Orwell-Pig-Is-Shocked

Harper's: Revisionist History

A piece about Nikolay Kostomarov’s short story “Animal Riot,” as the likely source for Orwell’s “Animal Farm.”


… At its face, the possible source seemed like more than a big coincidence, but the Internet discussion around the subject, and a few academic consults with colleagues, were discouraging: Orwell didn’t read or speak Russian; Orwell wouldn’t have heard of Kostomarov; Kostomarov’s story was more minor than Kostomarov himself; Orwell was clear about the inspiration for Animal Farm. “I saw a little boy,” he wrote, “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.”

That quote comes from the Ukrainian edition of Animal Farm, which was released in 1947 as part of the Congress for Cultural Freedom’s soft war on communism. (As a result of the British Secret Services’ Foreign Office, which worked hand in hand with Orwell, the CIA, and CIA’s Congress for Cultural Freedom, Animal Farm was arguably the most massively translated and distributed small-press book in the history of literature.) If anyone was to have made the connection to “Animal Riot,” it was the audience for the Ukrainian translation of Animal Farm. Kostomarov, according to the Encyclopedia of the Romantic Era, was one of “the three founders of the Ukrainian national renaissance.” Kostomarov was also a major influence of Mykhailo Hrushevsky, an author and political leader who was at the forefront of revolutionary Ukraine, a subject Orwell wrote about. Kostomarov, in Hrushevsky’s evaluation, was “the precursor of modern Ukraine.” So, it’s ironic that the Ukrainian edition is the evidence that Orwell came up with Animal Farm independently of Kostomarov. Ironic, as well, is the similarity of Orwell’s boyhood memory to a boyhood memory of Dostoevsky. In Crime & Punishment, Dostoevsky describes the cruel beating of a horse. In his notebooks of the period, Dostoevsky explains: “The dreadful fist soared again and again, and struck blows on the back of the head . . . This disgusting scene has remained in my memory all my life. . . . This little scene appeared to me, so to speak, as an emblem, as something which very graphically demonstrated the link between cause and effect. Here every blow dealt at the animal leaped out of the blow dealt at the man.” …

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http://harpers.org/blog/2015/12/revisionist-history/