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Down and Out in Paris and London (1933)

by George Orwell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,6981121,065 (4.02)294
'It is altogether curious, your first contact with poverty.' To be poor and destitute in 1920s Paris and London was to experience life at its lowest ebb. George Orwell, penniless and with nowhere to go, found himself experiencing just this as he wandered the streets of both capitals in search of a job. By day, he tramped the streets, often passing time with 'screevers' or street artists, drunks and other hobos. At night, he stood in line for a bed in a 'spike' or doss house, where a cup of sugary tea, a hunk of stale bread and a blanket were the only sustenance and comfort on offer. Down and Out in Paris and Londonis George Orwell's haunting account of the streets and those who have no choice but to live on them. 'A man who looked at his world with wonder and wrote down exactly what he saw, in admirable prose.' John Mortimer… (more)
  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. 20
    The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (tcarter)
  4. 20
    The People of the Abyss by Jack London (bertilak)
  5. 31
    Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell (meggyweg)
  6. 31
    The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (meggyweg)
  7. 10
    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!
  8. 00
    A Walk on the Wild Side 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. 44
    Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain (sbuehrle)
  15. 01
    Life at the Bottom : The Worldview that Makes the Underclass by Theodore Dalrymple (bertilak)
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» See also 294 mentions

English (107)  French (3)  Hebrew (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (112)
Showing 1-5 of 107 (next | show all)
> On the second day I thought of pawning my overcoat, but it seemed too far to walk to the pawnshop, and I spent the day in bed, reading the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes . It was all that I felt equal to, without food. Hunger reduces one to an utterly spineless, brainless condition, more like the after-effects of influenza than anything else. It is as though one had been turned into a jellyfish, or as though all one’s blood had been pumped out and lukewarm water substituted. Complete inertia is my chief memory of hunger; that, and being obliged to spit very frequently, and the spittle being curiously white and flocculent, like cuckoo-spit.

> Sometimes, he said, when sleeping on the Embankment, it had consoled him to look up at Mars or Jupiter and think that there were probably Embankment sleepers there. He had a curious theory about this. Life on earth, he said, is harsh because the planet is poor in the necessities of existence. Mars, with its cold climate and scanty water, must be far poorer, and life correspondingly harsher. Whereas on earth you are merely imprisoned for stealing sixpence, on Mars you are probably boiled alive. This thought cheered Bozo, I do not know why. He was a very exceptional man.

> 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. By this test beggars fail, and for this they are despised. ( )
  breic | Feb 21, 2021 |
George Orwell, who was by his own admission born to the "lower upper middle class" and educated at English public schools, was never really down and out; but he sympathized with the working classes and embraced socialism. He also lived with the working classes to gather material for his writing. This book, his first commercial success portrays a thinly disguised Orwell living the low life in both Paris and London.

It's no picnic to be poor in either city. However, to me, it seemed a whole lot more palatable in Paris than in bleak and chilly London. The beliefs that would drive him to write his most famous novels are clearly in evidence here. ( )
  etxgardener | Feb 9, 2021 |
A fascinating glimpse into early 20th century poverty in Europe. It really gives good perspective on those who are food insecure, or without a stable place to live and work. After reading this, and [b:Homage to Catalonia|9646|Homage to Catalonia|George Orwell|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1394868278l/9646._SY75_.jpg|2566499]Homage to Catalonia, I'm starting to understand Orwell's perspective a bit more. ( )
  Andjhostet | Jan 11, 2021 |
Brutal depiction of poverty in Paris and London, with descriptions of food-service work that both set your hair on end and bust a gut laughing. Absolutely fascinating and harrowing detail about homelessness in London and how one might survive on no resources. Orwell analyzes the social structure that allows for such a brutal wringing through of human bodies, as well as provides practical solutions and the reason why these practical solutions cannot possibly come to fruition. ( )
  magonistarevolt | Dec 29, 2020 |
An excellent memoir, although one that is slightly fictionalized, based on the author's research "slumming it" amongst the poor. The work suffers from attitudes of sexism and anti-semitism, although less than one might fear. I plan to continuing reading Orwell's early work. ( )
  neilneil | Dec 7, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 107 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (36 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
George Orwellprimary authorall editionscalculated
健, 小野寺Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kemppinen, JukkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Waasdorp, JoopTranslatorsecondary 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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'It is altogether curious, your first contact with poverty.' To be poor and destitute in 1920s Paris and London was to experience life at its lowest ebb. George Orwell, penniless and with nowhere to go, found himself experiencing just this as he wandered the streets of both capitals in search of a job. By day, he tramped the streets, often passing time with 'screevers' or street artists, drunks and other hobos. At night, he stood in line for a bed in a 'spike' or doss house, where a cup of sugary tea, a hunk of stale bread and a blanket were the only sustenance and comfort on offer. Down and Out in Paris and Londonis George Orwell's haunting account of the streets and those who have no choice but to live on them. 'A man who looked at his world with wonder and wrote down exactly what he saw, in admirable prose.' John Mortimer

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Book description
An autobiography by George Orwell living in poverty in 1930's Paris and London.
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