What havoc “a little squib” can cause! Seven decades ago, George Orwell’s Animal Farm was published in the United States. Its publication launch was August 26, 1946, almost exactly a year after its appearance in England. Subtitled “A Fairy Story,” the “little squib”—Orwell’s modest term for the book when he wrote the Russian émigré scholar Gleb Struve—was only thirty thousand words, a brilliantly original hybrid of Aesopian fable, Menippean satire, and historical allegory.
Animal Farm hit a nerve at the right psychological moment in America, just when the pro-Soviet fellow-traveling movement was beginning to unravel. Published to reviewers’ kudos and good sales in the United Kingdom in August 1945, it nevertheless gained attention chiefly from the English literary-political elite, especially the London left-wing intelligentsia and serious literary-minded readers. Animal Farm, however, had only a moderate influence on the wider British public. Its full impact was not felt until it crossed the Atlantic a year later, and some of the long-term consequences proved highly ironic. Indeed, the circumstances shaping the American reception of this Englishman’s “squib” generated cultural and intellectual tremors that contributed decisively to the decades-long ideological fault lines that surfaced between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Read more at The Imaginative Conservative.