Posted on June 13, 2016
By Kelly Torpey
In my school-days, plenty of readings were required, but in all honesty, I didn’t care for most of them. However, George Orwell’s Animal Farm captured my attention. It was unique, I didn’t need a dictionary on stand-by, and I knew it had been banned from some classrooms.
Orwell may be one of the most read, well-known novelists of all time. With books like Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, his work is a constant reminder that we must continually critique the actions of leaders and the acceptance of common thought.
Recently (as in a couple days ago) I discovered details about Orwell’s roots, upbringing, and perspectives in an interview clip from Public Radio International. This clip is available on Literature Resource Center. I quickly learned that I probably wouldn’t have been exposed to these details if a young Ukrainian scholar hadn’t sent a message to George Orwell in 1947. In his note, the scholar asked for permission to translate Animal Farm into Ukrainian. Orwell not only granted permission, but also refused any royalties and penned a detailed preface that we are all incredibly lucky to read. Orwell wrote:
I have been asked to write a preface to the Ukrainian translation of Animal Farm. I am aware that I write for readers about whom I know nothing, but also that they too have probably never had the slightest opportunity to know anything about me.
Orwell then goes into great detail about his childhood, beliefs, and thought processes. He also explains why he chose to shed light on the oppressive nature of the Soviet regime, and so many other hot-button topics, through a fable about farm animals – and why it worked so well.
On my return from Spain I thought of exposing the Soviet myth in a story that could be easily understood by almost anyone and which could be easily translated into other languages. However, the actual details of the story did not come to me for some time until one day (I was then living in a small village) I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge cart-horse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat.
So there you have it. The preface to the 1947 Ukrainian translation of Animal Farm could quite possibly be one of the most detailed and personal accounts of George Orwell and his perspectives as an author.
If only I had known all this information when I wrote my term paper in high school ….
June 25th marks the anniversary of George Orwell’s birthday. To read the entirety of the Ukrainian preface and to learn more about George Orwell and Animal Farm, take a look at Literature Resource Center. Don’t have LRC at your institution? Trial it today.
George Orwell (June 25, 1903 – January 21, 1950)
About the Author
Kelly is an explorer. She enjoys traveling and experiencing new things. Whether sightseeing, paddle boarding or attending a concert, she’s always looking forward to the next adventure.