I read this satire for the second time a few months ago. When first I read it I was about eight years old. At that time I liked the idea of the little animals taking over from the cruel humans (come on, have you ever met a right-wing eight-year-old?). I even had the sense to get vaguely uneasy when the pigs started taking over more and more of the power - beginning from the early stage of Sqealer's commandeering of the milk. In fact, I didn't do too badly for a small child who had never heard of politics!
However, I was a bit surprised to discover that I got no more out of it on this second reading. My political philosophy has matured well past communism. I was contemptuous of Boxer, inspired by Napoleon and generally looked on the whole revolutionary thing as hopelessly naive. My socialist phase was over by the time I turned 16, and I no longer have any patience with preachers of pure socialism.
The allegory with the Russian Revolution is well controlled and I was able to pick most of the main characters (Snowball=Trotsky, Napoleon=Stalin etc) despite my limited historical knowledge. Although it does bore me a little to draw comparisons between fictional stories and historical events. Surely if a writer wishes to write about a real event, they are perfectly capable of doing so in non-ficitonal terms? Surely a great fiction can continue to be both great and fictional without any Hitler-Stalin-Disraeli parallels? This attitude of mine adds to my dissatisfaction with Animal Farm as a satire.
I think it must be one of those great-in-its-time books, and of course I understand the source of its greatness with a purely intellectual clarity, but I cannot appreciate it for what it is now. I enjoyed 1984 far better: it's more complex and mysterious. In fact, I would say 1984 is Orwell's best work, followed by Keep the Aspidistra Flying. This, of course, is based on my hugely extensive experience of three of Orwell's books.
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