“Your book has solved that problem… Refugees reacted to the underlying values of the book, to the tale “types,” to the underlying convictions of the author”
– Igor Shevchenko, translator of Animal Farm, to George Orwell
FIRST UKRAINIAN EDITION OF ORWELL’S CLASSIC POLITICAL ALLEGORY.
We offer here the first edition of George Orwell’s anti-Stalinist parable Animal Farm to be distributed (secretly and illegally) behind the Iron Curtain. Published in Ukrainian at the initiative of a group of socialist but anti-Stalinist Ukrainian dissidents, the publication of this edition is a significant incident in the long history of troubled relations between Ukraine and Russia, thus resonating with recent events.
"In April 1946, [Igor] Shevchenko wrote to Orwell, now a mourning widower and single parent of an adopted baby, requesting authorisation to publish his Ukrainian translation. He described to Orwell how he had translated the book out loud to a transfixed audience of Ukrainian DPs and they had always been puzzled how the West could be so naïve about the Soviet Union and wondered if anyone “knew the truth.” He concluded: ”Your book has solved that problem […] Refugees reacted to the underlying values of the book, to the tale ‘types,’ to the underlying convictions of the author and so on. Besides, the mood of the book seems to correspond with their own actual state of mind.” While Animal Farm had been a message of hope to the Ukrainian DPs, Shevchenko’s letter was a message of hope to Orwell, who enthusiastically agreed to a Ukrainian translation." (Tatara).
Orwell in fact wrote a dedicated foreword to this edition in particular, and in a letter to his friend Arthur Koestler on 20 September 1947 recalled the edition’s own troubled survival: “They made a Ukrainian edition of Animal Farm which appeared recently, reasonably well printed and got up… I had heard from them that the American authorities in Munich have seized 1,500 copies of it and handed them over to the Soviet repatriation people, but it appears about 2,000 copies got distributed among the D.P.s first…” (Orwell, p. 379). “[T]he alliance,” as Christopher Hitchens notes, “between the farmers and the pigs, so hauntingly described in the final pages of the novel, was still in force.” (Hitchens, p. 233).
The present work is one of the earliest translations of Animal Farm in any language—speaking to the poignancy of the Orwell’s tale to the Ukrainian nation. When translating the title, instead of using the more immediate choice of ферма/farma [lit. farm], Igor Shevchenko (under the pseudonym Ivan Chernyatinskyy) instead decides on колго́сп/kolgosp, a term specifically denoting the large collective farms instituted by the Soviet Union. Even today in contemporary usage, kolgosp remains inextricably linked to the historical context in which the novel was published. And Shevchenko’s translation further literalises Orwell’s allegorical message to the people of Ukraine.
ORWELL, GEORGE; [SHEVCHENKO, IGOR; CHERNYATINSKYY, IVAN]. Kolgosp Tvarin [Animal Farm]. Munich: Vidavnitstvi Prometei, 1947. First Ukrainian edition, translated by Ivan Chernyatinskyy (a.k.a. Igor Shevchenko). Small octavo (150 x 207 mm; 6 x 8.3 in), 91 pp. In original colour illustrated wrappers. Top outer corner slightly bumped; a hint of soiling. A fine copy, extremely rare in this condition.
Fenwick, Gillian, George Orwell: A Bibliography (Winchester: St Paul’s Bibliographies, 1998), A.10.T25.
Hitchens, Christopher, Arguably (London: Atlantic, 2012)
Orwell, George, The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, ed. by Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, 4 vols. (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968), IV: In Front of Your Nose, 1945–1950
Tatara, Halyna, "George Orwell and the Ukrainian refugees: The untold story of Animal Farm", Ukrainian Institute, 31 July 2012
With thanks to Salome Gongadze for points on the Ukrainian language.
Price: $2,000 .