1. Jean-François

    Jean-François New Member


    In my research work, I often see the following quite, attributed to Aldous Huxley in his seminal SciFi book Brave New World.

    "The perfect dictatorship would have the appearance of democracy, a prison without walls in which the prisoners would not dream of escape. A system of slavery where, through consumption and entertainment, slaves would love their servitude." ​

    But you won't find it there. You won't find it in any of his books. So the mystery remains.

    On a French forum I read someone making the hypothesis that this text could come from the back cover of Brave New World. A text that would summarize Huxley's theme. But it remains a hypothesis.

    I would love to see this one debunked. I also asked the same question in Quora here.

    I guess this thread has some intersection with this one "Huxley & Faabian Society"
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 31, 2015
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  2. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    The term "Perfect dictatorship" was popularized by Mario Vargas Llosa in 1990.


    I suspect the fake Huxley quote is a corruption of that.

    Here's a more detailed account of what Vargas Llosa said in 1990, in Spanish:

    We know the Huxley quote is fake because it does not appear on the internet before 2014, and of course does not appear in Brave New World. It is quite possible that it appears in a modern edition in the introduction or notes written by someone else. The word "dictator" does not appear in the actual text, but in my edition it does occur in the end material:

    But if this were so, I'd suspect the usage of "The perfect dictatorship" would still date back to Vargas Llosa

    The general concept of "A system of slavery where, through consumption and entertainment, slaves would love their servitude" dates back to Juvenal, back in Roman times:
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2016
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  3. deirdre

    deirdre Moderator Staff Member

    ? not sure what this is really:

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  4. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    That seems very likely it. Huxley's actual words behind that "would love their servitude" were probably from a letter he wrote to George Orwell about 1984.

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  5. Jean-François

    Jean-François New Member

    Wow. I feel quite impressed by the sources you just pointed to so quickly and efficiently. This opens new horizons.

    Now what "stabilized" this quote that we can find everywhere on the net, including in documentaries, as a text from Brave New World? I feel quite interested in this phenomenon. I guess understanding it for this quote may lead to a more global understanding of the phenomenon.
  6. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    From an interview he gave, this is quite close

    EDIT: Although that quote (or anything like it) does not appear in the transcript, so I'm not sure exactly where it is from
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2015
  7. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    I see in the Quora link that it was suggested it was a version of
    Yet that is also attributed to BNW. It is not found in my edition, but is in fact in the Foreword that Huxley wrote for the second edition in 1947
    He talked a lot about this topic, and give numerous interviews, and wrote many letters and essays - basically saying variants on the same thing. The fake quote could have arisen from any of them.

    Last edited: Aug 31, 2015
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  8. Jean-François

    Jean-François New Member

    I can't thank you enough for the amazing research work you have done and kindly shared. Thank you so much Mick. If I can help in any way on other topics here, I will.

    From all the material you provided I take on some core concepts, like the love for servitude, invisible walls, and the well known Roman concept of bread and games.
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  9. Lily Joy

    Lily Joy New Member

    Hi Jean-François,

    I think the "quote" might actually come from the back cover of this book: http://www.syti.net/MeilleurDesMondes.html.
    It appears almost word for word on the page, and was probably copied from the back cover.

    This French edition of the book (1988) is available on amazon.fr (used book) for 1€: http://www.amazon.fr/gp/product/2266023101?redirect=true&ref_=s9_simh_co_p14_d0_i1
    Unfortunately, back cover isn't shown. I tried to order it out of curiosity but it can't be delivered to Belgium, apparently.

    According to your location, you might be able to get it ;-)
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  10. Lily Joy

    Lily Joy New Member

    Attached Files:

  11. deirdre

    deirdre Moderator Staff Member

    yea thats what i got.
    heres other editions if anyone wants to go through them. (back covers). http://www.noosfere.org/icarus/livres/Editionslivre.asp?NumItem=5029

    but chances are that web page is just copying the popular quote. although nice to note they don't attribute the words to the author.
  12. Lily Joy

    Lily Joy New Member

    I don't see how this is the word for word quote, Deirdre?

    Quote questioned above is: ""The perfect dictatorship would have the appearance of democracy, a prison without walls in which the prisoners would not dream of escape. A system of slavery where, through consumption and entertainment, slaves would love their servitude."

