There’s always the issue of what happens to our sense of the original in parodic writing, or painting, or other. In some cases, the original work ends up standing up against the new piece in new and enlightening ways. In other cases, the parody might very well become the new text. In many, the two texts have a kind of dialog and negotiation of the spaces between. And in some cases, nothing happens, and the parody never even registers. Given how very conscientious I was of literature in the wake of the Sept 11 attacks, and the very mixed feelings I had in the months and years later, it’s surprising that I’ve never heard of this book, except by way of its reprinting with Neversink.
The book itself is a kind of sequel to Animal Farm, and in ways it’s more or less a parody of it. I don’t use parody in the sense of satire, although this is both, but of direct imitation in the way of Linda Hutcheon’s definitions. In the book Snowball, thought long dead and figure of myth and infamy in Animal Farm, returns to Manor Farm after the deaths of Napoleon and Squealer to introduce a kind of capitalism into the mix (let’s say similar enough to Perestroika). And well, capitalism has its own follies leading to disastrous consequences.
So on the one hand, I want to treat this book as a reminder not necessarily to Orwell, but to the especially conservative fans of Orwell who took up Animal Farm (and 1984) as champion texts because they were anti-Communism. This reminder would serve as a warning that unbridled Capitalism has a death toll just as horrifying, especially leading to fascism. But the book insists repeatedly, through an introduction and even by comments from the author, that this is not just a reaction to the reaction, but an anti-Orwell book. And well, if it insists on this, that it’s a failure. It does nothing to undo the warnings of Orwell against Soviet (as well as Maoist) communism. It only adds the additional warnings about capitalism. And it does so in ways that undermine its own message because it simply replaces one ideology (or worse tribalism) with another. It’s not liberational, it’s another version of the thing it hates.
If the author had simply let the story do the talking, it might have been more consequential (for example like Russell Means’s “For the World to Live, Europe must Die”).