The Impact of Orwell's Animal Farm
“Frank, I don’t know where to begin. I read this last night and could hardly sleep. I cannot keep it on my bookshelf. As I read it, I recalled the horrible time of our society before and during the war. I don’t want to remember it. I can’t put this book on my bookshelf, Frank. I appreciate that you wanted to give it to me, but I hope you understand I cannot keep it.”
We looked at each other. She, the Russian who had lived through the horror of Stalin’s years, and I, the American who could only surmise the tragedy of that time. She returned the gift she could not accept, with no judgment, no hard feelings. It was a lesson that I’ve never forgotten, and one that many of us will experience in cross-cultural interactions at some point. We develop a new friendship, we believe we’ve identified just what will bring us closer, and then we bestow what we think is the perfect gift, one our friend will always remember us by. We are so sure that we don’t think to anticipate possible negative reactions—factors that exist entirely outside the burgeoning friendship itself.
Her sharing her feelings, she was communicating on a deeper level. I wanted not to have given her the book. Yet it had brought us closer together.