Saturday, 11 April 2009

Animal Farm - George Orwell

How often do you find a writer who is able to distil grand ideas into a tiny novella? Who can compose a biting, scathing satire yet tell it all as a fairy tale story about a group of farmyard animals who rise up to oppose the farmer and take control of the farm?

Everyone who picks it up loves Animal Farm because on every single page there is something for everyone to relate to. It can be read by children, literature students, those seeking a fun beach read or those looking for something of substance to wile away an evening at home. It is above all a great story, witty, ironic, involving, exciting. Yet it is also a history lesson which covers the first twenty or so years of the Russian Revolution, a political satire on the abuse of power, a classic of twentieth century literature. And it fits in your pocket weighing about the same as a bar of chocolate. What more could you ask? Until virtual reality books are invented and you can climb in, meet the characters and join their adventures, this is about as good as books get. If there is any book which every single person should read, then perhaps this is it.

Animal Farm
is packed with glorious caricatures: from Old Major (Karl Marx) who brings the ideas of revolution to the animals, to Boxer and Clover (workers) the old cart horses, Snowball (Trotsky) and Napoleon (Stalin) the rival pigs, Benjamin the wise old donkey (intelligentsia), and the ever bleating masses of sheep (people). Everything that happens has its historical precedent, from building the windmill to the bitter and lasting winter. It is such an achievement to make events on the farm mirror history so accurately.

And as with 1984, there are phrases which have made their way into the popular mindset, from the repeated motto of the revolution, “four legs good, two legs bad,” to the subtle work of revisionist propaganda “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” And then we come to the immortal last words which bring this novel to its scandalous close: “the creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

And all of this is crammed into less than 100 pages! Buy Animal Farm. Read Animal Farm. Love Animal Farm. The three follow one after the other as certainly as the knowledge that, in the end, all dictatorships begin to crumble.

8.5 out of 10

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