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The Wanting Seed (1962)

writer unbound

“It’s sapiens to be homo” is the watchword of the society of Anthony Burgess’ novel The Wanting Seed (1962) in what is described on the blurb as a Malthusian comedy. Which is not a description you hear every day. Thomas Malthus was an English social theorist and economist who is best known for his thoughts on population. Essentially, he maintained that while population grew exponentially, food supply only grows linearly; in short population growth will outstrip the ability to feed that population. His ideas were instrumental to both Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace in formulating their respective ideas on evolution by natural selection.

The novel is straight out of the ruthless world of Huxley’s brilliant satires Brave New World (1932) and Ape and Essence (1943). If this is comedy, as may be said of Huxley’s fables, it is comedy of a grim and bleak kind. Interestingly, Huxley too was greatly concerned…

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