"Animal Farm" by George Orwell, brilliant English leftist
and critic (NEWSWEEK, July 8), is a satire on totalitarianism-Communist variety-told
in fable form. When it was published in England it created a minor stir.
It was bitterly attacked from the far Left and cheered from the far Right.
When it was offered for publication in this country, two important publishers
rejected the book on the ground that it was dull reading. But when Harcourt,
Brace accepted it and submitted it to the Book-of-the-Month Club that organization's
president, Harry Scherman, thought "Animal Farm" deserved more than ordinary
promotion. Accordingly, he made a special plea to club subscribers not to
neglect this book.
As an attack upon totalitarian government Orwell's satire is reasonably effective.
He tells how the animals of Manor Farm, stirred up by the dying exhortations
of Old Major, a prize Middle White boar, rise up in revolt against the cruelty,
deprivations, and drunkenness of Farmer Jones. They drive Jones out, take
over the place, and, in splendid isolation, run the only farm for and by
animals in all England. They have their revolutionary song -"a stirring tune,
something between Clementine and La Cucaracha"-called "Beasts of England":
Beasts of England, beasts of Ireland,
Beasts of every land and clime,
Hearken to my joyful tidings
Of the golden future time…
Riches more than mind can picture,
Wheat and barley, oats and hay,
Clover, beans, and mangel-wurzels
Shall be ours upon the day…
Even the most casual reader will discover after a few pages that the experiences
on the Animal Farm, as it was renamed, follow closely the experiences of
the Russian people during the revolution and its continuing re action. This,
of course, will make fellow travelers furious, but if they think hard, they'll
relax. The humor is quite British and page after page of the book lags.
Pigs Is Pigs:
The beasts of the farm do well enough for themselves in the first flush of
their revolt against Jones and all Men, but as the years pass they find themselves
once again under a dictatorship even harder to bear than that imposed by
Man. The dictators, of course, are the very Pigs (they being the brightest
animals) who had led the other animals- the hard-working horses, the herd-minded
sheep, and even a cynical old jackass- into what was to have been a "golden
future time." The beasts have to work just as hard, if not harder, than before;
they get as little to eat, and in the end the dictators, guarded by a pack
of trained dogs, sell them out to evil Man.
It is a sad, disheartening story for do-gooders that Orwell's fable tells.
Being fiction and being a fable, it begs many political, social, and economic
questions; but on the surface it is a telling jibe at totalitarianism. But
it is a far cry , as political satire, from Dean Swift, to whose writings
some critics have likened it.
(ANIMAL FARM. By George Orwell. 118 pages. Harcourt, Brace. $1.75.)