Christopher Hitchens notices that there’s no Lenin pig while revisiting George Orwell’s classic novel, Animal Farm. And while it’s an interesting thought, given that the novel is an allegory for that particular period of Russian history, the more interesting aspect of Hitchens’s anaylsis is the book’s lasting impact.
There is a timeless, even transcendent, quality to this little story. It is caught when Old Major tells his quiet, sad audience of overworked beasts about a time long ago, when creatures knew of the possibility of a world without masters, and when he recalls in a dream the words and the tune of a half-forgotten freedom song. Orwell had a liking for the tradition of the English Protestant revolution, and his favourite line of justification was taken from John Milton, who made his stand “By the known rules of ancient liberty”. In all minds – perhaps especially in those of children – there is a feeling that life need not always be this way, and those malnourished Ukrainian survivors, responding to the authenticity of the verses and to something “absolute” in the integrity of the book, were hearing the mighty line of Milton whether they fully understood it or not.