Book – Animal Farm
Author – George Orwell
Year – 1945
Genre – Fiction
Pages – 95
Given to me by Alinda Haynes-Hunte
In a lovely treat this weekend, Alinda arrived at our house with a massive stack of books that she had no room for any more. I am currently sat in my living room surrounded by a stack of second hand paperbacks, and am so excited to get going on them – no matter how many hundreds of books that puts in my ‘To Be Read’ pile now. Of all of the books that she bought over though, I was most excited to see a copy of Animal Farm – so excited in fact, that I started it straight away.
Until now, I had never read any Orwell. It seems a shocking thing considering how much I read, but I had just never gotten around to it, and of the two massive books that he has written (I shall leave it to you to guess which other one I consider as huge, but I doubt you will have much trouble) this is the one I fancied most. I was a little shocked by its size – under a hundred pages for one of the biggest classics of all time – but keen to give it a shot.
Even before having read it – although dim memories of seeing Article 19 perform a very good production of it at university remain – I already knew a few facts about it. It concerns the uprising of animals against their master on a farm, where he is run out, and they take over for themselves. Despite this being a wonderful release from the oppression that they had suffered, things don’t run particularly smoothly. I also knew that the book was written by a staunch opponent of the Stalinism that was running amok in Russia in the lead up, and through the Second World War.
My knowledge of political history is really not all that great if truth be told, and as such I am sure that I am not the best person to expand upon the hows and whys of how this links up to Russia of the time, but even I can see the links between characters such as Napoleon and Old Major, with Stalin and Marx (Karl, not Groucho). If you are interested in that kind of link, a quick Google search reveals hundreds of pages dedicated to just that kind of thing.
Instead I shall say two massive points in the favour of the book. Firstly, despite this lack of knowledge, it is written well enough that I was able to understand the political aspects well enough. You need know nothing about Communism to understand how the principals are not fitting into any society that contains human – or in this case pig – notions of greed and self. There is a whole argument I am sure to be made for either side of the coin, but Orwell puts forward his in a brilliant layman way that is rightly applauded.
The second point is that the book is really very enjoyable. I am sure that the number of politically minded books that are out there is in the thousands, but I know that much of the (limited) exposure that I have to them tends to say that they can be pretty dull. Not so with Animal Farm which even whilst giving across a strong political message, manages to be entirely engrossing. I feel that an author can feel free to try and get across any point that they wish with their writing, as strongly or as implied as they like, and they should not be criticised for this. However, if you cannot make your book enjoyable, then there is no point whatsoever, and it is this that lifts this book to that of a true bastion of classic literature.