Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Animal Farm - George Orwell

Five years ago, I was in Chennai on deputation from CTS Bangalore (Cognizant Technology Solutions) between Feb 14th and July 15th 2003. I was invited to join Orkut by a colleague. Those days, Orkut was still in its nascent stage and I joined with some interest. Little did I know then, that I was to realize, very soon, that the whole thing was an exercise in futility. But I must admit that I did meet a few genuinely nice people through this network.
One was Aravind. I agreed to meet him because of two reasons. He was a product of IIT (I was impressed!) and the few emails that he sent to me did not have glaring grammatical mistakes (I was obsessed!).
I don’t remember much of that meeting and I would have forgotten him altogether were it not for a little book he presented to me.
I have been in possession of this book for more than 5 years now. But I happened to read it only last month! Thank you Aravind for this book. :-) It was nice meeting you!

George Orwell whose real name was Eric Blair was born in India in 1903 and was educated at Eton. He achieved worldwide fame with this book published in 1945.

The author calls it a fairy story, for that’s what it is.
The critics call it a political satire, for that’s what it is.

I must confess that this is one of the best books I have read so far.
It’s just 120 pages. The style is simple and the narration is superb.
The story unfolds in a manner that is most enjoyable and that makes the book unputdownable.

There is an animal farm. The farm is initially managed by a Mr. Jones. Horses, cows, hens, dogs, pigs, rats, goats, sheep, raven, cat and donkey are all characters of this story.
The animals lament about the misery that they are made to go through and conspire to throw him (Mr. Jones) out. They succeed in their plan and take on the responsibility of managing themselves. The story is all about how the animals manage the farm and themselves, all that transpires within the farm as the years pass and their eventuality.

It’s amazing how anyone could write such a political satire through a simple story of animals.
This story is the simplest possible illustration of how systems and societies degenerate when selflessness of leaders (and people) is replaced by vested interests and when dictatorship takes the place of democracy.
Every animal stands for a distinct type of character or patron in a nation and seeks to depict how each subject reacts differently to the same ruler.

This story is virtually the story of every kingdom, every empire, every civilization and every nation.

The degeneration depicted in the story of the animal farm is very gradual and subtle just like the degeneration of our own societies which is never ‘felt’ by people as they go through it but realized only when they look back in retrospection at a period of several years.
As we read history we clearly see the turn of events and their impact on a race without realizing that our own lives will make interesting reading of history for future generations.

The story is fast paced.
Although it’s a story of hens, cows, horses and pigs, it becomes real as you read. It comes alive from the pages of the book and commands your serious attention.

There is much left to the reader’s imagination. The book says so much without saying a word explicitly.

The author has made a mockery of almost every possible situation in the political arena of nations.
Thoughtless mindless modernization, overthrowing somebody from a position of power, fooling the ignorant masses, the shrewd and cunning enjoying while not doing much work even as the labourers slog, compromising of a value for which the very battle was fought, enemies turning friends during times of prosperity, politicians taking back their words or changing their interpretation as it suits them, blaming someone for what went wrong, how the masses believe in whatever picture they are shown, misery of living when the air is filled with mistrust and fear, economy dictating friendships, projecting of numbers and figures to show the progress of a nation even as people struggle to subsist……… and other situations that your imagination may permit you to conjecture.

A line I loved : The only good human being is a dead one.

The conclusion was apt : They all looked from pig to man and from man to pig and from pig to man again; but it was impossible to say which was which. :-)



Satish said...

This political satire faced real life political problems while getting published. The Russian publishing houses did not want to publish it and the English publishing houses voluntarily boycotted it.......

The reading of the novel becomes even more pleasant, if one knew the events that led to the Second World War......

There is one website which has published all the works of George Orwell online ( The book “Homage to Catalonia" describes Orwell's experiences during Spanish Civil War

""The fallacy is to believe that under a dictatorial government you can be free inside. The greatest mistake is to imagine that the human being is an autonomous individual. The secret freedom of the mind which you can supposedly enjoy under a despotic government is nonsense, because your thoughts are never entirely your own" -George Orwell

Sowmya said...

Thanks for the interesting piece of information Satish :)

Do recommend to me, books that you have read and liked.

I love history. If you know any book that gives a comprehensive account of the second world war, do let me know.

Satish said...

To be honest,i have learnt more from TV, museums and discussions than books :), courtesy History Channel, frequent travel and some like minded people

One of my most memorable trip to the museum was the exhibition of jewels that belonged to Nizam of Hyderabad. There were just priceless....esp jacob diamond.

Someday when you have a post relating to history, we can some intresting discussions.....

Stories really excite people :)

Sowmya said...

I love history too... I am planning to read more history. I have read some and I will be posting it in a few months... History of Delhi... :)

RT said...

"All animals are equal. Some animals are more equal than others". That to me is the most significant line in the book (That is how the 7th and last commandment of the Animal Farm gets manipulated by the end). It's among the very best books I have read.

Sowmya said...

Who is this??? RT stands for - ?
welcome anyway