Christopher Hitchens re-reads George Orwell’s Animal Farm over at the Guardian. Orwell had a hell of a time getting the book published.
It is sobering to consider how close this novel came to remaining unpublished. Having survived Hitler’s bombing, the rather battered manuscript was sent to the office of TS Eliot, then an important editor at Faber & Faber. Eliot, a friendly acquaintance of Orwell’s, was a political and cultural conservative, not to say reactionary. But, perhaps influenced by Britain’s alliance with Moscow, he rejected the book on the grounds that it seemed too “Trotskyite”. He also told Orwell that his choice of pigs as rulers was an unfortunate one, and that readers might draw the conclusion that what was needed was “more public-spirited pigs”. This was not perhaps as fatuous as the turn-down that Orwell received from the Dial Press in New York, which solemnly informed him that stories about animals found no market in the US. And this in the land of Disney . . .
It was finally published by small press Secker & Warburg in 1945 who paid Orwell all of £45. I haven’t read the book in awhile. I have an edition of the book that is illustrated by Ralph Steadman. The drawings are wickedly grotesque and funny, as you might expect from the man who illustrated some of the crazy adventures of Hunter S. Thompson.
The book is still banned in many countries around the world, including Iran. According to Hitchens a newspaper in Zimbabwe serialized the novel and was rewarded with the offices being bombed.