Warner Holme Review: George Orwell’s Animal Farm: A Fairy Story

Animal Farm: A Fairytale Story by George Orwell. Introduction by Richard Blair. Illustrated by Omar Rayyan. Suntup Editions.

Review by Warner Holme: George Orwell’s Animal Farm: A Fairy Story is a classic of political allegory. And dozens of versions of the story exist, with even the print variations being noticeably wide. This particular edition, by Suntup, is without a doubt one of the most gorgeous and carefully planned ever put together.

There is a multipage introduction by Richard Blair in which he talks about the history of the book as well as its significance, including the text of a letter of rejection from none other than T.S. Eliot. Blair discusses his personal issues related to the volume, and the influence it had, as well as giving some biogaphical background on George Orwell.

A nice note on the text is included in which Peter Davison expounds upon the history of Animal Farm amd variations in the story, starting with the often removed subtitle of “A Fairy Story” and moving up to such esoterica as a radio version Orwell helped write. It is a delightful bounty of interesting meterial about the volume ajd it’s variations in multiple languages.

Unused prefaces and introductions are included, specifically a version from the Ukrainian Edition and a long lost one that was only recovered in the 1970s. More of Orwell’s writing on the book,  these rarely seen gems give a look into the way the author thought of the story he told.

A major selling point for this edition is the gorgeous new illustrations by Omar Rayyan. Each image is detailed and grotesque, the perfect mix of realistic minutia and exaggerated design creating a world that feel very much like what is written in the book. They illustrate, usually quite accurately, events from the book which allow for suitably disturbing imagery, whether due to overt horror or corrupt influence.

The use of pigs as the main antagonists of Animal Farm was always a stroke of genious. They are creatures that are well known to consume a great deal, all but indscriminately. They are violent and dangerous in the rigut circumstances, yet the public in general are very much not aware of that. Those.who do not think (f the creatures as cute usually, instead, merely see them as a useful source of meat. However the most important fact from this point of view comes from the simple detail that they are not kosher. They are not approved of by Judaism. As a result of this they are oftem used as an antisemetic symbol. For a novel published in 1945 (and written significantly before that) it is  especially appreciated as it was easy to accidentaly or deliberately seen as such.

As with all Classics there are a number of variations one can purchase for this volume. This one, from Suntup Editions, is not only the most gorgeous of them but one of the most complete. The additional material is gripping and fascinating, and while not quite exhaustive voluminous enough to be appreciated. Indeed one of the most obvious missing pieces by or will on the subject, from his correspondence with Dwight Macdonald, is quoted in the promotional material meaning it is arguably included as well. To anyone who collects high-end volumes, this book is a fantastic piece to add to your collection. To fans of animal farm, if they are willing to spend $200 or more dollars on a book, it is also highly recommended.

(Suntup, 2023)

Often shy and retiring Warner Holme has worn many hats over the years. He has worked in fields ranging from the medical to advertising, but always finds himself most at home among stories and words. He can usually be found in the mid-south, caring for some person or animal, and is almost never more than a meter away from a few books.

2 thoughts on “Warner Holme Review: George Orwell’s Animal Farm: A Fairy Story

  1. We listened to this book on a road trip when my son was 10. I wasn’t sure if he would follow it, but he didn’t have a problem. He was very confused when we got to the end though, asking where is the part where things get fixed? That’s when I realized it was his first book without a happy ending.

  2. I first encountered Animal Farm as a cartoon on TV as a kid, when I was too young to understand the political references. I nonetheless remembered being riveted by the story, upset about the fate of Boxer (come on, who wasn’t?) and bothered that the bad guys were pigs, because pigs were (and are) some of my favourite animals.

    Later, I read the novel (well, actually a novella) twice in high school – once in German translation and once in English – and this time the teachers clearly pointed out all the political references, so I learned to appreciate the story on a completely different level.

    The genius of Animal Farm is IMO that it works on two levels, both as a story about farm animals taking over the farm and failing and as a political allegory for the Russian revolution and the rise of the Soviet Union. Kids can absolutely follow and enjoy the story, even tough it’s not a happy story.

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