When asked, it is always difficult for me to label a book as the best one I’ve ever read. They look at how helpless I am, and they ask for a Top 5 or 7 or 10 list. And one book that’s always been on the list is Animal Farm by George Orwell.
You know that feeling where you start reading a book, and by the time you are out of the spell of the book, it is a time completely different from the one you remember? Animal Farm was one such book for me. I read Animal Farm when I was in the 11th grade (we were supplied the books) as a part of the college curriculum, only to realize at the ending that it was an abridged version (no idea why). A few months ago, I read the Unabridged version, and found nothing that was fit to be edited out of the book.
This is a story seemingly written for children. Well, it is, and it isn’t. The language is very simple. So simple, that it rises up to the level of deception. Orwell realized the possibility of telling the world the story of an out-of-control government, led by corrupt leaders, in a way that is both fun to read, and yet wonderfully deep. The humans are depicted by animals, and so well done, that they might be considered immortal now. There are parallels drawn to Lenin, Stalin, Marx, Trotsky, Molotov, the Tsar during the February Revolution, the KGB, and many others. Almost everything I love is in this book, a mix of dry humor and infectious satire, and subtle references to real-life events.
The book puts across the concepts and logics of Stalinism by showing how it failed, and by pointing out the faults in the logic of Stalinism. Orwell made this happen by using a very simple idea. He used talking animals. Which is lovely.
I mean, this is genius. Who wouldn’t read a book where politicians, hated and bad ones at that, found their parallels in animals considered filthy and disgusting, like pigs?
Also, the irony used here is commendable. Like this like shows:
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
The genius of the book not only lies in how the parallels were drawn, but the writing itself. The story is excellently complemented by the style of writing, and the last line of the book acts as the perfect example to describe the closing scene of the book:
“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.”
This is one farm I’m going to reach out to again and again and again. You should, too.