Book of da Week: George Orwell’s Animal Farm

George Orwell Animal Farm
It’s George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Welcome to Animal Farm! George Orwell’s been lumped into the “read his books because everyone else does” sector of literature enthusiasm, but this doesn’t change how exceptional his work is. Animal Farm, his famous political allegory, was published in 1945 and was a big hit.

It was only late in his career Mr. Orwell found international fame once this and Nineteen Eighty Four were published, although it was shortly before the author’s sudden death from tuberculosis. With his work getting better and better, he departed the world aged only 46 in 1950 – the world lost many more great novels from the man. Which is, you know, a real bloody annoyance.

Animal Farm

You can read the novella in an hour or two, but its so sharp and compelling it brought Orwell success and plaudits in his 40s and set the stage for the masterpiece which would transform him into a global literary icon (despite this status, and bizarrely, he was never nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature – not even posthumously).

The beauty of Animal Farm is it depicts the political issues of the time in a manner in which pretty much anyone can enjoy. Our esteemed editor, Mr. Wapojif, studied the novella at High School in 1998 and was pretty much transfixed by it. The edition of Animal Farm in this post is the same one he used back then as a pupil, and his idiotic annotations are scrawled in pencil on the inside. Behold!

Animal Farm annotations
Mr. Wapojif’s annotations from 1998. Cripes!

1998 – the year when cheese was cheaper and you could walk down the road without having to take a Selfie every 20ft. Anyway, we digress. To animals living on a farm, which is the basis for Orwell’s novella – let’s not mess around here, the book is frightening in its depiction (through dumb beasts) of human corruption, greed, and things not being as equal as other things.

Initially, there’s a revolution on the farm which overthrows its evil owner. He hikes it one and the animals, rejoicing in their newfound freedom, plan great things for the future. However, devious brains amongst the collection of cows, donkeys, horses, sheep, and pigs interfere and bring idealism crashing down to the sound of oinks and neighs. Woof!

Legacy

It’s ingenious stuff and made Orwell quite the literary star, and he followed it up with the brilliant Nineteen Eight Four, a novel so prescient pretty much every political ideology wants to clamp onto it and claim Orwell as the champion of sanity and the promoter of their ideals.

Animal Farm, however, has enjoyed just as much attention: there’s been literary debate, film, stage adaptations, and it’s foisted upon kids in schools (Nineteen Eighty Four is far too brutal for that). Regardless of all that guff, it’s simply a classic novella which does the unthinkable – it makes politics interesting to those who find politics boring.

Orwell doesn’t use the text as a polemical rant (despite being a staunch democratic socialist), it merely stands as a warning from history. As he confirmed, Animal Farm is a depiction of the 1917 Russian Revolution, with the aftermath of the despotic rise to depravity of Joseph Stalin interwoven.

Orwell’s first book, Down and Out in Paris and London, remains our favourite of his (a total joy to read, that one) but Animal Farm is a message to the world. The message? Don’t give a pig a pipe and tobacco. They may appear sweet natured beasts, but they’re power crazy lunatics, behind the innocuous veneer of… innocuousness. Indeed.

4 comments

  1. Kids don’t get 1984 in school any more? Pity. We got Animal Farm in middle school, and 1984 in high school. Orwell’s other works, especially ‘Down and Out” and his short stories, came up in college lit courses.

    • I think it’s probably too full on for High School kids, but I presume it’s still included at colleges and universities. I don’t know, it’s been 15 years since I was last studying!

      Great to hear he made an appearance in your studies, though.

      • I’m 62. To everyone’s detriment, K-12 education used to be more comprehensive. I just met a high schooler the other day, an honors list student, who had never heard of Galileo!

        • Ahhhh, Galileo. Definitely the best centre forward Manchester United ever had!

          I jest. It’s an era where technology prevails, although I’m sure plenty of modern students are eager to learn about history as well. Galileo’s always fascinated me, with Jupiter being my favourite planet.

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