Category Archives: Literature

Nothing is ever New

There was the same hearty cheering as before, and the mugs were emptied to the dregs. But as the animals outside gazed at the scene, it seemed to them that some strange thing was happening. What was it that had altered in the faces of the pigs? Clover’s old dim eyes flitted from one face to another. Some of them had five chins, some had four, some had three. But what was it that seemed to be melting and changing? Then, the applause having come to an end, the company took up their cards and continued the game that had been interrupted, and the animals crept silently away. 

But they had not gone twenty yards when they stopped short. An uproar of voices was coming from the farmhouse. They rushed back and looked through the window again. Yes, a violent quarrel was in progress. There were shoutings, bangings on the table, sharp suspicious glances, furious denials. The source of the trouble appeared to be that Napoleon and Mr. Pilkington had each played an ace of spades simultaneously. 

Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already
it was impossible to say which was which.

Ah, there is nothing like a good old passage from George Orwell.  Animal Farm,… such an unsuspecting title, often met with jest.  And yet it treats one of humanity’s most sought-after treasures : Power,  not for the salvation of humanity, not for the immense wealth, not for that page in History, just for the sake of it. “[A]lways there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler”. Subtler indeed! Napoleon the pig did not come to free the animals from the yoke of the old farmer, Napoleon the pig came to establish a new, more advanced, more sophisticated dictatorship, under a fraudulent banner of freedom. This is all too familiar with Nietzsche’s notorious : “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster”.

Anyway, I won’t spoil the book with more details, but I will say this : this is a must-read for anyone of any age, and it must be read without any prejudice in mind; Napoleon is not only an allegory of the communist regime back then, Napoleon can be anyone… Just think of the name that Orwell gave him…

Shakespeare sta…

Shakespeare starts by assuming that to make yourself powerless is to invite an attack. This does not mean that EVERYONE will turn against you (Kent and the Fool stand by Lear from first to last), but in all probability SOMEONE will. If you throw away your weapons, some less scrupulous person will pick them up. If you turn the other cheek, you will get a harder blow on it than you got on the first one. This does not always happen, but it is to be expected, and you ought not to complain if it does happen. The second blow is, so to speak, part of the act of turning the other cheek. First of all, therefore, there is the vulgar, common-sense moral drawn by the Fool: “Don’t relinquish power; don’t give away your lands.” But there is also another moral. Shakespeare never utters it in so many words, and it does not very much matter whether he was fully aware of it. It is contained in the story, which, after all, he made up, or altered to suit his purposes. It is: “Give away your lands if you want to, but don’t expect to gain happiness by doing so. Probably you won’t gain happiness. If you live for others, you must live FOR OTHERS, and not as a roundabout way of getting an advantage for yourself.”

This is an excerpt from George Orwell’s (Eric Blair’s) Essay : Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool, which is a (rather late) response to Tolstoy’s criticism of Shakespeare’s work. This is a truly scathing response since Orwell dissects Tolstoy’s personal life to uncover the underlying causes that pushed him to criticize Shakespeare. Although the “Sainte-Beuve” method of critique (i.e. to analyze a writer’s thoughts based on their Biography rather than their Work) is a bit dubious, the insight that Orwell provides is thought-provoking and reminiscent of his notorious novels.