torstai 17. helmikuuta 2011

George Orwell: Animal Farm

George Orwell: Animal Farm - A Fairy Story

George Orwell was a British author, who lived from 1903 till 1950. Animal Farm was published in 1945, and it is famous for its slogan "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others". Orwell himself has said the book to be "contre Stalin", and in the introduction by Christopher Hitchens (in the 2010 edition), he links Old Major with Karl Marx, Farmer Jones with the Czar, Napoleon with Stalin, Snowball with Trotsky, Boxer with the working class and Moses the raven with the Russian Orthodox Church.

The book is a classic, but I have to admit that this is the first time I have read it. I had heard much good about Animal Farm, and it all seems to be true. The book is easy to understand, but has many levels. It could be read as a children's story if one isn't at all aware of the world history, but it would make an oddly depressing and violent fairy tale. An adult, educated (and I mean educated as "knowing something about communism, the USSR and Stalin") reader knows from the very first chapter that all the brilliant, ethical ideas will be turned into something evil and oppressing, and it makes the story haunting. I don't have that much knowledge in history, but still it was easy to connect the turns of the plot to historical events. Hitchens' introduction was helpful, although a little part of me wishes that I would have read the book itself before the introduction, and see how well I could have made the connections to history without Hitchens' help.

Nevertheless, the reading experience was wonderful, I felt joy, anxiety, sadness and the pull of the stoy took me with it. The humour is of course fantastic, but as I don't know too much about satire, I won't to discuss it further. I'll just say that I laughed at the irony and felt sorry for the characters at the same time. Animal Farm is a very short book for a classic (I'm thinking about "War and Peace" and "Ulysses") so if you feel like you want to educated yourself a little bit, this is a good place to start. It is also hilarious, clever and frightening. A book I could recommend to many different audiences.

British Book Challenge: I don't know how British anti-communist satire is. I would guess it forms a greater part of the British literary tradition than it does of the Finnish, as we had to be very careful not to anger our neighbourg. As the book reflects a communist society and Britain has never been communist, I don't really link this book to Great Britain. I find it an universal fairy tale.

Back to the Classics Challenge: Animal Farm is my "Banned book" for this challenge. Orwell had trouble finding a publisher for Animal Farm, beacause of the alliance of Great Britain, the USA and the USSR. After its publication American military authorities in Europe "rounded up all the copies of Animal Farm they could find and turned them over to the Red Army to be burned" (Hitchens in the introduction).  The book was banned in the USSR for obvious reasons. Hitchens also writes: "[i]n the Islamic world, many countrues continue to ban Animal Farm" and states that it is not because the book has pig-characters, but because of the message of the book.

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