We are living in a world where truth seems larger and more bizarre than fiction. The university – the institution where diverse, dissenting, critical and difficult knowledge, ideas, thoughts and perspectives should be freely and passionately debated – now seems like a utopian ideal. Safe spaces, trigger warnings on art, literature and history books, decolonising the curriculum, intersectionality, transgenderism and ‘embodied cognition’ are the current rage among many students and some lecturers. The shutting down, no-platforming, censorship and silencing of traditional thought, erasing or lambasting of dead white male authors and scholars, feminists and libertarians, and accusations of cultural appropriation have chilled the soul of the free-thinking, inquisitive thinker and learner.
Should you be screaming in existential despair about any of these dilemmas then Piggy Goes to University by Miriam Elia and Ezra Elia will give you much needed light relief. This delightful satirical book, very much a homage to George Orwell’s Animal Farm, is a humorous take on campus life in the 21st century in the form of a compact 87-page children’s storybook.
It tells the story of Piggy, a typical provincial youth, leaving home for his life-changing experience as a university student. On his train journey he muses on the deadening lives of ordinary, everyday people commuting to work, ‘“Imagine if I had chosen such a life…. These are slaves to the machine. They do not know who they are…” He raised a smirk and let his eyes dance across the mass of quaint suburban hutches, which lined the railway for many miles.’
Hungry for escape and change, Piggy falls for a radical sow called Milly who introduces him to student activism, the evils of ‘specism’ and generally engenders a sense of self-disgust and loathing in Piggy. ‘“I am a bigot, a worthless, privileged, pompous fool!” he whimpered.’
Piggy’s anti-pig radicalisation leads to the shedding of normative Gap-style clothing to the donning on of Antifa attire purchased at the Rebel Pig Clothing store: black hoodie with appropriate anti-imperialist imagery, black skinny jeans, chains and studded collar. Having decolonised his mind and his attire, he is ready for some proper radical activism by shutting down free speech debates and beating up ordinary working-class pigs.
I won’t reveal more of the story, suffice to say that Piggy’s quest leads him to some unexpected situations. The book is gorgeously illustrated with block red, black and white figurative, line drawings – the colours of the Antifa anarchist – capturing a multi-species student community of fellow pigs, sheep, ewes, chickens, penguins, geese and transgendered species.
Piggy Goes To University is a perfect Christmas stocking-filler for both free-thinking adults and their aspiring young radical/reactionary teenager.
Read an exclusive extract here:
Available for £10 directly from Dung Beetle Books at https://dungbeetlebooks.com/collections/products/products/piggy-goes-to-university
Manick Govinda is a freelance arts consultant and writer.