14 Sep 2019

T.S. Eliot Declined to Publish “Animal Farm”

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Lit Hub excerpted from a history of the renowned publishing house Faber some very interesting rejection letters, mostly by none other than T.S. Eliot.

The most indefensible one has to be:

T. S. Eliot to George Orwell Esq., 13 July 1944:

I know that you wanted a quick decision about Animal Farm; but the minimum is two directors’ opinions, and that can’t be done under a week. But for the importance of speed, I should have asked the Chairman to look at it as well. But the other director is in agreement with me on the main points. We agree that it is a distinguished piece of writing; that the fable is very skilfully handled, and that the narrative keeps one’s interest on its own plane – and that is something very few authors have achieved since Gulliver.

On the other hand, we have no conviction (and I am sure none of the other directors would have) that this is the right point of view from which to criticise the political situation at the present time.[. . .]

I am very sorry, because whoever publishes this, will naturally have the opportunity of publishing your future work: and I have a regard for your work, because it is good writing of fundamental integrity.

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It is that last paragraph that particularly strikes me: in turning down Animal Farm—essentially because it was being rude about our Soviet allies—Eliot was also turning down the unwritten 1984.

RTWT

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Roz Kaveney detected a pattern in Eliot’s thinking.

When we look at Eliot’s writings on culture, we see a fine critical intelligence allied to a fear of possible consequences that is deeply terrifying in the way that in it elitist arrogance masquerades as humility and passionate concern to keep things as they are as a broadly accepting humanism.

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