    If you understand French, you will see that it appears almost word for word here: http://www.syti.net/MeilleurDesMondes.html

    I sent an email to the webmaster of site sity.net and he says the text is just his description of the book, posted on that page, and was copy-pasted and spread as from Huxley. He also said another text from his website was later copy-pasted and attributed to Chomsky (from this page http://www.syti.net/Manipulations.html).

    Besides, the fact that "songeraient" was translated literally with "dream" (rather inappropriate) would indicate "amateur" translation towards English.
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  13. deirdre

    deirdre Moderator Staff Member

  14. Jean-François

    Jean-François New Member

    Deirdre, Lily, thanks for your contribution. Everything points to the fact that the quote allocated to Huxley comes from some back cover, either in the French and English versions. Interesting to see how it becomes a "real" quote in the collective memory, as we see this quote everywhere on the net. Falsely allocated quotes (not to mention acts) proliferate on the Internet and shows in a live way how collective memory builds itself.
  15. Marc D.

    Marc D. New Member

    Indeed. 'Songer' means 'dream', but 'songer à' means 'think of'. This alone is enough to determine that the quote attributed to Aldous Huxley is actually an amateur translation into English of the French blog entry found by Lily Joy.
  16. Steven Kelly

    Steven Kelly New Member

    We can push the date of first publication on the web back to April 28, 2011 (if Google can be trusted): http://eden-saga.com/en/perfect-quo...ery-where-through-consumption-and-entertainme
  17. Steven Kelly

    Steven Kelly New Member

    I think Deirdre has the source that's closest to the original so far. Look at the differences in language usage, all in my opinion more like a native speaker: "A democracy", "not EVEN dream", "THE slaves". The other, more common, versions may have been translated into French and then back into English.

    The earliest crawl of that page by the Wayback machine was May 2012 (http://web.archive.org/web/20120522190641/http://www.egs.edu/library/aldous-huxley/biography/), although it could of course have been there earlier. The next question is who wrote that page, and was it original.
  18. Marc D.

    Marc D. New Member

    The text found by Deirdre is yet another amateur translation of the French text found by Lily Joy:
    This is not a translation into French of a text by Huxley, but a commentary about 'Le Meilleur des mondes', the French translation of Huxley's 'Brave New World'.
  19. deirdre

    deirdre Moderator Staff Member

    It doesnt matter if the European Graduate School or the syti site wrote it first. The syti page does go back to 2006.

    The point is the OP quote seems to be from commentary about the book, which does closely follow Huxley's philosophy, rather than an exact quote from Huxley.

    PS. And it isnt an amateur translation in either direction. "wouldn't even dream of" in English means "think of".
    And i thought dream was rever. And think is penser.

    Either way both languages are saying the same thing.
  20. Steven Kelly

    Steven Kelly New Member

    I don't think we've established the order here: how do we know which is a translation of the other? In favour of a French original is that the French versions date back further, and there are 16 pages of Google results including the exact quote, as opposed to a few for the English quote. However, it is more likely in general that a French speaker will find English text and translate to French, than that two separate English speakers will find French text and translate to English.

    What is however sure is that Lily Joy's syti link has the longest provenance so far on the Wayback Machine, dating back to 1 June 2002 (on a previous host), with that quote in the exact same form there: http://web.archive.org/web/20020601233307/http://perso.wanadoo.fr/metasystems/MeilleurDesMondes.html

    There's a discussion on French on this exact same topic:

    It's interesting that the French on Lily Joy's syti page seems to contain a grammatical error: "grâce la consummation et au divertissement". Shouldn't that be "grâce à la..."? Almost all French pages maintain that error. There are other reliably dated quotes of it (sometimes explicitly citing that web page) dating back to at least 2005. That page is thus reliably attested as our oldest source so far.

    However, it does not seem proven yet (only asserted) that the quote on that page was original: it could be from an earlier source (e.g. the back of a book), another language, or even from Huxley himself. Such a source would of course be pre-2002, and thus unlikely to show up on Google.

    I went through all the back cover texts included on the page Deirdre referenced ("heres other editions if anyone wants to go through them. (back covers). http://www.noosfere.org/icarus/livres/Editionslivre.asp?NumItem=5029 "), and none had the quote or anything like it.
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  21. Marc D.

