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Down and Out in Paris and London (original 1933; edition 2010)

by George Orwell

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,30982829 (4.05)247
Member:hampusforev
Title:Down and Out in Paris and London
Authors:George Orwell
Info:Benediction Classics (2010), Hardcover, 198 pages
Collections:The Skeptic’s Guide to the Great Books, Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

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

Recently added bymargottish, Philomena, sandrikoti, fkhicdawgybe, private library, ptfh
Legacy LibrariesGeorge Orwell, Eeva-Liisa Manner, Ernest Hemingway
  1. 60
    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
    English Journey: Or the Road to Milton Keynes by Beryl Bainbridge (John_Vaughan)
  9. 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.
  10. 00
    Ganz unten 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.
  11. 00
    Hard Work: Life in Low-pay Britain by Polly Toynbee (DLSmithies)
  12. 00
    Hotel Bemelmans by Ludwig Bemelmans (SomeGuyInVirginia)
  13. 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!
  14. 01
    Life at the Bottom : The Worldview that Makes the Underclass by Theodore Dalrymple (bertilak)
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» See also 247 mentions

English (76)  French (3)  Hebrew (1)  Norwegian (Bokmål) (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (82)
Showing 1-5 of 76 (next | show all)
This memoir, the first book published by George Orwell, is a fascinating look at the different manners in which the British and French society dealt with poverty in the late 1920s. ( )
  CynthiaRD | Apr 22, 2016 |
“The stars are a free show; it don’t cost anything to use your eyes”

Having previously read and enjoyed Orwell's 1984 I was quite keen to tackle another of his works and in particular an early one. So I chose this.

This book is most definitely auto-biographical and comes in two distinct parts. The first half relates his time in Paris where he links up with Russian exiles, like Boris, who were obviously on the "White" side of the revolution there. Boris is used to working in hotels as a waiter and convinces Orwell to look for a job within that industry. They succeed in becoming "plongeurs" (literally dishwashers). Orwell gives a scathing account of life below stairs of the "grand" hotels where meals are produced within incredible filth. In fact it seems the more expensive the meal the filthier it is. It is a life of constant toil often 17,18 hours a day. Life below stairs is also extremely hierarchical with "plongeurs" at the bottom of the pile. Pilfering and general swindling also seems to be the norm.

In the second part of the book Orwell returns to England to take up a "patient caregiver" job.However, it transpires that the job will not start for 30 days. To survive that month with very little month he adopts the life of a "tramp," constantly moving from various homeless shelters,"spikes", which only offer one night accommodation and which cannot be repeated within a month or risk incarceration. Many tramps subsist on a diet of bread and margarine with thousands in constant movement. Hence the term 'tramps'.

In both instances Orwell provides an almost analytical summation of the overall of these two echelons of society and how both are largely hidden from the larger community yet still heavily abused by authority.

This is certainly a books that makes the reader look at society as a whole in a different way but for me the overall effect was somewhat ruined by the last couple of chapters when Orwell strays from the facts to bring in his own political leanings to the forefront. Personally I feel that if he had just left the ending unfinished it would have been stronger. Many will say, probably rightly, that this was a book ahead of its time with its depiction of the underbelly of society but it is also a book of its time so I'm not sure quite how relevant it is to life today. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Mar 1, 2016 |
Fascinating look at the author's transitory experience as a poor person in two countries, very pointed social commentary, and a very absorbing story as well. ( )
  unclebob53703 | Feb 21, 2016 |
Orwell sees it all, and and we see through his impoverished eyes. We wash his dishes and tramp around in his clothing [with lots of holes]. We meet the people in his world and wish we could help them all... ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
This is an interesting review of what it is like to be at the very bottom of society, living from hand t mouth and scratching a living. Probably of interest as a period piece rather than a riveting read. I can't imagine I'll red it again. ( )
  Helenliz | Oct 16, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 76 (next | show all)
The original manuscript of “Down and Out” took the form of a diary and bore the blander—but winkingly ironic, in its cheery touristic tone—title “Days in London and Paris.” (Note that Orwell revived this theme for his first novel, “Burmese Days.”) The book underwent several name changes, at one point being called “A Scullion’s Diary,” in a version that was rejected by T. S. Eliot, then an editor at Faber & Faber:
We did find it of very great interest, but I regret to say that it does not appear to me possible as a publishing venture.

 

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George Orwellprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kemppinen, JukkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
O scathful harm, condition of poverte!

--Chaucer
Dedication
First words
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.
Quotations
[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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Book description
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)

(see all 8 descriptions)

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

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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