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Disappointing, by far the worst book I´ve read of Huxley´s. It´s his travelogue of a trip he took to Guatemala and Mexico in the early 30s. His observations of the culture and people are occasionally interesting, but on the whole shockingly arrogant, condescending and patronizing. He repeatedly emphasizes the ugliness of the Indians, their goods, and their buildings, often treating them as if they were sub-human. One of the most egregious passages: "Indian men are often handsome; but I hardly ever saw a woman or young girl who was not extremely ugly." Later he describes the contestants in a beauty pageant as "oxen." He spends a lot of time describing the architecture, especially the churches, almost all of which bored me. Worse, he seems to fancy himself a type of expert on the subject, so he describes it with the full force of his British snobbery. Apparently he´s also an expert on poetry (criticizing Milton and Pope), music, religion, and sociology. He also seems to possess a disturbing perspective of science, technology and state control. I would not expect the man who wrote Brave New World to advocate the state control of emotional pleasure, which he un-ironically does here. Elsewhere he claims that the only way to combat the evils of science is to further develop science. Most shocking is that as I was nearing the end I discovered that this was actually written *after* Brave New World. I had been assuming for most of the book that it was a young and immature Huxley that I was reading. Nothing else explained the sheer arrogance and priggishness that seep forth from almost every page. How disappointing to find out that these were the mature thoughts of a nearly 40-year-old man. . . Maybe eating all that mescaline in the 50s mellowed him out some.
Not as deep as one enjoys in his main body of work, but it is what it is, a readable historic travelogue. It contains "snapshots" of Huxley as a tourist which leads to related topics that we rely on Huxley for. Add to that the antiquainted modes of travel in the not so distant past, far from what the world is like today and it makes quite fun reading. Also interesting because he did not stick to the beaten path, which is quite ballsy of Huxley, being frail and vision impaired. (spoiler follows) Poor ol' Huxley was disgusted by Caribbean music, which is humorous in and of itself, but illustrative of the differences in cultures pre-WWII. Cultures are not yet completely homogenized in the 21st Century, which reminded me of this book on my Easter Island trip last year. His ride down a dusty road in Guatemala to a church where the local Catholics had a rather surprising statue to worship showed how isolated people were back then, and how isolation can affect culture.. I admit that it's been decades since I've read this book, but I plan on making it my road book for my next vacation. If you love Huxley's prose, get this book.