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Antic Hay

The Waste Land's

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Agha Shahid Ali Biography to Ardoch Perth and Kinross

a novel by A. Huxley, published in 1923. Regarded at the time as an ‘immoral’ book as much for its intellectual irreverence as for its open depiction of sexual affairs, drug-taking, jazz clubs, and birth control, the novel made Huxley a hero to the younger generation of 1920s readers. The febrile atmosphere of the novel, set amongst post-war London's fashionable artistic bohemia, is indebted to The Waste Land's diagnosis of spiritual emptiness, in an era of dislocated social values and modernism in the arts. But there are also several comic, even farcical, episodes involving the main protagonist, Theodore Gumbril Jr; especially the Patent Small-Clothes (inflatable underwear) with which he hopes to make a fortune, and his adventures disguised as ‘Toto’, the Rabelaisian Complete Man. Huxley's satirical wit fixes upon outmoded Edwardian ideals, but also on the excesses of modern artists and scientists. The novel ends appropriately in futility: Gumbril and the Vamp Myra Viveash (resembling Nancy Cunard) taxi back and forth across London in a vain search for drinking companions, disillusioned by sensation-seeking and each other.

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