Vulgarian Book Pick | April 2018

in Editorial

ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL, but some animals are more equal than others.” What do you do with a line like that? Laugh? (It is pretty God damn clever.) Or do you cringe, filled with a resonant fear of… of what? Social Justice Warriors? Patriotic exceptionalism?


On the surface, Animal Farm (originally published as Animal Farm: A Fairy Story) is a charming fable of a few shithead pigs who assume tyrannical control of newly liberated farm animals. But if you scratch that surface, what you’ll find instead is …well, more or less the same thing — just in human form.

From the Wikipedia entry on Animal Farm:

Animal Farm is an allegorical novella by George Orwell, first published in England on 17 August 1945. According to Orwell, the book reflects events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and then on into the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union… In a letter to Yvonne Davet, Orwell described Animal Farm as a satirical tale against Stalin (“un conte satirique contre Staline“), and in his essay “Why I Write” (1946), wrote that Animal Farm was the first book in which he tried, with full consciousness of what he was doing, “to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole”.

For Orwell, the “All Animals are Equal” line represented the propagandic use of ambiguous, compassionate language to obscure a lethally greedy authoritarianism — a phenomenon dubbed by his later classic novel 1984 as “Doublespeak”. Yet, given that Orwell himself sought to unite his politics with his art, we have to ask:

Is Animal Farm itself a form of propaganda?

Questions on Art, Politics, and Propaganda

Stalin or no — it’s Orwell’s attempt at fusing politics and art that’s perhaps the most interesting, and universally appealing, aspect of Animal Farm. With that buzzword “propaganda” hanging over our heads, a serious question surfaces: Is this fusion even possible?

This question can be divided into two sub-questions:

  1. Can the political be artistic?
  2. Can the artistic be political?

And now to grab that buzzword from above our heads and hold it in our hands: Is there a distinction between good propaganda and bad propaganda, or is all propaganda bad? Is the goodness or badness of propaganda measured by its artistic or political merits?

Does Animal Farm‘s artistic value validate Orwell’s underlying political ethics? — which touches on perhaps the most dangerous question(s) here: Does art reveal proper politics; and if so, is bad art unethical?

Of course, we have no answers for you here. This is all just a bit of food for thought while reading the April 2018 Vulgarian Book of the Month.


Animal Farm
via Animal Farm (1954)

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