Top critical review
Interesting satire, but not particularly deep
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on October 29, 2022
“…in fighting against Man, we must not come to resemble him.”
The intro that accompanies this version of Orwell’s classic confirms the obvious: this is a satirical allegory about the Russian revolution. It adds that Orwell made clear that he also intended “a wider application”. Fair enough. But every story has a wider application. What you see here is what you get: this is indeed a retelling of the story of the Russian revolution. You won’t need a PhD in Russian history to associate individual animals in the book with the historical figures they represent. If you’re not sure about one or two, it won’t take you long to look them up.
The story is engaging, and I highlighted several interesting passages. But it’s not particularly deep. It deserves its place in the cannon, but I don’t think it’s on a par with Nineteen Eighty-Four or Huxley’s Brave New World. In fact, it’s not even the same genre.
I concede, however, that context matters: remember that Orwell wrote the book during WWII, while the Soviets were allies with Britain. In an originally unpublished preface that appears in this edition as Appendix I, Orwell bemoans (in fact, whines about) the fact that he had trouble finding a publisher for this book. His explanation is fascinating: largely because the Soviets were allies (and also due to sympathetic attitudes about socialism in the abstract), the rules of polite British society dictated that criticizing the Soviet Union simply “is not done”. If one accepts his argument, the need for and impact of Animal Farm becomes clearer, and the prescience of the author stands out once again.