Week 6 and 7: Orwellian Madness

May 15, 2020

Hello all, these past two weeks were all about Orwell. I finished the 1984 essay and have decided to make that my last novel because there are only three weeks left of the senior project, sadly. With the list narrowed down to five, I will finally do an in-depth analysis of all the books that I was hoping to do. 

This week I finally analyzed each and every Orwell source and drafted the paragraphs for my upcoming Animal Farm research essays and I found some very interesting articles about the story behind the publishing of Orwell’s tale, and I learned a lot about the secret distribution of banned books in Soviet territory, two of these books being Animal Farm and Yevgeny Zamyatin’s dystopian We. 

Starting with what I learned about the “underground Soviet-book trade” as I call it, a new language form came to be. It was known as samzidat. Many books that were banned by the Soviet Union’s censorship board, Goskomizdat, were rewritten, or translated, rather in a broken language called samizdat. It was popularized in Ukraine and Poland. Poland published a samizdat form of We, and Ukraine published a samizdat form of Animal Farm. The publication of Orwell’s Animal Farm actually gave hope to many of Stalin’s Ukrainian refugees after reading the samizdat version of the novel. Stalin starved millions of Ukrainians under his rule, as Napoleon tortured the animals on the farm. Goskomizdat was in charge of censoring printed matter- controlling publication houses and printing plants. Another Soviet censorship board was known as Glavlit. Though it has the word “lit” in its name, it’s actually responsible for censoring only political matters. It is officially responsible for regulating state matters and the press, rather than say, banning books. Nonetheless, both boards of censorship attempted to quiet the voices of authors with political opinions. On another note, the samizdat copy of We is currently selling for 22,500 dollars on a bookselling website. This will all be elaborated in my final essays, but if you would like to check out my drafted paragraphs and quotes for the sources, click here: 


Now onto the main event. I learned some very interesting information about Orwell and his publishers. All of this is seen in the previous attachment. I learned that Orwell’s go-to publisher, Victor Gollancz, refused to publish his work. This made total sense considering the political tension of the time period. But that was only part of the reason Gollancz refused to publish Animal Farm. The biggest reason was that he was actually a Communist sympathizer. Orwell didn’t know this in 1943 when he completed the novel. The next publisher he asked was secretly, drumroll please, a Soviet spy. He never told this to Orwell, though, and brushed off his unwillingness to publish Animal Farm as his way of protecting Orwell from Stalinist backlash. It took him two years to find a willing publisher, and finally, it was brought into the world in 1945. These backdrops of publisher’s unwillingness to publish Animal Farm greatly shows the political tension of the time, and answers my question about the difficulty of publishing. I’m sure that many other political authors, Solzhenitsyn and Zamyatin included, experienced great difficulty getting their works published. 

It seems to me that USSR publication was much more strict than US publication, unsurprisingly. The way Stalin ran things was, of course, extremely binding and constricting. There was a lack of freedom of expression in the USSR. This was something Orwell feared. This was something Zamyatin feared. Solzhenitsyn, too. But of course, there were those who joined the rebellion. The samizdat translators. The publishers who dared to defy. The authors that wrote these cursed stories they knew were bound to cause outrage. Banned books are characterized by defiance and rebellion. This is most notable in the Animal Farm backlash and the difficulty Orwell faced as he relentlessly tried to publish it.

This is what I call, the Orwellian Madness. 

You can read all my reader response essays in chronological order now. Now it’s all about the research essays. Animal Farm will be up soon. Next on the list is We. Thanks for reading! See you next week, banned bookites! 

One Reply to “Week 6 and 7: Orwellian Madness”

  1. James G. says:

    Your insight is incredible. I can’t wait to read the rest of your essays! Keep it up!

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