Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Animal Farm

I was just as delighted as the OG was blase about her reading Animal Farm in 9th Grade, as I believe I did in Fourth Form at Colchester Royal Grammar School in 1980, and again a few years ago. I've heard the story about T.S. Eliot rejecting it for publication, and it was interesting to see the 1946 review in the New Republic, which did anything but predict that it would make #31 on the Modern Library list of the 100 best novels.
There are times when a reviewer is happy to report that a book is bad because it fulfills his hope that the author will expose himself in a way that permits a long deserved castigation. This is not one of them, I was expecting that Orwell would again give pleasure and that his satire of the sort of thing which democrats deplore in the Soviet Union would be keen and cleansing. Instead, the book puzzled and saddened me. It seemed on the whole dull. The allegory turned out to be a creaking machine for saying in a clumsy way things that have been said better directly. And many of the things said are not instantly recognized as the essence of truth, but are of the sort which start endless and boring controversy.
I think they're both right in a way. I think the book provides a great deal of insight into communism and human nature, but the story seems a little strained at times, wedging plot points into the narrative that don't fit as well as they might.

I hesitate to criticize Orwell--he's one of my favorite writers--but I'd rank his essays and criticism well above his fiction. Read Down and Out in Paris and London or the Road to Wigan Pier; they tell great stories and provide profound insight into the time and the nature of man, and it's all real besides. Some are more equal than others.


There are three works from Orwell on David Bowie's very interesting list of his top 100 books: 1984, and two works of non-fiction.

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