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Keep The Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell
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Keep The Aspidistra Flying (1936)

by George Orwell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (41)  Russian (1)  French (1)  All languages (43)
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
Keep the Aspidistra Flying and Burmese Days are my favourite Orwells so far. Both have flawed protagonists who look at their surroundings and relationships in unorthodox ways. In each, the respective protagonists are pressured to submit to these external influences. There are a few simple formulae which make Orwell's earlier works addictive, of which Keep the Aspidistra Flying is a great example.

First, Orwell focuses on issues familiar to him. The inner thoughts of Gordon Comstock, a young struggling writer who works in a bookshop, are crafted with exceptional realism. It makes me want to read a biography of Orwell to understand the author better: his A Collection of Essays and Down and Out in Paris and London are good starts, but somehow I feel there is more behind the words.

Second, the simplicity of Orwell's language makes his writing accessible. This adds poignancy to Gordon's depressing lifestyle: struggling to make ends meet; ignored by acquaintances; ingrained insecurity; loss of all respectability. The battle with the "money-god" is internal as well as external. Hearing a clear voice, whose meaning is sometimes coherent but often confused, helps the reader join a turbulent journey with minimal effort.

Third, the novel deals with the unseen realities of being poor. It's not just about being hungry, cold and dirty. It's about the stigma attached to having no money. How can one accept charity from a friend without damaging their friendship? How can a man maintain a relationship with a woman whom he can't afford to treat? How can you accept the sacrifices your sister has made for you, knowing that they can never be repaid? More than all this, how, when you have nothing in the world, can you believe that all those whom you hold dear don't see you as a failure?

Favourite Quotes

"No rich man ever succeeds in disguising himself as a poor man; for money, like murder, will out."

"Gordon never spent more than an hour or two with Ravelston. One’s contacts with rich people, like one’s visits to high altitudes, must always be brief."

"The money-god is so cunning. If he only baited his traps with yachts and race-horses, tarts and champagne, how easy it would be to dodge him. It is when he gets at you through your sense of decency that he finds you helpless." ( )
  jigarpatel | Feb 27, 2019 |
Keep The Aspidistra Flying is set in London in 1934. The novel tells the story of a copywriter who embarks on a new career, with disastrous consequences. His disaffection with middle-class respectability is tempered by Rosemary, his faithful friend.
  JRCornell | Dec 8, 2018 |
I had to let this book ‘settle’, as it were, before writing a review – it has been churning over and over in my mind since I finished reading it. Orwell's descriptive language places you right at the heart of the scene where the people, the places, the dirt, the grime and the smell become palpable. Orwell’s wonderful turns of phrase had me laughing out loud one minute and plunged into deep philosophical thought the next. For example: “The public are swine; advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket” and “She felt all the impotence, the resentment of a woman who sees an abstract idea triumphing over common sense”.

I enjoyed reading this book very much; at a story-level it was fun and infuriating, you wanted to shake Gordon Comstock until his teeth rattled to get him to see ‘sense’. On a deeper level it gave a window into the human psyche where we just might catch a glimpse of ourselves, our lives and the meanings we ascribe to them. ( )
  GRHewitt | Jan 23, 2018 |
"The mistake you make, don't you see, is in thinking one can live in a corrupt society without being corrupt oneself. After all, what do you achieve by refusing to make money? You're trying to behave as though one could stand right outside our economic system. But one can't. One's got to change the system, or one changes nothing."