    Marc D. New Member

    'Songer' used to mean either 'dream' or 'think' (the second sense being derived from the first one). Nowadays, it is only used in the form 'songer à' and only means 'think of'. The old meaning is still understood, though, because the noun 'songe' is still used as a synonym of 'rêve' ('dream') in a literary context. Hence a French translator may be tempted to translate 'songer à' into 'dream of' or 'even dream of', although that exaggerates the original meaning, while translating 'dream of' or 'even dream of' into 'songer à' would not be expected at all. This is a strong point in favour of a French origin to this false quote, in my opinion. I am a native French speaker and a professional EN>FR translator with many years of experience, by the way.

    I actually think the 2002 text (wanadoo.fr) is a paraphrase of some sentences as they appear in the French translation of 'Brave New World'. It would be interesting to find this French translation and the sentences that were paraphrased or summarised. As I see it, we have a group of sentences by Aldous Huxley in English, then the French translation, then the French paraphrase on the blog, then two or more translations into English of the French paraphrase, trying to pass for actual quotes.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2016
  22. deirdre

    deirdre Moderator Staff Member

    yea. i think the quote is a paraphrase of Huxleys general philosophy (as Mick has shown above) whether in English or French.

    yes i can tell you are a native french speaker. "He wouldnt dream of it" in english means "he would never think of doing it". Now i'm not saying the syti guy knows this of course. If he doesnt know 'dream of' means the same as 'ponder', then i agree he probably would have chosen a different word. How would you translate 'ponder'?

    But since you dont seem to understand the English use of the phrase "dream of", i think that helps show the syti guy may not know either.

    i read yesterday he has like 10 million 'followers', so i think its reasonable to assume that they spread the quote around and the EGS writer reused it himself. or the EGS guy reads syti's blog himself, since neither of them attribute the thoughts to Huxley as a direct quote.
  23. Fabinho Zooker

    Fabinho Zooker New Member

    I guess thats pretty close!!!

    "The perfect dictatorship would have the appearance of democracy, a prison without walls in which the prisoners would not dream of escape. A system of slavery where, through consumption and entertainment, slaves would love their servitude."

    Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKvZdKQG8wU
  24. Volatile Dais

    Volatile Dais New Member

    I signed up here to un-bunk this quote, but Fabinho Zooker has linked the reference of the said quote.

    Huxley did speak words to this effect & though verbatim is often lost when people reference audio visual (not written text), this is not a myth, this was a potential future Huxley laid out for western society.

    I love this interview & often refer to the words said, but again, verbatim is lost or tough to reference in less formal or impromptu settings.

    A slight misquote is surely best stated as such opposed to written off?

    Regards & thanks admins for this useful site.
    Glad to have stumbled into this while seeking the text to the video linked by Fabinho.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2019
  25. Rory

    Rory Senior Member

    I must be missing the point here. I don't hear those words at all in this video. Though some of the sentiment, for sure.

    Here's what Huxley says:
  26. Nauldian

    Nauldian New Member

    When Brave New World was first published in 1931 Huxley did not consider the dystopian world he depicted to be an imminent threat. Thirty years later however, following the Second World War, the spread of totalitarianism, and the great strides made in science and technology, Huxley changed his opinion and in a speech given in 1961, he put forth the following warning:

    This is where the quote is from...
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 11, 2019
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  27. Rory

    Rory Senior Member

    That's nice work, digging that up, and it certainly contains many of the same words, themes, and sentiments.

    That said, it's still not the same quote.
  28. LREKing

    LREKing New Member

    The emphasis on pharmacology certainly makes sense if he were addressing a medical school.

    But [maybe OT here] he was also wrong. From ancient alcohol, to the "mother's little helpers" of the late '50s (e.g., Miltown) and the Quaaludes of the disco era, to whatever people are using/abusing today (opioids?), regular use can result in dependency, addiction and/or other unwanted side effects. Such drugs may allow one to avoid anger and anxiety for a while, but thus far there has always been a cost to mucking about with body chemistry. What he appears to be describing is still science fiction.

    And it hasn't been the government that has done this, but capitalism. The government is always playing catch-up.
  29. deirdre

    deirdre Moderator Staff Member

    Do you have a source link for your quote, because everything i'm seeing links back to InfoWars.