. Just like Gelu Ruscanu’s ideal of justice in Jocul ielelor, Gumbril Senior’s patterns will never be applied as they cannot be used in the real world. Besides, building a new town would mean the destruction of an old one, which implies the fear of the unknown, which is typical of the societal mechanism.
Gumbril’s pleasure to watch the birds for hours on end derives from the same type of anguish that Myra Viveash possesses and which represents the unconscious desire to break away from the fallen environment. The silent communion of the birds makes him aware of his loneliness – of man’s loneliness, generally speaking. Indeed, all the characters in the novel live in isolation, in loneliness – the “grotesque dance” being nothing more than a temporary break from this continual state of loneliness.
We said at the beginning of this chapter that the main feature of the characters in Antic Hay is their futility on the level of objective reality. “Work, thought Gumbril, work. Lord, how passionately he disliked work! Let Austin have his swink to him reserved. Ah, if only one had work of one’s own, proper work, decent work – not forced upon one by the griping of one’s belly!”(7). None of the characters do anything significant for humanity. Thus, human existence is limited to consciousness. Only the ideas of the characters have an authentic value. Beyond these ideas, the characters have no reason to be. A multitude of perspectives and parallel worlds are created, where ideas and experiences are not interrelated although the characters meet on the level of objective reality and seem to communicate. Relevant, as regards communication, is the scene at the restaurant in Chapter Four in Antic Hay, where Lypiatt speaks about ideals, Shearwater about kidneys, Mercaptan about the civilised middle way between “Homo en naturel” and “Homo a la H. G. Wells.”
Although everybody upholds his point of view bringing forth countless reasons, each seems to talk more to himself than to the others. Communication is impossible simply because everyone’s consciousness is dominated by an idea that does not allow the existence of others (all the more so as they belong to somebody else). Even if they were willing, the characters could not succeed in understanding each other because their minds are blocked by an idea that does not permit further communication. The speeches are monologues, rather than invitations to dialogue. The ideas that are materialized by means of the world are carefully analysed at the level of the consciousness. They are not meant to be approved of or accepted by the others but constantly checked by the one that creates them. Thus, life becomes an absurd and stupid dance, where the dancers make automatic movements as each dances for himself. There is no trace of harmony and, any attempt to communicate becomes impossible. Just like in Patul lui Procust, in Antic Hay we come across parallel worlds. The destinies, the ideas, the experiences have no connection and they co-exist in a grotesque chaos. Under these circumstances, we are not surprised that life is not understood. Not even religion or science can offer any answer to our essential existential questions.
To illustrate this idea, we will focus on Shearwater. Shearwater embodies the futility of pure science, the pointlessness of the numerous experiments that are carried out in thousands of labs all over the world. Even when these experiments seem to offer answers, they only refer to a limited part of reality. Although they are the only realities of the modern world, the discoveries of science are helpless when it comes to questions about God, or the notions of Good, Truth and Beauty:

In the annex of the laboratory the animals devoted to the service of physiology were awakened by the sudden opening of the door, the sudden irruption of light. The albino guinea pigs peered through the meshes of their hutch and their red eyes were like the rear lights of bicycles. The pregnant she-rabbits lollopped out and shook their ears and pointed their tremulous noses toward the door. The cock into which Shearwater had engrafted an ovary came out, not knowing whether to crow or cluck.
“When he’s with hens,” Lancing explained to his visitors, “he thinks he’s a cock. When he’s with a cock, he’s convinced he’s a pullet.” (202-203)

The achievements of science are ultimately useless because they do not give man either safety or spiritual comfort. The rooster, which was experimented with, does not know whether to crow or to cluck, and consequently is completely lost. The bugs whose heads were cut off and to which other heads were attached create a hideous and apocalyptic image.
These experiments will never offer any certainty or answer to really important questions. The discoveries of science have, nonetheless, become the stronghold of modern world. They replaced old concepts and values, but are totally helpless when dealing with essential issues and human uncertainties. Besides, science seems to be devoted to experiments that do not only offer any answer to any questions. Science, sometimes, seems to be an absurd and infantile game meant to rather distract man’s attention from really important issues than solve mysteries. In the context of Shearwater’s daily preoccupations, his passion for Myra Viveash seems to be one of the many experiments initiated by him. He is totally incapable of love, however. When it comes to love he is just as awkward and disoriented as the bugs or the cock in his lab. In fact, the image of the animals from Shearwater’s lab is relevant for all the characters in the novel. Being lost and not belonging anywhere, they aimlessly roam through life. Their main feature is, apart from uselessness, the grotesque: equally grotesque are Rosie’s adventures with Gumbril, Mercaptan and Coleman, or Emily’s virginity.
In Antic Hay the intellectuals’ drama stems first and foremost from their constant search for truth while separating themselves from the world. Both Huxley’s and Camil Petrescu’s characters become aware of the fact that consciousness is the only reality that can be checked, the only source of absolute truth. Hence, the only true experiences are the ones lived at the level of the consciousness. The conflict between the intellectual and the modern world is the result of a total confusion, a relativism that makes the existence of any reference point all but impossible. Being lost in the daily chaos, the intellectual thus wastes his time in infantile preoccupations and interests (Myra Viveash, for example longs for the thrill given to her by raspberry syrup):

