10 Facts About George Orwell's Animal Farm

George Orwell's oft-banned book turns 75 this year.
George Orwell's oft-banned book turns 75 this year.
Shraddha Agrawal, Unsplash // Public Domain

On August 17, 1945, legendary British author George Orwell—who also penned 1984—published Animal Farm, a satirical allegory of Soviet Russia featuring animals who revolt against the farmer Mr. Jones and wind up in a pig-led Communist dictatorship. Orwell called Animal Farm “the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole.” It went on to find a spot on many school reading lists and cracked top-100 novel lists by Modern Library and TIME. Here are a few things you might not have known about Animal Farm.

1. Animal Farm was rejected by the biggest names in publishing.

Faber and Faber editor T.S. Eliot, whose poetry inspired the musical Cats, rejected Animal Farm. Eliot disdained its mockery of Stalin’s USSR, Britain’s then-World War II ally. Jonathan Cape, Ernest Hemingway’s British publisher, rejected it after consulting with the wartime Ministry of Information. One publisher told Orwell that “It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.” Ultimately, Animal Farm became a hit for Secker & Warburg.

2. Animal Farm touched writers like C.S. Lewis and Margaret Atwood.

C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, wrote that “The great sentence, ‘All animals are equal but some are more equal than others,’ bites deeper than the whole of 1984.” Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale), who first read Animal Farm when she was 9, wrote in a column for the Toronto Star in 1993 that “I was traumatized early in life by the death of that poor horse in Orwell’s Animal Farm, which I thought was going to be ... like Peter Rabbit.”

3. The farm in Animal Farm is modeled on a real-life setting.

For periods in the 1930s and ‘40s, Orwell and his first wife, Eileen (who died in 1945), lived at a cottage at No. 2 Kits Lane in the village of Wallington, where Orwell ran a store and wrote. In 1999, historian Brian Edwards pinpointed nearby Bury Farm as Orwell’s likeliest inspiration for Animal Farm: Its barns, pond, hill, and orchard strongly resemble the book.

4. The CIA used Animal Farm as a propaganda tool.

From 1952 to 1957, the CIA’s “Aedinosaur” operation launched balloons from West Germany that dropped copies of Animal Farm into Iron Curtain countries like Poland and Czechoslovakia. The CIA also bankrolled the 1954 Animal Farm cartoon movie. Future Watergate conspirator E. Howard Hunt arranged to buy the rights from Orwell’s widow, Sonia.

5. The Soviet Union banned Animal Farm until the Cold War was almost over.

In 1988, as Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost policy liberalized the USSR, a Latvian journal called Rodnik published Animal Farm in four installments. The Russian government newspaper Izvestia printed an excerpt later that year, saying: “It is good that the prose of this great English writer reaches our readers, albeit late.”

6. Many other governments have banned Animal Farm.

Beyond the Soviet Union, Animal Farm has also been banned at various times in countries like Cuba (where the book was set on fire by the government), North Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and countries in Africa. In Malawi, government minister Albert Muwalo was charged with treason and hanged in 1977; one alleged piece of evidence was his ownership of Animal Farm, a banned book. And in 1991, Kenya’s government banned a Swahili-language play based on Animal Farm that attacked corruption.

7. Animal Farm has spawned some unauthorized sequels.

Snowball’s Chance by John Reed (2002) provocatively imagines Napoleon’s rival Snowball returning to Animal Farm and establishing a capitalist system, while Jon Zagrodsky’s 2007 book The Rats Are in the Cheese envisions a hedgehog leading the charge for tax reform.

8. Animal Farm has inspired Coldplay, the Beatles, and Pink Floyd.

Coldplay’s 2020 “Trouble in Town” music video shows a homeless person in a deer mask reading Animal Farm. “Piggies,” which George Harrison wrote for the Beatles’s 1968 White Album, is partially inspired by Orwell’s novel. Pink Floyd’s 1977 album Animals, whose cover features a flying pig, is also based loosely on the book.

9. Patrick Stewart and Julia Louis-Dreyfus did voices for a 1999 Animal Farm film.

In this Hallmark TV movie, Patrick Stewart (Star Trek) voiced Napoleon, while Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld) did Mollie the mare. Other stars included Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) as Snowball and Ian Holm (Lord of the Rings) as Squealer. The movie got mixed reviews.

