LONDON, Aug. 14 -- 'Animal Farm,' George Orwell's great parable on tyranny and totalitarianism, turns 50 this week and a London publisher is celebrating the event with the publication Thursday of the novel's first illustrated edition. The color drawings by British artist Ralph Steadman in the new edition by London publishers Martin, Secker and Warburg, are magnificent, evocative and disturbing. 'The more I immersed myself in the story the more inspired Orwell's casting of pigs as its villains began to seem,' Steadman, 59, wrote in The Independent on Sunday newspaper. 'Perhaps of all creatures on this Earth only the pig is lower than man in its grossness of manners, its greed, its cunning -- and in its love of rubbish. It will devour refuse -- man's refuse -- voraciously, and then we will devour the pig.' Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair in Bengal, India, in 1903. He was educated at the upper class fee-paying English school at Eton and served in the British imperial police in Burma. After two years in Paris he returned to England to teach, but not for long. He joined the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, was wounded and came back to Britain to serve in the Home Guard during World War II. Like a lot of other writers at the time, he joined the British Broadcasting Corp. and later wrote for the Observer newspaper. He died in 1950. Although Orwell found the germ of his book while fighting the fascists in Spain, he had communism and Marxism as his immediate target when he penned 'Animal Farm.'
He had also found resonance for his ideas in Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler. Over the years, however, the novel and its characters have become metaphors for tyranncy, excess, corruption and political double-dealing of all sorts. Phrases from the book -- most memorably, 'All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others' -- have come to reflect a range of modern realities. The book was first published by Martin, Secker and Warburg on Aug. 17, 1945, after it was turned down by eminent publishers Victor Gollancz and Jonathan Cape -- and by the poet T. S. Eliot at Faber and Faber. It has sold several million copies in more than 70 languages -- but none, remarkably, illustrated. Yet, wrote Steadman, 'the myth's simplicity lends itself perfectly to a parallel commentary in pictures.' Steadman has won several major international awards for his drawings and for his illustrated books, notably 'The Grapes of Ralph' and 'Still Life with Bottle,' based on his trips around the world's wine and whiskey regions. Steadman wrote that Orwell's 'swinish characters' somehow mirrored the human condition. 'In our heart of hearts, we know that it will always be like this: that no matter how earnest our political intentions, sooner or later a rot will set in, as surreptitious revisionism eats away at the foundations of what we may fondly have thought we had established as a good thing for all time.' The 180-page book includes Orwell's original proposed preface to 'Animal Farm' and a recasting of a preface he wrote in 1947 for a Ukrainian edition. His original text, on which the Ukrainian translation was based, has not been found.