“Trotskyite” views may nonetheless sometimes have validity:
TS Eliot’s snort of rejection for Animal Farm
The poet turned down Orwell’s masterpiece for publication as it was ‘unconvincing’
IT must rate as the literary snub of the 20th century. T S Eliot, one of Britain’s greatest poets, rejected George Orwell’s Animal Farm for publication on the grounds of its unconvincing Trotskyite politics.
Eliot, a former director of Faber and Faber, the publisher, wrote his rejection in a highly critical letter in 1944, one of many private papers made available for the first time by his widow Valerie for a BBC documentary.
When Orwell submitted his novel, an allegory on Stalin’s dictatorship, Eliot praised its “good writing” and “fundamental integrity”.
However, the book’s politics, at a time when Britain was allied with the Soviet Union against Hitler, were another matter.
“We have no conviction that this is the right point of view from which to criticise the political situation at the current time,” wrote Eliot, adding that he thought its “view, which I take to be generally Trotskyite, is not convincing”.
Eliot wrote: “After all, your pigs are far more intelligent than the other animals, and therefore the best qualified to run the farm – in fact there couldn’t have been an Animal Farm at all without them: so that what was needed (someone might argue) was not more communism but more public-spirited pigs.”
“It’s a fascinating, yet very odd letter,” said Anthony Wall, series editor of Arena, the BBC arts documentary, which will explore the papers. “What exactly does Eliot mean?”
Animal Farm was published the following year by Secker & Warburg…