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Down and Out in Paris and London by George…
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Down and Out in Paris and London (1933)

by George Orwell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,007981,033 (4.03)277
  1. 70
    Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich (WoodsieGirl)
    WoodsieGirl: I'd recommend reading both, just to see how little things change.
  2. 50
    The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell (meggyweg, John_Vaughan)
  3. 30
    The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (meggyweg)
  4. 30
    Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell (meggyweg)
  5. 20
    The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (tcarter)
  6. 43
    Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain (sbuehrle)
  7. 10
    The People of the Abyss by Jack London (bertilak)
  8. 00
    A Walk on the Wild Side: A Novel by Nelson Algren (WSB7)
    WSB7: Contrasting life of the down and out at the same period of time in New Orleans.
  9. 00
    Hotel Bemelmans by Ludwig Bemelmans (SomeGuyInVirginia)
  10. 00
    Ragged London: The Life of London's Poor by Michael Fitzgerald (meggyweg)
  11. 00
    Hard Work: Life in Low-Pay Britian by Polly Toynbee (DLSmithies)
  12. 00
    English Journey: Or the Road to Milton Keynes by Beryl Bainbridge (John_Vaughan)
  13. 00
    Lowest of the Low by Günter Wallraff (alv)
    alv: Orwell lives together with the lowest of the lowest in the Paris and London of the final 20s. Walraff impersonates a turkish immigrant to the prosperous Federal Republic of Germany of the mid-80s.
  14. 00
    In Search of England by H. V. Morton (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: On re-reading these two books it is hard to believe that these two works were written almost at the same time and about the same culture. One by Blair deliberatly self-impoverished, one by Morton - by car!
  15. 01
    Life at the Bottom : The Worldview that Makes the Underclass by Theodore Dalrymple (bertilak)
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» See also 277 mentions

English (92)  French (3)  Hebrew (1)  Norwegian (Bokmål) (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (98)
Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
This is a review of the audio version, as narrated by Frederick Davidson (Blackstone Audio). "Down and Out in Paris and London" is widely viewed as one of Orwell's lesser works. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it greatly. Poverty in London and Paris is brought to life in Orwell's prose -- it paints a picture that is grim, sobering, and sensitive, as tempered with wit and humor. Readers interested in Orwell's life and work will certainly want to include it in their reading. The work is semi-autobiographical; the writer drew upon his own experiences living among the working classes. About half of the story takes place in Paris, where Orwell worked as a dishwasher in the disgusting kitchen of a posh French restaurant. The remainder is set in London, where the narrator lives among tramps and street people. Frederick Davidson's narration of this audio version is superb. Strongly recommended. ( )
1 vote danielx | Jul 30, 2018 |
It is altogether curious, your first contact with poverty. You have thought so much about poverty - it is the thing you have feared all your life, the thing you knew would happen to you sooner or later; and it is all so utterly and prosaically different...

You discover boredom and mean complications and the beginnings of hunger, but you also discover the great redeeming feature of poverty: the fact that it annihilates the future...

And there is another feeling that is a great consolation in poverty... It is a feeling of relief, almost pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs - and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety.


Of course, Orwell is describing a very particular type of poverty as an able-bodied, sound-minded, educated man with no dependents and connections that can provide him with a living wage. But his comparatively brief personal experience with poverty and the gritty-grotty life of a lowly plongeur and itinerant tramp in late 20s Paris and London respectively still provide very interesting insights, charting the evolution of his ideals.

Aside: There are interesting anecdotes, dated discriminations and stereotypes unfortunately typical of the times despite how open-minded Orwell was on many class-based ideologies, and a very unnecessary chapter two (which Orwell says is just to show the variety of characters who inhabit the world he was in at the time but I wish he showed more authorial condemnation at least). ( )
  kitzyl | May 6, 2018 |
A brief and alternately amusing and horrifying account of George Orwell's time almost penniless and almost always hungry in Paris and London in the 1920s**. In Paris he manages to pay for his apartment up front but has no money for food until he manages to get a job working incredibly long hours (by modern standards) as a plongeur (washer up) in a restaurant, In London he has nowhere to live and almost no money so is forced to join the tramps moving on daily from one lodging house or 'spike' (parish provided accommodation for tramps) - but only allowed to stay one night a month at each of the latter - hence the need to tramp from spike to spike. (I hadn't known this but it suddenly explained to me why there used to be tramps and aren't really anymore - homeless people can now be homeless in the same location - hooray for progress!)

