To start off with A to Z Challenge and the letter A, I’ll be writing about a book that is very special to me. This isn’t a review, so if you need more information on George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, feel free to check Goodreads or other place in the net.
I remember that day early 90’s, when my mom gave me a small booklet and said something “I think you should read it.” It wasn’t anything unusual, she often pointed me towards books and poetry, and most of the times I enjoyed the titles she recommended.
This book was no different: even though its title and cover picture didn’t look especially enticing, but I’ve read it anyway, and with the changes that Poland was going through at the time, changes I was witnessing (I was old enough for my parents to take me to the voting stations and put the “X” on their voting cards in the first free elections), it was obvious to me what “Animal Farm” was really about.
With a mind still young and open, I never questioned the fairy tale-like elements of the story, the talking animals and their hard work on the farm, and at the same time I was old enough to grasp the metaphor the book offered.
Only later I’ve learned that back in the 90’s I actually held the first official Polish edition of the book, safe the version published by Polish immigrants in London and illegal copies circulating in the political and cultural underground. And that “Animal Farm” couldn’t have been released before, with the strict censorship preventing publications of anything that could damage the image of the communistic government.
If I ever made such thing, “Animal Farm” would be on my list of books everyone has to read. Not to show how oppressive the communistic regime was, and not to prove whether communism is “good” or “bad” as these are judgments and depend on every individual’s personal views and experiences, but to teach how even the most beautiful idea and dream can be turned into a twisted nightmare, when the greater good is replaced by personal gain. And how we, people, make it happen in a subtle, almost unnoticeable way, sometimes even in a pure or naive pursuit of that dream. And how hard it is to notice or counteract until it’s too late.
I don’t think I’ve ever re-read the book, but it nevertheless stayed with me for over 20 years now, and when I sometimes discuss some political or social matters with my mom, we look at each other and say “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” And this one quote often is enough for the rest of the discussion.
And what about you? Have you read “Animal Farm”? Was it a chore or a pleasure? Or is the book still on you “to be read” list?
Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games.
Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English.
Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.