When T.S. Eliot Rejected Animal Farm

In a story that is bound to hearten writers who deal with rejections (which is to say, pretty much all of them), news came yesterday that George Orwell’s Animal Farm was rejected by T.S. Eliot when Eliot was editorial director at Faber and Faber.

In a letter from 1944 explaining why he would not be publishing the work, Eliot told Orwell that he was not persuaded by the “Trotskyite” politics which underpin the narrative. To publish such an anti-Russian novel would jar in the contemporary political climate, explained the poet.

“We have no conviction … that this is the right point of view from which to criticise the political situation at the present time. It is certainly the duty of any publishing firm which pretends to other interests and motives other than mere commercial prosperity to publish books which go against the current of the moment,” wrote Eliot, before going on to say that he was not convinced that “this is the thing that needs saying at the moment.” The letter, which has been in the private collection of Eliot’s widow, Valerie, since he died, is explored in a forthcoming edition of the BBC documentary series, Arena.

I read the published excerpts from Eliot’s letter several times and I still can’t figure exactly what Eliot had against the book. Maybe I just need some coffee. Or maybe rejections are just opaque to me.

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