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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

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,25279844 (4.06)241
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. 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 241 mentions

English (73)  French (3)  Hebrew (1)  Norwegian (Bokmål) (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (79)
Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
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 |
George Orwell's first published book, Down and Out in Paris and London, is a mixture of fiction, memoir, and social commentary.

In the late 1920s-early 1930s, during a particularly unsettled period of his life, the unnamed narrator (Orwell) finds himself unemployed and starving in Paris. He and his Russian immigrant friend Boris find jobs at a high-end restaurant as plongeurs, dishwashers and low-level kitchen assistants, or, as Orwell puts it, "slave's slaves". He describes the unsanitary conditions of Parisian restaurant kitchens in graphic, unappetizing detail.

In the second part of the book, the narrator moves to London, where he finds himself living hand-to-mouth once again. In England he and his tramp friend Paddy make the rounds of "spikes" (homeless shelters), churches, and Salvation Army meetings to collect inadequate rations of tea and toast with margarine.

The last chapters of the book are taken up with Orwell's ideas regarding British society's treatment of "tramps". Malnutrition, forced idleness, and "sexual starvation" (homeless men don't attract women) make the tramp lifestyle hard to escape. Orwell suggests that the tramp's lot in life could be greatly improved if "each workhouse could run a small farm", that would provide residents with nutritious food and a sense of purpose (p. 206).

The library from which I borrowed this book had it shelved as fiction, because, apparently Orwell was never quite as "down and out" as the tale he constructed implied. Boris and Paddy are most likely composite characters who represent the types of people Orwell met on his travels. But this book is not exactly fiction, either. There is little narrative continuity or plot, and a lot of editorializing. If I were a cataloger, I would find a place for it near other works on the effects of poverty. ( )
  akblanchard | Sep 1, 2015 |
I read excerpts of this novel many years ago and have always wanted to read the whole thing. Orwell's heavily autobiographical novel is brilliantly revealing of the degradations, humiliations, and oppressiveness of poverty. There is plenty of witty, humorous moments and some great character studies, too, in this compassionate, brutally honest work. ( )
  Sullywriter | May 22, 2015 |
I preferred the Paris parts to the London parts but a thoroughly good read. I would certainly recommend. ( )
  rimbo90 | Mar 28, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 73 (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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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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