How George Orwell’s Animal Farm suffered rejection but became a classic

How George Orwell’s Animal Farm suffered rejection but became a classic

Tuesday, May 31, 2016 1:50 pm


George Orwell: Credit: Daily Mail

George Orwell: Credit: Daily Mail

He is a household name in many countries where English is spoken. His name is Eric Arthur Blair, whose pen name (the one you are familiar with) is George Orwell. He is the author of Animal Farm, a world classic. And do you know that his manuscript suffered rejection?

Like a man who will never say die, he went ahead with nose thumping determination. Today, he is remembered for such lines as: “All animals are equal, yet some are more equal than the others.” It was a critique of totalitaranism in socialism/communism where the concept is “to each according to his need and from each according to his ability” and in any other form of government.

Below is the Daily Mail story:

An extraordinary typewritten letter from then-publisher T.S Eliot to a relatively unknown George Orwell rejecting the now classic Animal Farm has been revealed for the first time.

According to a Daily Mail report, the two-page note, written by Eliot while a director at Faber & Faber Ltd and dated July 13, 1944, criticises the famed novelist’s narrative as ‘not convincing’.

Elliot: Source, Daily Mail

Elliot: Source, Daily Mail

Despite lavishing praise on the quality of the work, Eliot chooses to refuse the author’s publishing plea after expressing doubts that Orwell’s allegory ‘is the right point of view from which to criticise the political situation at the present time’.

He then goes on to say the story’s pigs were right to take control of the farm as they were ‘far more intelligent’ than all the other animals – and without them there would never have been an Animal Farm in the first place.

‘We agree that it is a distinguished piece of writing; the the fable is very skilfully handled, and that the narrative keeps one’s interest on its own plane – and that is something very few authors have achieved since Gulliver.

‘On the other hand, we have no conviction that this is the right point of view from which to criticise the political situation at the present time.’

Elliot's letter: Source, Daily Mail

Elliot’s letter: Source, Daily Mail

It continues: ‘Now I think my own dissatisfaction with this apologue is that the effect is simply one of negation. It ought to excite some sympathy with what the author wants, as well as sympathy with his objections to something; and the positive point of view, which I take to be generally Trostkyite, is not convincing.

‘…And 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 Famr, at all without them; so that what was needed, (some might argue), was not more communism but more public-spirited pigs.’

Before its eventual publication by Secker & Warburg in August 1945, the novella was rejected by at least four different publishers, leaving the writer to even consider the idea of printing it as a pamphlet.

While it was written in the form of an animal fable, readers immediately recognised it for what it was: a satire of Stalinism which condemned totalitarian practices and presented Stalin as a traitor of the Russian Revolution.

Many publishers thought the work too controversial to be published at a time in which the Soviet Union was a powerful ally of Britain against Germany – as was the case with Eliot and Faber & Faber Ltd.

However, once released it went onto become an undisputed classic, commended for its exploration of the themes of power, democracy and class.

Eliot’s rejection letter has only now found its way into the public domain after being uploaded online as part of a new British Library project celebrating the country’s cultural heritage.

The free learning resource provides unprecedented access to the Library’s unique literary and historical collections and features more than 300 20th-century treasures from the British Library’s collection, including literary drafts, rare first editions, notebooks, letters, newspapers and photographs.

Amongst them are hand-written notes by some of the greatest writers of time, including Eliot and Orwell, Virginia Woolf and Ted Hughes.

Credit: Daily mail.

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  • Espla says:

    It is important to remember that Orwell was writing in opposition to totalitarianism, rather than specifically opposition to communism. Here is what Orwell said on the matter:
    “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, AGAINST totalitarianism and FOR democratic socialism, as I understand it. “

  • Gregg H says:

    “so that what was needed, (some might argue), was not more communism but more public-spirited pigs.”

    Replace Elliot’s “communism” with “democracy,” and “pigs” with “elites,” and we can see the direction the world is headed.

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