10. New Animal Farm movies and plays are coming out.

If you’re disappointed Elton John’s proposed Animal Farm musical never materialized, there are alternatives. The 2019 film Mr. Jones incorporates Orwell’s writing of Animal Farm into its tale of a Welsh journalist investigating Stalin’s Ukrainian famine. Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings) is set to adapt Animal Farm for Netflix, possibly in 2021. And an Animal Farm play by Robert Icke, who brought 1984 to Broadway, is slated for 2022.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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14 Black Authors You Should Read Right Now

Pexabay, Pexels // CC0
Pexabay, Pexels // CC0

With the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, works on anti-racism have been flying off the shelves of Black-owned bookstores. But anti-racism doesn’t start and end with philosophical theories—it’s also a matter of shifting your current reading patterns. If you’ve found yourself purchasing Stamped but not The Hate U Give or With the Fire on High, then you’re doing yourself a major disservice. To help you get started, here are some groundbreaking Black authors you should read—and a few suggested books for you to check out.

1. Jason Reynolds

Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, Amazon

Jason Reynolds has a true gift when it comes to describing the Black male experience. He began writing poetry at age 9 and published his first novel in 2014. With his books—more than 10 so far—he’s created a space for Black boys to see themselves on the covers of fiction as much more than victims. On his website, Reynolds acknowledges that “I know there are a lot—A LOT—of young people who hate reading. I know that many of these book haters are boys. I know that many of these book-hating boys, don't actually hate books, they hate boredom… even though I'm a writer, I hate reading boring books too.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: The Boy in the Black Suit, Ghost

2. Nic Stone

Nic Stone has been kicking down the door on issues that have been overlooked for decades. Through her books, she brings attention and nuance to subjects like grief, discrimination, and questioning one’s sexuality in a way that has rarely been seen before in Young Adult and Middlegrade fiction. Up until 2013, The New York Times bestselling author didn’t think she could write fiction. “Part of the reason I didn't think I could do it is because I didn't see anyone who looked like me writing the type of stuff I wanted to write (super popular YA fiction),” Stone writes in an FAQ on her website. “But I decided to give it a shot anyway. (Life lesson: If you don't see you, go BE you.)”

Add to Your TBR Pile: Dear Martin, Odd One Out

3. Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas made waves after the release of The Hate U Give, a New York Times Bestseller that was made into a critically acclaimed film. Thomas’s second novel, On the Come Up, takes place in Garden Heights about a year after the events of The Hate U Give. It follows a 16-year-old up-and-coming rapper who goes by the nickname Bri. As a former teen rapper herself, Thomas knows the topic well. Just don’t ask her to participate in a rap battle. “I hoped that with writing these scenes and with showing people the ins and outs of it and the internal part of it, of coming up with freestyles on the spot, that maybe—just maybe more people would respect it as an art form,” Thomas told NPR. “But I can't do it.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: The Hate U Give, On the Come Up

4. Brittney Morris

Simon Pulse/Amazon

In her debut novel, Slay, author Brittney Morris shows the ways that Black people are discriminated against in the gaming industry. In its review, Publisher's Weekly wrote, “This tightly written novel will offer an eye-opening take for many readers and speak to teens of color who are familiar with the exhaustion of struggling to feel at home in a largely white society.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: Slay

5. Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor is a Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Nigerian-American author who intertwines African mysticism and science fiction in her writing, masterfully addressing societal issues while showing us how the world can become a better place. Okorafor never envisioned a career as a writer; she planned to be an entomologist until, as a college student, she was paralyzed from the waist down after back surgery. She began writing to distract herself while she recovered, and never looked back. “Nigeria is my muse,” Okorafor told The New York Times. “The idea of the world being a magical place, a mystical place, is normal there.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: Binti, Akata Witch

