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This article is taken from PN Review 222, Volume 41 Number 4, March - April 2015.

English Writers in Mexico between the Wars, Part Two
Through ‘the literary-perception scrambler’? Varieties of Hideousness: Aldous Huxley and Graham Green (1933-39)
Simon Carnell
For Aldous Huxley, who travelled to Mexico in 1933 (via the Caribbean and Guatemala) and, like Lawrence before him and Greene after, produced both a travel book and a novel which drew upon the experience, there was nothing very evidently mystical about the Mexican Indian. Huxley had no more sympathy for Lawrence’s primitivism than did Wyndham Lewis, in whose Paleface Lawrence on Mexico becomes a prime exhibit in a satirical critique of the primitivist tendency in modern thought. In Beyond the Mexique Bay Huxley’s depiction of  ‘the reptilian glitter of Indian eyes’, and of ‘tortoise-eyed Indian women’, is clearly drawn from the Lawrentian pattern-book and bestiary; just as his references to Mexican eyes ‘black like boot-buttons and no less perfectly inexpressive’, or exhibiting ‘nothing focused upon nothing’, reprise his compatriot’s denigration by ocular obsession. Huxley’s account of Mexico is also in general dialogue with his English predecessor’s, and divides Lawrence against himself (as do both Greene and Waugh) by accepting his negative stereotyping as true and rejecting out of hand his putatively positive stereotyping. It is also skewed by an awareness of those mostly American books on post-revolutionary Mexico which Huxley ‘guesses’ to have been ‘almost as numerous’ since the Depression as books on Soviet Russia.

Huxley’s Mexico has been characterised as ‘almost unrelievedly infernal’. It is certainly unrelievedly negative, though too airily belittling and lacking in intensity to convey the kind of hellishness artfully conveyed by Greene in The Lawless Roads. With Lawrence (and Stuart Chase) in mind, Huxley deals swiftly with the ‘character’ ...

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