Has anyone else read Anthony Burgess' The Wanting Seed?

I recently read this work, and I was wondering what other people think of it. It's a dystopian novel from 1962 with a heavy focus on overpopulation. Though there are three stages to the society of the work, I find the first stage the most interesting and relevant: in this world, a one-birth law is in effect. Whether a birth is a "singleton," twins, triplets, or otherwise, only one birth is allowed per woman. Any later births are required to be aborted, and government-mandated use of contraceptives is in order. Not many women get pregnant anyway, due to the predominant atmosphere of homosexuality: as one of the state's slogans says, "Its Sapiens to be Homo." Homosexuality is viewed as the correct choice, the choice that helps the human race, while heterosexuality is viewed as selfish, with mothers and fathers being derided as "breeders." Heterosexuality is definitely discriminated against: it's impossible to get a high-level job, or possibly even much of a moderate-level one, without being homosexual, so much so that some people pretend to be homosexual in order to advance their careers.

It's a shocking world that seems to be what our world could turn into. The lack of respect for human life the society shows in the novel is appalling, and the fertility is viewed as the greatest evil (due to its leading to overpopulation). This article about the term "breeders" as a derogatory term shows concern for a future resembling this: "Even being employed or reaching tenure or the equivalent corporate position, may come to be dependent on adherence to acceptance of the gay married elite class as superior to being in a breeder class."

Has anyone else read this novel? Do you see that our society could be heading to this type of Malthusian world? Or do you think that's just scare tactics and a fallacious use of the slippery slope concept?

I read it a long time ago, and remember it being good. Burgess's Catholicism seems to have informed a lot of his writing - "A Clockwork Orange" is really a novel about Free Will. If you can find a copy, read "Tremor of Intent", which is a Cold War / James Bond type of spy thriller, but with a Catholic protagonist whose final moral choice will be of interest to most Catholics.

Central to the book's plot is that not only is the world overpopulated but that a blight has reduced the food supply, forcing widespread cannibalism as a means to survive. The government even sends its military overseas to phony wars where the soldiers can be killed, their bodies collected, and then turned into mystery meat which the government can provide.

[quote="Wolfsbane, post:1, topic:249934"]

Has anyone else read this novel? Do you see that our society could be heading to this type of Malthusian world? Or do you think that's just scare tactics and a fallacious use of the slippery slope concept?

[/quote]

I haven't read it, but it does sound very rooted in the popular concerns of the early 1960s.

[quote="Arizona_Mike, post:2, topic:249934"]
I read it a long time ago, and remember it being good. Burgess's Catholicism seems to have informed a lot of his writing - "A Clockwork Orange" is really a novel about Free Will. If you can find a copy, read "Tremor of Intent", which is a Cold War / James Bond type of spy thriller, but with a Catholic protagonist whose final moral choice will be of interest to most Catholics.

[/quote]

I wasn't aware that he was Catholic. After a perusal of his Wikipedia page, it seems that he grew up Catholic and ended up becoming lapsed (it notes an interesting episode where he had an affair and struggled to hide it for fear of his cousin, who was a bishop at the time). I'll definitely need to be more on the lookout for Catholic themes in his works, then.

Tremor of Intent sounds interesting. I'll need to see if I can find it. Thanks for the recommendation!

You’re very welcome. He came from a long-time Catholic family in northwest England, some of whom were martyred for their faith in Elizabethan times (including an ancestor with the same name, Anthony Burgess). One critic I read said that Burgess, Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene were the 3 greatest Catholic writers of modern England.

I just read a collection of his essays and his book “1985,” which is another dystopian novel in a similar vein to “The Wanting Seed” (along with a commentary on Orwell’s 1984). Based on some of his later essays, hIs faith seems to have waxed and waned, but he remained a Christian, a believer in God, and, at least in his later years, still considered himself a Catholic. All 3 of his futuristic, dystopian novels (“Wanting Seed,” “1985,” and “A Clockwork Orange”) focused on what he called the Pelagian/Augustinian conflict in society - the belief that man can be perfected through external, societal means (the Pelagian heresy) vs the Augustinian belief that we enter the world flawed through Original Sin and are inherently unperfectable through human means.

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