“Ah, well,” said Mrs. Viveash. “Perhaps one’s better without stimulants. I remember when I was very young, when I first began to go about at all, how proud I was of having discovered champagne. It seemed to me wonderful to get rather tipsy. Something to be exceedingly proud of. And at the same time, how much I really disliked wine! Loathed the taste of it. Sometimes, when Calliope and I used to dine quietly together, tete-a-tete, with no awful men about and no appearances to keep up, we used to treat ourselves to the luxury of a large lemon squash, or even raspberry syrup and soda. Ah, I wish I could recapture the deliciousness of raspberry syrup.” (189-190)
A disturbing fact is that we cannot assert that the characters of Antic Hay are real adults. Their behavior is most often infantile; their preoccupations are absurd and their interests ridiculous. Hence, their grotesqueness. The failure of all the characters is evident first of all in their infantile behavior. Gumbril, for example, invents pneumatic trousers because he finds it difficult to sit down for a longer period of time on the wooden benches in church – a problem that is usually typical of children. Rosie wears pink underwear, decorates her room in pink – this color being characteristic of all girls in childhood. Myra Viveash longs for raspberry syrup and is fascinated by flickering sky-signs from Piccadilly Circus. Thus, the refuge of the individual is childhood. Not knowing how to act and not understanding the world, the characters of Antic Hay stop searching for the meanings of life. For them life has no aim and it is lived only because you were accidentally thrown into its chaos, into its grotesque dance. Everybody lives but no one knows how to live. The nostalgia for the age when no one expects from you to know how to live seems, thus, quite natural. Being overwhelmed with the demands of the modern world, the men and the women in Antic Hay give up on trying hard to understand it and simply live their lives without trying to discover its essence.
Conversely, the ones that are stubborn and do not give up on old values are doomed to fail. This is Casimir Lypiatt’s case: an idealist who failed and whose unmotivated optimism is just as ridiculous as his passion for Myra Viveash. Casimir Lipyatt is the type of intellectual who reminds us of Gelu Ruscanu. Excessively dramatic and temperamental, as if coming from a remote age or epoch, from another world, Casimir Lypiatt is the character with whom the impossibility to fit into the modern world is most evident. Just like Gelu Ruscanu he tries to impose ideas and concepts that have no real correspondent, ideals that were long ago replaced by others:

Lypiatt went on torrentially. “You’re afraid of ideals, that’s what it is. You daren’t admit to having dreams. Oh, I call them dreams,” he added parenthetically. “I don’t mind being thought a fool and old-fashioned. Ha, ha!” And Lypiatt laughed his loud Titan’s laugh, the laugh of cynicism which seems to belie, but which, for those who have understanding, reveals the high, positive spirit within. “Ideals – they’re not sufficiently genteel for you civilized young men. You’ve quite outgrown that sort of thing. No dream, no religion, no morality.” (35)

His idealism, however, is just as infantile as Rosie’s obsession for the pink. Like a stubborn child, Casimir Lypiatt is revolted when he realizes that there is no place, no time, in the world for any ideal:

“Why do you interrupt me?” Lypiatt turned on him angrily. His wide mouth twitched at the corners, his whole long face worked with excitement. “Why don’t you let me finish?” He allowed his hand, which had hung awkwardly in the air above him, suspend, as it were, at the top of a gesture, to sink slowly to the table. “Imbecile!” he said and once more picked up his knife and fork. (34)

Even his decision to commit suicide becomes grotesque. One can easily imagine that Casimir Lypiatt had many other thoughts of this kind any time he failed, but each time he gave up on the thought, giving himself and life another chance. Lypiatt seems to be too weak to be able to triumph in life but also too weak to opt for death as an ultimate end to his troubles. His hope in a future triumph distinguishes him from Camil Petrescu’s intellectual from Jocul ielelor. For Gelu Ruscanu to realize that his ideal of justice is impossible to achieve is equal to spiritual death and this makes life unbearable. Thus suicide becomes inevitable. Things are quite different with Casimir Lypiatt. It is almost certain that he will not commit suicide now or any other time, that he will get up and paint again because he is not only an idealist but also an optimist. Although he is often subject to melancholy, sadness and even negativism, he essentially persists in his desire to live and win. Following this, a certain degree of ‘unawareness’ is noticeable in all the intellectuals that populate this novel. Just like Stefan Gheorghidiu, Casimir Lypiatt sees in a failure the beginning of a new experience. He is at the same time dead for his past: the fact that an exhibition was a failure does not mean that the next one cannot be a success. In Huxley, the triumph of ideals is not presented as untouchable but as a probable or vague reality. In Antic Hay, many false ideals are jettisoned, but only to make room for new ones.

Birnbaum Milton. Aldous Huxley: A Quest of Values. University of Maryland, 1971. Ed. used: New York: The University of Tennessee Press, 1971.
Bowering, Peter. Aldous Huxley: A Study of the Major Novels. London: The Athlone Press, 1968.
Hirschman, Albert O. Shifting Involvements: Private Interest and Public Action. Princeton: Princeton U.P., 1982.
Murray, Nicholas. Aldous Huxley, An English Intellectual. Little Brown, 2002.
Rolo, Charles (ed.). The World of Aldous Huxley. An Omnibus of His Fiction and Non-fiction Over Three Decades. Peter Smith, 1971.

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