'Farm Rebellion': Orwell's novel is not for children

'Farm Rebellion': Orwell's novel is not for children

'Farm Rebellion': Orwell's novel is not for children


The British journalist and writer George Orwell (1903-1950), born in India, finally managed to publish Farm Rebellion , his fifth novel, on August 17, 1945 in Serverg & Warburg. It has just been 75 years since the appearance of a book that, immediately, was a worldwide success, at the same time that it attracted the rejection of the intellectuals of the communist left. For 18 months the novel was rejected by several prestigious publishers -including his most common-, who did not accept the vitriolic and detailed satirical criticism of the Soviet regime and of Joseph Stalin , undoubtedly the pig Napoleon of the Orwellian fable. Let us remember -although it was not a determining factor in this rejection- that at that time the USSR was part, like Great Britain, of the allied side during World War II, which did not end until September 1945. There were only four years left for that term (the Orwellian ) took full letter of nature with the publication of 1984, the dystopian novel that, in a totally different tone, contains some notes on totalitarianism already outlined in Rebellion on the farm . Orwell always defined himself as a supporter of democratic socialism Рand had some anarchist preferences Рbut he was already the target Рand continues to be so Рof the fundamentalist communists since in 1938 he published Tribute to Catalonia . In this book, Orwell recounted his experience during our civil war in Barcelona and, as a combatant, on the Aragon front Рhe was a soldier, corporal and lieutenant, and was wounded Рfor 115 days. Affiliated with the Trotskyist POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista) as soon as he arrived in Spain and integrated into its militias, Orwell severely denounced in his book the calumnies spilled on that party by the pro-Soviet communists, which caused its outlawing and led to the extermination of its leaders . What Orwell saw and experienced in Spain was decisive for his ascription to democratic socialism and for forging himself, as a man of the left, an independent and anti-totalitarian commitment to truth and freedom.


The animals of the Manor Farm are exploited, abused and slaughtered by the very drunk farmer, Mr. Jones, until they revolt against him, take control of the property and establish their own system of work, life and coexistence based on freedom and equality. The new Animal Farm establishes the comradeship of its inhabitants and summarizes the obligatory principles of Animalism in Seven Commandments, written and exposed for all to see. The pigs, led by Napoleon, are taking command and power, betraying, lying, modifying the commandments and reverting to their convenience from their previous promises and guidelines. The pigs gradually adopt the lifestyle of Mr. Jones, they become oppressors of the other animals and constitute themselves as a privileged and despotic breed, protected by the fierce repressive dogs and cheered by the bleating of the gregarious sheep. In addition, their production projects and farm progress fail, so that the animals live more enslaved and worse than ever. Until one day – I am summarizing, of course – the Seven Commandments disappear from the wall, replaced by just one. It is the happy, blinding, terrible and a thousand times quoted phrase from Rebellion on the farm: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” The fable is, with its teaching, served; the metaphor is translated and clear in its political intention.


Since I was a teenager, I had not read Farm Rebellion again , and reading it these days has revealed some misunderstandings and distortions that weigh on Orwell's book. Its steely anti-communist political meaning -and the impact achieved in this regard- has diminished and obviated its literary value, which is manifested on at least two fronts: the care of its writing, which includes humor and tenderness in the treatment of psychology of the animals and their anthropomorphization, and, furthermore, how very elaborate and detailed it is, outside and inside the metaphorical, the review of the many elements of Soviet totalitarianism. It is not a goring to the evolution of the Soviet system in bulk, with three or four lucky ingredients, but it is meticulously detailed according to History. Without being a roman à clef , a novel allusive to real characters through fictional characters, in addition to the Napoleon / Stalin pig, there is, for example, the Snowball pig, clearly identifiable with Trotsky . Without reducing one iota its frontal challenge to Sovietism, the novel also reaches out to right-wing totalitarianisms. And not only that. Time and political evolution have made Rebellion on the farm appear today with critical lines towards nationalisms and populisms and, even, towards democratic parties and leaders who, upon coming to power, fail to fulfill their promises, change their principles and engulf as an elite. Both the literary and political values of Rebellion on the Farm marry badly with the diffuse, but consistent feeling Рnever expressly proclaimed Рthat it is a novel for young people Рwith its illustrations and all -, even for its pedagogical function, so that , if it is read in youth, it is already amortized. Absolutely. A mature reading allows to get, in all respects, much more of the book.


The cinema has been able to contribute to this, let's say, “infantilization” of the novel. In 1999, John Stephenson directed a film version that used, in part, the animatronic techniques of Jim Henson, the creator of The Muppets. It is impossible, of course, to film an adaptation of Farm Rebellion with actors, but the fact is that, already in 1954, the English Joy Batchelor and the Hungarian John Halas directed a first (British) version in cartoons. These two adaptations are very different from Orwell's text, especially the animated film. Over the years it has been known that these changes were not innocent. The CIA -which financed many cultural projects in Europe and abroad-, bought, through intermediaries, the rights to the novel from Orwell's widow -his second wife, Sonia Brownell- , promoted the making of the film during the Cold War of 1954 and, without the directors knowing (apparently), he dictated the changes in the script so that the anti-Soviet charge would multiply, particularly in the ending of the story, from which the humans / capitalists disappear, indistinguishable in the Orwell's end of the swine / communists. I join, of course, in the expectation that Wes Anderson will one day adapt to the cinema Farm Rebellion with the techniques, aesthetics and tone of his Isle of Dogs (2018), but there are no indications, for the moment, that such a thing will happen.

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