Sunday, March 29, 2009

Animal Farm

Sunday Times Blunders?

Wandering around all day, mostly in a daze, I get these great ideas for a blog.

Then I forget them when I get busy doing something else.

I'm sure I had three this week and then promptly forgot them. Never mind. In these trying times I just wait for the Sunday paper to arrive and something will turn up.

Sure enough – an article about T.S. Eliot and his involvement with George Orwell's Animal Farm.

According to the Sunday Times, T.S. Eliot was once a director of Faber and Faber and wrote a scathing rejection of Orwell's Animal Farm in 1944. The book was later published by Secker and Warburg. All quite interesting in a literary, intelligentsia kind of way. Also, as I recall – quite wrong.

I fancy myself an Orwell scholar. At least in so far as I know a lot more about him and his work that the average Joe on the street. I taught English Literature for 30-odd years and taught Animal Farm for examination on many occasions.

Amongst the pile of relevant work sheets explaining Orwell's photosynthesising form of socialism, bordering on Trotskyism, I had a very useful and entertaining video featuring the cartoonist, Steve Bell, among others discussing Orwell's work in general and Animal Farm in particular.

According to the Times, Eliot wrote to Orwell in 1944 saying that he thought the books “view, which I take to be generally Trotskyite, is not convincing.” And Eliot wrote, “After all your pigs are far more intelligent than the other animals, and therefore the best qualified to run the farm – in fact there couldn't have been an Animal Farm at all without them: so what was needed (some-one might argue) was not more communism but more public-spirited pigs.”

My recollection is different.

I remember quoting the above statement pointedly to children studying Animal Farm. I remember extracting it from the video presentation, because it seemed to me to sum up very nicely the difficulties Orwell encountered with the literary elite and the inherent difficulties in using a fable format to preach about communism. But, according to the Times, the letter is “one of many private papers made available for the first time by his widow Valerie for a BBC documentary.”

One of us is entirely wrong.

I'm going to find the video. I kept them all when I took early retirement. I'm sure I've got it somewhere.

The Times is going to get a very nasty letter – or I will be confirming that I need the newest drug treatment for Alzeheimers quick!!

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