“Young Archimedes,” Aldous Huxley, 1924 — An English couple on holiday in Italy rents lodging from the avaricious Signora Bondi, whose greatest pleasure is to “do in” her trusting tenants. Despite the Signora, the two city-dwellers find themselves in the midst of an idyllic natural setting, and a large portion of the opening consists of a luxurious description of the bucolic Italian countryside and the narrator’s aesthetic sensibilities. As the couple becomes familiar with the local inhabitants, they discover that, Guido, a child of peasants, is a musical and mathematical genius. They allow Guido to become a playmate for their boy, Robin, who adores the kindly, elder child. The husband takes Guido under his wing and introduces him to geometry and classical music. However, the husband’s interest in Guido piques the interest of the mercurial Bondi, despite the husband’s attempts to convince Bondi that Guido is not especially talented. At the conclusion, the couple departs and Bondi successfully gains control of Guido. She prevents Guido from continuing his studies in mathematics and forces him to practice the piano endlessly, with the intention of one day exploiting his musical talent for profit. Guido believes he’s been abandoned by his mentor and commits suicide by throwing himself out a window.
Comments: Opening has the feel of a sensuous, lighthearted travelogue, but the story concludes with tragedy. Contains ruminations on the nature of genius and culture (and both are presented as male-only arenas). Could be seen as a variation on the noble savage motif in Huxley’s other writings. Stereotypical presentation of the Italian peasants, particularly Bondi, as simpletons or tricksters.
Author: The author of Brave New World, widely influential in both mainstream and sf. Wikipedia: “Aldous Leonard Huxley (26 July 1894 – 22 November 1963) was an English writer and one of the most prominent members of the famous Huxley family.”