Ape and Essence

Ape and Essence - Aldous Huxley Though I adored Brave New World, I had quite honestly never even heard of Ape and Essence. Never again will I make the mistake of relegating an author to the "one-book-wonder" list. This little 150 page book is so strange, eerie, beautiful and perfect it has gone straight into my all-time favourites list.

It is clear from Brave New World that Huxley had a huge problem with the egotistical nationalism of modern society. Ape and Essence takes this view to an extreme, and though I agreed with many of his points, it was the unusual and eloquent way of getting them across that really made me fall in love.

The story is told in two sections. The first, only 25 pages long, is from the point of view of a screen writer who finds a rejected screenplay entitled "Of Ape and Essence" and goes on a journey to meet the author. The second, much longer part is the transcription of this screenplay. It details how the world has been destroyed through atomic warfare, and human-kind worship the devil, "Beliel", as they cannot face the idea that they are in fact to blame for their own destruction. Such an inherently human trait, the fear of guilt, the need to feel blameless. I suppose this is where the term "scapegoat" comes in handy.

The prose is strange and quite beautiful, with a narrator who speaks in poetry, and details that come from the "screenplay" nature of the work. Potential soundtracks are mentioned, or details such as "close-up on..." or "wide shot of...", "Voices fade out as Narrator speaks again".

The themes are all politically charged, a warning against selfish hedonism and, equally, deprivation and self harm caused by religion and patriotism. Lines include "Church and State, Greed and Hate:- Two baboon-persons In one Supreme Gorilla." and "The longer you study modern history, the more evidence you find of Beliel's Guiding Hand." (these lines are really not enough to give any kind of idea as to the odd beauty of the writing, but I wanted to include them anyway).

It is really hard to write a short review of this book, as it would be so easy to write an essay-like discussion and dissection of the ideas about religion, war, politics etc, but I think to do so would in fact be detrimental to the book itself. I will leave the in depth analysis to a possible future thesis, but by not going in depth there is little more to say here other than this is a book that begs for many more readings, and I will do so very happily. I strongly suggest you do the same.