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Down and Out in Paris and London by George…

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

by George Orwell

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5,52389785 (4.04)260
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

Work details

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

  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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English (83)  French (3)  Hebrew (1)  Norwegian (Bokmål) (1)  Spanish (1)  All (89)
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
An investigation into the what and the why of the poor based on Orwell's own experiences in Paris and London during the 1920s / early 30s. How much is memoir and how much is fiction is hard to tell, but I expect a lot of the detail is based on fact. The first section deals with Paris. Here Orwell (or the narrator who we presume is Orwell) describes the lives of the destitute. He meets a Russian called Boris that leads him into a job as a plongeur, the lowest rung on the hotel kitchen staff ladder. This entails very long hours of hard work in dirty and hot conditions. A host of characters and anecdotes pass by until Orwell gets a job in London, except he has to wait a month for it to begin, during which time he lives on the road with a tramp called Paddy. This was much different to Paris. Tramps, because of the law, could not spend more than one night a month in the same 'spike' hence they wandered (still wander?) the countryside moving from one hostel to another. As in Paris we learn something of what it is like to be hungry and treated with little respect.

Following each half of the book Orwell gives a chapter over to some more considered thoughts on the lives of plongeurs and tramps. He likens the life of a plongeur to a slave, but a slave doing work that is not even necessary but down to fear of the mob. Tramps he finds are often victims of vagrancy laws that keep them moving and when the are not moving they are effectively held in cells. This to no real end other than to appease the perception that they are all thieves and blackguards.

"Then the question arises, Why are beggars despised?- for they are despised universally. I believe it is for the simple reason that they fail to earn a decent living. In practice nobody cares whether work is useful or useless, productive or parasitic; the sole thing demanded is that it shall be profitable. In all the modern talk about energy, efficiency, social service and the rest of it, what meaning is there except 'Get money, get it legally, and get a lot of it'? money has become the grand test of virtue. "

"It is curious how people take it for granted that they have a right to preach at you and pray over you as soon as your income falls below a certain level."

( )
  Lord_Boris | Feb 21, 2017 |
A bleak account Orwell's life during a time when he was mainly without work and money. In one section, he writes about how little people with a good job know of the details of daily life among the severely impoverished. This kind of literature should be required reading for anyone assuming political office. Although Orwell found his way out of poverty, his case was unusual, making for a rare glimpse into this unfortunate world. ( )
  bkinetic | Feb 10, 2017 |
Autobiographical stories about the authors time living as a poor dishwasher in Paris and as a homeless tramp around London.
While a modern reader will find it un-relatable in the specific, the general observations about the nature and futility of poverty are both interesting and still applicable. ( )
  bensdad00 | Jan 10, 2017 |
This was a pleasent surprise. After reading 1984 and Animal Farm I thought Orwell was going drop all pretence and go off on a diatribe about the ills of western capitalism. The road to Wigan Pier felt like it was going off in that direction, to me and I abandoned it. However, his Parisian stint at poverty was grim but hilarious with wonderful characters that are so grotesque and shady it is as Gothic and funny as Cormac McCarthy. I actually suspected for a while that his social concern was a mere front for being funny. England is portrayed as grim though again the writing is wonderful and very touching. He admits his recommendations are platitudes and one is left with a melancholic felling of gratitude at having the basics in life. This is truly a wonderful short book that is an excellent cure for self-pity and really makes me feel a renewed sympathy for the rock-and-a-hard-place life that many down and outs live. The occasional reference to India such as kites around a Buffalo and odd word in Urdu or Hindustani, Orwell was born in India, are lovely. His Etonian and colonial background gives him a wonderful perspective as a down and out and any xenophobia he has seems to be overcome by his curiosity and humanity. Really great book, that actually fits into my pocket lol, and one I must read again someday. ( )
1 vote Gary_Power | Jul 10, 2016 |
If the author didn't become Orwell, this book would be forgotten. ( )
  kcshankd | Jul 4, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 83 (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 editionscalculated
Kemppinen, JukkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.
[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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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)

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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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