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This article is taken from PN Review 220, Volume 41 Number 2, November - December 2014.

More Than One View of Somewhere in Central Ukraine Horatio Morpurgo
When Animal Farm was distributed among Ukrainian refugees in 1947, the translation came with a specially written preface. Orwell wrote it for no payment within a fortnight of being asked. He told a friend that he regarded Ukrainian Displaced Persons as ‘a godsent opportunity for breaking down the wall between Russia and the West’. He wrote more freely about the novel in that preface than he ever had before or ever did again.

‘Russia and the West’ are at odds once more and, together with the Grad rockets, wildly off-target talk about the 1930s and 1940s is flying in all directions. In the din of our own information wars, the trouble taken with that preface is worth recalling. The translator made only a couple of alterations. Orwell wrote ‘I have never visited the Soviet Union’. His translator changed the phrase to ‘I have never visited Russia’ and in a letter explained why: ‘about half of the prospective readers are Western Ukrainians, who were Polish citizens until 1939…’

He was gently pointing out that, for many Ukrainians in 1947, being from ‘the Soviet Union’ was very recent and a very sensitive issue. The same letter explains that the publishers, by contrast, were ‘Soviet Ukrainians’, meaning Ukrainians from the centre and east of the country. They were supporters of the October revolution disillusioned by Stalin’s ‘Bonapartism’ and by ‘Russian nationalistic exploitation of the Ukrainian people’. To such people, the translator went on, ‘Britain’s socialistic effort’ was deeply important.

Animal Farm was, then, originally ...


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