I thoroughly enjoyed this little book. If you like Orwell you will love Keep the Aspidistra Flying. ( )
  ReneePaule | Jan 23, 2018 |
This is probably one of the most readable of Orwell's novels. Gordon Comstock, the only child of middle class parents, has decided to refuse to "worship the money god." He leaves his promising career as an advertising copywriter to work in a seedy bookshop and write poetry. He despises the compromises and struggles of the middle class, symbolized by the aspidistra plants found in every middle class home. However, Gordon discovers that poverty, cold, and loneliness do not lead to artistic production. In fact, he can scarcely write at all as he worries over money. Worse still, his impoverished lifestyle makes it impossible to spend pleasurable time with the woman he loves. While Gordon is a bit ridiculous, he is also likeable in his sincerity. I found myself hoping he and his lover would find a way to happiness. A bit cheesy, but still some thoughtful commentary on the way our economic situation determines so much of our relationships and mental state. ( )
  kaitanya64 | Jan 3, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
The book received mixed reviews. Cyril Connolly complained that the book's obsession with money prevented it being considered a work of art. The Daily Mail praised the novel's vigour but was unconvinced by its demolition of middle England: "among the aspidistra, Mr Orwell seems to lose the plot". The misfortunes did not end there. Many of the first print run of 3,000 were lost in a bombing raid in the early years of world war two.
 

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
George Orwellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hoog, ElseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Monicelli, GiorgioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not
money, I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  And
though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries,
and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could
remove mountains, and have not money, I am nothing.  And though I
bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to
be burned, and have not money, it profiteth me nothing.  Money
suffereth long, and is kind; money envieth not; money vaunteth not
itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave unseemly, seeketh not her
own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in
iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth
all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. . . .  And now
abideth faith, hope, money, these three; but the greatest of these
is money.

I Corinthians xiii (adapted)
Dedication
First words
The clock struck half past two.
Quotations
Rosemary waded through a bed of drifted beech leaves that rustled about her, knee-deep, like a weightless red-gold sea. "Oh, Gordon, these leaves! Look at them with the sun on them! They're like gold. They really are like gold." "Fairy gold. As a matter of fact, if you want an exact simile, they're just the colour of tomata soup." "Don't be a pig, Gordon! Listen how they rustle. `Thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks in Vallombrosa'." "Or like one of those breakfast cereals. Tru-weet Breakfast Crisps. `Kiddies clamour for their Breakfast Crisps'." She laughed. They walked on hand in hand, swishing anle-leaves and declaiming: "Thick as the Breakfast Crisps that strow the plates / In Welwyn Garden City!"
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0156468999, Paperback)

London, 1936. Gordon Comstock has declared war on the money god; and Gordon is losing the war. Nearly 30 and "rather moth-eaten already," a poet whose one small book of verse has fallen "flatter than any pancake," Gordon has given up a "good" job and gone to work in a bookshop at half his former salary. Always broke, but too proud to accept charity, he rarely sees his few friends and cannot get the virginal Rosemary to bed because (or so he believes), "If you have no money ... women won't love you." On the windowsill of Gordon's shabby rooming-house room is a sickly but unkillable aspidistra--a plant he abhors as the banner of the sort of "mingy, lower-middle-class decency" he is fleeing in his downward flight. In Keep the Aspidistra Flying, George Orwell has created a darkly compassionate satire to which anyone who has ever been oppressed by the lack of brass, or by the need to make it, will all too easily relate. He etches the ugly insanity of what Gordon calls "the money-world" in unflinching detail, but the satire has a second edge, too, and Gordon himself is scarcely heroic. In the course of his misadventures, we become grindingly aware that his radical solution to the problem of the money-world is no solution at all--that in his desperate reaction against a monstrous system, he has become something of a monster himself. Orwell keeps both of his edges sharp to the very end--a "happy" ending that poses tough questions about just how happy it really is. That the book itself is not sour, but constantly fresh and frequently funny, is the result of Orwell's steady, unsentimental attention to the telling detail; his dry, quiet humor; his fascination with both the follies and the excellences of his characters; and his courageous refusal to embrace the comforts of any easy answer. --Daniel Hintzsche

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:47 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Gordon Comstock refuses to be corrupted by the world around him and chooses a low paying job and a life of poverty over prosperity and family responsibilities; however, the more he struggles against the money god, the more he realizes that it is a futile journey.… (more)

» see all 10 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141183721, 0141194731

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