6. Tiffany D. Jackson

If you love psychological thrillers and haven’t read Tiffany D. Jackson’s first two novels, you’re missing out: Jackson has an ability to twist elements of her story to include new perspectives while keeping readers second-guessing their own theories. Her writing was influenced by many of the authors she discovered in her teen years. “I was, and still am, a HUGE R.L Stein fan, so his Fear Street series took me into my teen years," she writes on her website. "But then I was introduced to Mary Higgins Clark, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and Jodi Picoult, to name a few.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: Allegedly, Monday’s Not Coming

7. Nafissa Thompson-Spires

Nafissa Thompson-Spires catalogues the plights of the Black community with stories that are so intricate, they could be true. One story follows a Black cosplayer shot by police; another addresses post-partum depression. She also showcases the joy that surfaces throughout our lives, despite the hardships. Thompson-Spires’s writing has earned her comparisons to the likes of Paul Beatty, Toni Cade Bambara, and Alice Munro. “I think the goal of a writer should be to tell the truth in some way, even if it’s to tell it slant—or to imagine a better version of the truth," she told The Guardian. "We have to find ways to confront difficult subjects.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: Heads of Colored People

8. Justin A. Reynolds

Katherine Tegen Books/Amazon

No, Justin A. Reynolds isn’t related to Jason Reynolds, but he’s just as talented. In his debut novel, Opposite of Always, Reynolds uses common YA tropes in an innovative way; a star-crossed lovers plot with the added effect of time travel truly sets this story apart.

Add to Your TBR Pile: Opposite of Always, Early Departures

9. Tony Medina

Tony Medina, the first Creative Writing professor at Howard University, has published 17 books, and his fight for social justice is evident in his writing. In his graphic novel, I Am Alfonso Jones, Medina uses Hamlet as inspiration for explaining issues of police brutality and social justice to Young Adult readers.

Add to Your TBR Pile: I Am Alfonso Jones

10. Elizabeth Acevedo

Quill Tree Books/Amazon

The Black experience is not a singular one, and Elizabeth Acevedo—whose debut novel, The Poet X, was a New York Times bestseller and won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 2018—expands the canon with beautifully detailed Afro-Latinx narratives. “I feel like it’s hard to dream a thing you can’t see," Acevedo said in an interview with Black Nerd Problems. "And I think growing up like I knew I loved music and I loved poetry and I loved the feeling of being with other poets and listening to other stories and thinking, like, I think I can do that just as good.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: The Poet X, With the Fire on High

11. N.K. Jemisin

N.K. Jemisin is a voice for the marginalized in science fiction. She has won a number of awards for her work, including a Nebula Award and two Locust Awards, and she was the first person to win three Hugo Awards for Best Novel in a row, for her Broken Earth trilogy. "I’ll use whatever techniques are necessary to get the story across and I read pretty widely," Jemisin told The Paris Review. "So when people kept saying second person is just not done in science fiction, I was like, well, they said first person wasn’t done in fantasy and I did that with my first novel. I don’t understand the weird marriage to particular techniques and the weird insistence that only certain things can be done in science fiction."

Add to Your TBR Pile: The City We Became, The Fifth Season

12. Renée Watson

Renée Watson uses her novels to address gentrification, discrimination, and what it’s like to grow up as a Black girl. “My motivation to write young adult novels comes from a desire to get teenagers talking," she said in an interview with BookPage. "I hope my books are a catalyst for youth and adults to have conversations with one another, for teachers to have a starting point to discuss difficult topics with students.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: This Side of Home, Piecing Me Together

13. Maika and Maritza Moulite

Inkyard Press/Amazon

In their book Dear Haiti, Love Alaine, Haitian-American sister-author duo Maika and Maritza Moulite have created an exciting and riveting story of self-exploration and the meaning of family. These two have already secured a publishing deal for their next novel, One of the Good Ones.

Add to Your TBR Pile: Dear Haiti, Love Alaine

14. Talia Hibbert

Although you may have heard her name more recently due to her USA Today bestselling novel Get a Life, Chloe Brown, Talia Hibbert isn’t a newcomer to the world of adult and paranormal romance: In books, she writes narratives that often follow characters who are diverse in race, body types, and sexuality—because, as her website bio states, “she believes that people of marginalised identities need honest and positive representation.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: Get a Life, Chloe Brown, A Girl Like Her

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