It's an insider's view of poverty at the time but also in many ways still an outsider's/observer's view. Perhaps because of his class/upbringing or simply from the effect of being the recorder of the experiences but I didn't have the sense Orwell was completely part of this world. However, there is a lot of insight into what it must have been like to live in those circumstances at that time and Orwell has a lot of sympathy for those in that position.

One of the highlights of the book for me was a chapter towards the end with some notes on swearing and slang. Due to strict censorship at the time the swear words couldn't be printed, but rather than (as might seem more sensible) removing the entire chapter the publishers just blanked all the swear words which has the (presumably unintended effect) of causing the reader to spend more thought and energy trying to guess the swear words than if they had just printed them. Even recent publications of the book have the swear words blanked because there are no notes to show which swear words Orwell was actually writing about. Interestingly, they were allowed to print the French swear words.

**Having read some bits on wikipedia it seems there is some debate regarding the extent to which this is a factual account - some of the events may not have happened in the order given in Down and Out or may not have happened to Orwell himself. ( )
1 vote souloftherose | Apr 15, 2018 |
Tried to ignore it and persevere, but I just couldn't. I know I don't want to judge the behaviour of previous generations because they are influenced by things beyond my understanding; yet there was just too much anti-Semitism in this for me to carry on. ( )
  lydiasbooks | Jan 17, 2018 |
Long before Animal Farm and 1984, which established George Orwell not only a household name, but a literary giant, he wrote a little known work of non-fiction called Down and Out in Paris and London. In fact, published before Burmese Days, Down and Out is Orwell’s first official novel.

Down and Out in Paris and London is Orwell’s part journalistic, part autobiographical account of his experiences living among and as a down and out, first in Paris, and then in London. In the early 1930’s after living in Burma (now Myanmar), Orwell returned to London in hopes of becoming a serious writer. Intrigued by poverty and its social implications, Orwell set out to live as an indigent in order to learn and understand more about the lives of the impoverished.

While in Paris, Orwell live in Pot de Fer, a working class neighborhood full of interesting and colorful personalities. Orwell recounted his impoverished days in Paris, living from hand to mouth, having to make ends meet in order pay his rent. In the early days of Paris, Orwell made enough money writing for newspapers, but when there weren’t any writing jobs, he had to resort to pawning his clothes little by little just to have enough money for food and the bare essentials. Orwell talked about the different people he had encountered while living in Paris, from his boisterous landlady, to sketchy individuals who he came to consider as good friends. He wrote about how he spent his days in Paris, mostly starving by day, and drinking at night with equally starving and impoverished individuals. In order to get a more stable source of income, Orwell worked in several Paris restaurants as a plongeur – a fancy name for a dishwasher and all around kitchen slave. Based on his experiences as a plongeur, Orwell wrote about the the dark and often disgusting truth about Parisian restaurant kitchens, as well as the cutthroat world of restaurant employment and hierarchy.

After Paris, Orwell returned to London, expecting to work as a caregiver to a dying man of consequence. Unfortunately, upon returning to England, Orwell was told that the man he was to care for had gone abroad and would not return until a month later. Practically penniless with nowhere to go, Orwell took to the road and fell in with the other tramps of London, travelling from city to city in search of cheap beds for the night and meals barely enough to sate their chronic hunger.

In the London part of Down and Out, Orwell recounts his days travelling from different lodging houses, charity and casual wards (prison cells for rent to non-criminals), describing the horrible condition of most, if not all of them, the horrible, inadequate food served to them, and the equally horrible and unequal treatment that tramps experience at the hands of authorities, religious groups, and charities. Orwell went on to list down the common misconceptions people had about tramps; that they were considered drunks, or criminals, or were grateful for handouts and charities. Living as one of them, Orwell knew that most tramps were decent men, who, for some reason or other could not find regular employment. Because begging was illegal in London, tramps and were forced to earn money any way they could and were forced by circumstances to move from place to place in order to find food and shelter. And, having just barely enough money to pay for that night’s bed, and his tea and two slices – the usual charity fare for the down and outs, tramps very rarely drank alcohol, and when they did, never enough to get themselves drunk.

