take that, George Orwell

Nice story about how TS Eliot, working for a publisher at Faber and Faber, rejected Orwell’s Animal Farm:

When Orwell submitted his novel, an allegory on Stalin’s dictatorship, Eliot praised its “good writing” and “fundamental integrity”.

However, the book’s politics, at a time when Britain was allied with the Soviet Union against Hitler, were another matter.

“We have no conviction that this is the right point of view from which to criticise the political situation at the current time,” wrote Eliot, adding that he thought its “view, which I take to be generally Trotskyite, is not convincing”.

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 that what was needed (someone might argue) was not more communism but more public-spirited pigs.”

That cry for more public-spirited pigs has a contemporary resonance in the era of the GFC: we don’t need fundamental change, most mainstream commentators tell us, we just need a different brand of porkers running the banks. After all, the corporate piggies are ever so much more intelligent than the rest of us.

More specifically, though, Eliot’s response reminds us of how, for a brief time at least, the Stalinist argument about how any criticism of the Soviet Union amounted to support for fascism was actually hegemonic on the Right. In Australia, that was the era in which Joe Stalin appeared on the cover of Women’s Day.


Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is a Walkley Award-winning writer, broadcaster and former editor of Overland.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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