60th Anniversary of Orwell's 'Animal Farm'

George Orwell's famous novel Animal Farm was published 60 years ago Wednesday. Alex Chadwick pays tribute to the dark satire of the novel, which uses animals to depict the worst aspects of Russia's Bolshevik Revolution and the rise of communist dictator Joseph Stalin.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Sixty years ago today, British novelist George Orwell showed the world totalitarianism as seen through the eyes of animals.

(Soundbite of "Animal Farm")

"OLD MAJOR": Remove man and overnight, we will become free and equal!

Group of Animals: (Chanting in unison) Free and equal! Free and equal!

CHADWICK: That speech from the pig, Old Major, from the 1999 film version of "Animal Farm."

The book is widely seen as depicting the Russian Revolution and the rise of Stalin. Old Major represents Karl Marx, the father of communism. Other pigs and dogs, horses, ravens represent Russian historical figures from Rasputin to Trotsky. In the story, fed up with their living conditions, the animals drive off their human owner and establish their own government. They vow never to do anything a human would, such as sleep in a bed or drink liquor or wear clothes. But then a dictatorial pig, Napoleon, takes control, exploiting the other animals, crushing his opponents, and many animals quickly realize life without humans isn't what they thought it would be.

(Soundbite of "Animal Farm")

Unidentified Actor #1: All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Unidentified Actor #2: More equal than others? Come on, we should leave while we still can.

CHADWICK: By the end of "Animal Farm," the despot Napoleon is walking on two legs, wearing clothes, cutting deals with humans and eating like--well, like a pig, while his comrades starve. Ironically, the animals end up worse than they had been.

(Soundbite of "Animal Farm")

"NAPOLEON": I decree that this farm will now devote itself to the making of weapons, to the building of walls, protection of ourselves and our way of life. The revolution is over.

CHADWICK: George Orwell first tried to publish "Animal Farm" in 1944, but with Russia a British ally during World War II, he couldn't get it released. The novel finally made it out a year later, just as many Westerners were beginning to question Russia's motives. Orwell biographer Jeffrey Meyers says the book was an instant success.

Mr. JEFFREY MEYERS (Orwell Biographer): The first printing was sold out. Then there was another and another and another, and then it printed into--eventually into the millions.

CHADWICK: And Jeffrey Meyers sees echoes of "Animal Farm" today in regimes around the world from Iraq and Iran to post-Soviet Russia. He says George Orwell's masterpiece would have the same effect if it were published now as it did when it came out 60 years ago.

Mr. MEYERS: Well, I think the book has such brilliance and such satiric wit and such charming moments that it's his most appealing work, and I think it would be received today in the same interest and praise and even rapture that it was in those days.

CHADWICK: George Orwell's "Animal Farm," first published 60 years ago today.

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