by Laurence Zuckerman (from the New York Times)
|Many people remember reading George Orwell's "Animal Farm" in high school or college, with its chilling finale in which the farm animals looked back and forth at the tyrannical pigs and the exploitative human farmers but found it "impossible to say which was which."|
That ending was altered in the 1955 animated version, which removed the humans, leaving only the nasty pigs. Another example of Hollywood butchering great literature? Yes, but in this case the film's secret producer was the Central Intelligence Agency.
The C.I.A., it seems, was worried that the public might be too influenced by Orwell's pox-on-both-their-houses critique of the capitalist humans and Communist pigs. So after his death in 1950, agents were dispatched (by none other than E. Howard Hunt, later of Watergate fame) to buy the film rights to "Animal Farm" from his widow to make its message more overtly anti-Communist.
Rewriting the end of "Animal Farm" is just one example of the often absurd lengths to which the C.I.A. went, as recounted in a new book, "The Cultural Cold War: The C.I.A. and the World of Arts and Letters" (The New Press) by Frances Stonor Saunders, a British journalist. Published in Britain last summer, the book will appear here next month.
Much of what Ms. Stonor Saunders writes about, including the C.I.A.'s covert sponsorship of the Paris-based Congress for Cultural Freedom and the British opinion magazine Encounter, was exposed in the late 1960's, generating a wave of indignation. But by combing through archives and unpublished manuscripts and interviewing several of the principal actors, Ms. Stonor Saunders has uncovered many new details and gives the most comprehensive account yet of the agency's activities between 1947 and 1967.
This picture of the C.I.A.'s secret war of ideas has cameo appearances by scores of intellectual celebrities like the critics Dwight Macdonald and Lionel Trilling, the poets Ted Hughes and Derek Walcott and the novelists James Michener and Mary McCarthy, all of whom directly or indirectly benefited from the C.I.A.'s largesse. There are also bundles of cash that were funneled through C.I.A. fronts and several hilarious schemes that resemble a "Spy vs. Spy" cartoon more than a serious defense against Communism.
Traveling first class all the way, the C.I.A. and its counterparts in other Western European nations sponsored art exhibitions, intellectual conferences, concerts and magazines to press their larger anti-Soviet agenda. Ms. Stonor Saunders provides ample evidence, for example, that the editors at Encounter and other agency-sponsored magazines were ordered not to publish articles directly critical of Washington's foreign policy. She also shows how the C.I.A. bankrolled some of the earliest exhibitions of Abstract Expressionist painting outside of the United States to counter the Socialist Realism being advanced by Moscow.
In one memorable episode, the British Foreign Office subsidized the distribution of 50,000 copies of "Darkness at Noon," Arthur Koestler's anti-Communist classic. But at the same time, the French Communist Party ordered its operatives to buy up every copy of the book. Koestler received a windfall in royalties courtesy of his Communist adversaries.