Down and Out in Paris and London gives an interesting and revealing account of the lives of tramps, immigrants, members of the working class, and other impoverished souls trying to survive in big cities. According to biographers, though Down and Out is largely a work of non-fiction, Orwell took liberties in excluding important information in his novel, such as the existence of a well-to-do relative in Paris he often went to to borrow money from, and in the chronological order of his narrative. Though the book presented his account of living as a down and out in Paris before moving to London, in reality, he had first lived as a tramp in London, and wrote a successful essay about the casual wards or “spikes,” when he eventually moved to Paris. Orwell felt that living among the down and outs as one of them would help him best understand poverty and social inequality. And though he spent a great deal of time with tramps, living like them, and eating like them, it must still be different knowing that at the end of the day, when he tired of his journalistic pursuit and research, there was a nice, warm house waiting for him which he could return to anytime.

Before being published in 1933, Orwell received several rejection letters for Down and Out, one of which was from T.S. Eliot of Faber and Faber, who felt that the material was not up to par with the publishing house’s standards. It was not until much later, when Orwell asked a friend to destroy the manuscript of Down and Out, that it was sent to an up-and-coming publisher, unbeknownst to him at the time, to be published. Throughout its printing history, Down and Out sold relatively few copies, and it would take years before it received the recognition it deserved; it came when it was published by Penguin and mistakenly labeled it as “fiction.”

Down and Out is Paris and London is a short but compelling read. Though each chapter is more like an independent essay, than an ongoing story, the vignettes about life as a plongeur and secret world of Parisian restaurants, as well as his life as a tramp in London are quite revealing and riveting. Surely not to be missed by any George Orwell fan. ( )
  aychayen | Jan 8, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)

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George Orwellprimary authorall editionscalculated
健, 小野寺Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kemppinen, JukkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
O scathful harm, condition of poverte!

—Chaucer
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The Rue du Coq d'Or, Paris, seven in the morning. A succession of furious, choking yells from the street. Madame Monce, who kept the little hotel opposite mine, had come out on to the pavement to address a lodger on the third floor.
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[Chapter 30]

The next morning we began looking once more for Paddy's friend, who was called Bozo, and was a screever—that is, a pavement artist. . . . He was an embittered atheist (the sort of atheist who does not so much disbelieve in God as personally dislike Him), and took a sort of pleasure in thinking that human affairs would never improve.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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An autobiography by George Orwell living in poverty in 1930's Paris and London.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 015626224X, Paperback)

What was a nice Eton boy like Eric Blair doing in scummy slums instead of being upwardly mobile at Oxford or Cambridge? Living Down and Out in Paris and London, repudiating respectable imperialist society, and reinventing himself as George Orwell. His 1933 debut book (ostensibly a novel, but overwhelmingly autobiographical) was rejected by that elitist publisher T.S. Eliot, perhaps because its close-up portrait of lowlife was too pungent for comfort.

In Paris, Orwell lived in verminous rooms and washed dishes at the overpriced "Hotel X," in a remarkably filthy, 110-degree kitchen. He met "eccentric people--people who have fallen into solitary, half-mad grooves of life and given up trying to be normal or decent." Though Orwell's tone is that of an outraged reformer, it's surprising how entertaining many of his adventures are: gnawing poverty only enlivens the imagination, and the wild characters he met often swindled each other and themselves. The wackiest tale involves a miser who ate cats, wore newspapers for underwear, invested 6,000 francs in cocaine, and hid it in a face-powder tin when the cops raided. They had to free him, because the apparently controlled substance turned out to be face powder instead of cocaine.

In London, Orwell studied begging with a crippled expert named Bozo, a great storyteller and philosopher. Orwell devotes a chapter to the fine points of London guttersnipe slang. Years later, he would put his lexical bent to work by inventing Newspeak, and draw on his down-and-out experience to evoke the plight of the Proles in 1984. Though marred by hints of unexamined anti-Semitism, Orwell's debut remains, as The Nation put it, "the most lucid portrait of poverty in the English language." --Tim Appelo

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:21 -0400)

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The adventures of a broke British writer as he works as a dishwasher in Paris and stays in homeless shelters in London.

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