A to Z Challenge: A is for “Animal Farm”

ATo 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.

George Orwell, "Animal Farm" - first Polish official edition (1988)
George Orwell, “Animal Farm” – first Polish official edition (1988)

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

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.

This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. sjhigbee

    We read it at school and I LOVED it. The abuse of power and steady erosion of the early intentions were highlighted and I remember struggling not to cry in class when Boxer was taken away… Thank you for a great article recalling a wonderful book.

    1. melfka

      I’m happy to know you loved the book. Boxer’s death moved me too. And even more: the lie hiding his death.

      1. sjhigbee

        Oh yes! And the ending is just fantastic.

    1. melfka

      Thanks a lot! 🙂 It’s not a long read and I recommend it as food for thought. 🙂

  2. frannystevenson

    I’ve never read it but it’s on my list! So sooner or later I will! Thanks for sharing this!

    1. melfka

      I recommend “sooner”. It’s quite a short read, and it doesn’t require much time.

    1. melfka

      I hope you’ll enjoy it! 🙂

  3. kyavorski

    I read it and loved it, precisely for the message you talk about here.

    1. melfka

      I’m glad I’m not the only one. 🙂

  4. Yvonne V

    This was required reading in school for me years ago and my kids were required to read it, too. Interesting to hear your perspective about it.

    1. melfka

      I wonder what have you thought about it. From my experience, the obligatory reads usually don’t make such impact (and the school papers on them tend to make reading into a chore).

        1. melfka

          Thanks, Debs! Let me know how revisiting goes.
          For my challenge, I tried to pick interesting books, and not the most known titles around (there will be no Lord of the Rings here).

  5. pempispalace

    This was required reading as a teenager at my school but I think we all felt it and its powerful meaning in the U.K. – unemployment was high, there were the miners’ strikes and there was injustice. It is a book which has always stayed with me so what a great start for your first A -Z Challenge post – I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings?
    A Stormy’s Sidekick
    Special Teaching at Pempi’s Palace

    1. melfka

      Thanks for the comment, Pempi! Today’s book is more contemporary, but I hope you’ll find it interesting as well.

    1. melfka

      I’m glad to see the book affected many people in many countries. I lived in communistic Poland, so it was quite personal experience to me, and I wondered whether people from other countries would have the same impressions.

  6. I remember reading it in school and enjoying it. I do think it’s a book everyone should read and take note of the messages in it.

    ~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

    1. melfka

      I don’t think I have it anymore :(. Unless it’s buried somewhere on the shelves of my family home.

  7. Laura Roberts

    I went through a “dystopian” reading period in my youth (I think maybe a lot of people do), and read lots of Orwell, as well as Brave New World, and then started getting into French Existentialists and Nihilists… but Animal Farm was, I believe, one we read in school. I still confuse details from this story with that of 1984, since they both have a similarly dark worldview, and both are about suppression of truth. But I do clearly remember the way that history changed and was ultimately falsified on the farm… that chalkboard, erased in the night, with new slogans to direct the mindset. Creepy, and yet isn’t that exactly what the Bush administration did with 9/11?

    1. melfka

      I’ve read Brave New World too, as my university assignment. I remember that during the exam one of the teachers fought to raise my final score because I was the only one to say I liked the first part of the BNW better than the second one.
      I still need to get around to reading 1984, but I can relate to the themed-reading periods. Once, I had the same with WWII literature.
      I think it’s happening all the time, not only with governments, but also media: they present altered news or cropped pictures to elicit specific reactions.

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