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Down and Out in Paris and London by George…

Down and Out in Paris and London (1933)

by George Orwell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,3791081,045 (4.03)291
'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. 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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» See also 291 mentions

English (102)  French (3)  Hebrew (1)  Norwegian (Bokmål) (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (108)
Showing 1-5 of 102 (next | show all)
who would have thought that a book about the impoverished world in Paris and London was Orwell's first novel. this is an amazing read. i have never personally been that poor or hungry before but you could almost feel what it must be like from the writing. there are lots of comments that are applicable to the modern world as relates to income inequality in this country.

( )
  aabtzu | May 18, 2020 |
In the early 1930's Orwell took himself to Paris and then to London to experience the areas that were the poorest in those capital cities.

He was staying in the Latin Quarter in Paris. It was a bohemian area and quite cosmopolitan. There were a large number of Russians who had left after the revolution there. Other famous writers had also lived there for a time. After he had a sum of money stolen, he was almost destitute and was just about scraping a living. He managed to get a job as a plongeur in a restaurant. It is hard work and very long hours, up to 17 in a day some times. He reveals how a French kitchen works, and some of the revolting habits that the staff have. Hopefully things have changed by now.

He then returns to London where where he is expectant of a job, but it doesn't materialise. He becomes a tramp, and joins then in their routine of, sleep, walking, tea and two slices before finding shelter again for the night. They are compelled to keep on the move as if "enter any one spike, or any two London spikes, more than once in a month, on pain of being confined for a week". He sometime shelters in the Salvation Army places, but this is charity with conditions. He describes the two that he become closest to, Paddy and Bozo. Bozo is a talented artist and scratches his pitiful existence from pavement art.

This is a bleak and uncompromising book of poverty in Europe in the 1930s. His writing of his experiences make for uncomfortable reading. There is a little more opportunity in Paris, but the work he get is performed by the lowest of the low. In London, he brings the grime and poverty starkly to life. There is less of a chance in London to get ourself out of the lifestyle of a tramp, and Orwell shows that the class system keeps these people in that place too.

The writing is eloquent too. For such a unpleasant subject he bring life and vitality to those that he meets, even those they are at the very fringes of their societies. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
"You discover what it is like to be hungry. With bread and margarine in your belly, you go out and look into the shop windows. Everywhere there is food insulting you in huge, wasteful piles; whole dead pigs, baskets of hot loaves, great yellow blocks of butter, strings of sausages, mountains of potatoes, vast Gruyere cheeses like grindstones. A snivelling self-pity comes over you at the sight of so much food. You plan to grab a loaf and run, swallowing it before they catch you; and you refrain, from pure funk." (page 12)

Written in 1931, Orwell kept us guessing as to whether this was fiction based on his experiences or memoir. Although dated and riddled with racist epithets that were quite disturbing to my liberal intelligence, I found the descriptions of living in the throes of poverty, quite descriptive and heart wrenching.

While in Paris, Orwell worked as a plongeur, the very lowest job in a restaurant or hotel. Don't think dishwasher, although that was part of it, but think more about doing all the lowliest chores in the kitchen of a restaurant. The filth was incredible and made me gag. He was paid just enough to pay for a room and worked from seven in the morning until midnight almost every day of the week. He was one of the lucky ones in Paris because he had a job and he knew he would eat everyday. The descriptions of life in the restaurant were fascinating and I really liked this part of the book.

When he was finally able to leave Paris with the promise of a lowly job in England he jumped at the chance and arrived in London thinking he had a job. He did but couldn't start for two weeks and since he arrived with a very small amount of money in his pocket he was forced to live among the other "tramps" and move from day to day to various government provided housing that was quite inadequate and very antiquated in both function and appearance to the general population. This part of the book was not as compelling but was certainly important.

All in all I found this book, one of Orwell's earliest, an interesting look at what poverty looked like in 1931. Sadly, when you consider the homeless problem in this country today, I'm not sure how much progress we've made in the last ninety years. ( )
2 vote brenzi | Mar 6, 2020 |
I read this for the "Set In A Country You've Never Visited Before" part of my 2020 reading challenge. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this. Plot-wise not too much happened, but I really liked the writing and his detailed account of being poor & homeless while living in Paris and London. ( )
  Linyarai | Feb 16, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 102 (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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O scathful harm, condition of poverte!

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