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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
6,031991,032 (4.03)277
  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 277 mentions

English (93)  French (3)  Hebrew (1)  Norwegian (Bokmål) (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (99)
Showing 1-5 of 93 (next | show all)
3.5/5. More than a touch didactic, Orwell to both move the reader as well as reveal about the working poor, the homeless and his own prejudices. Sociological, his work remains timeless, a portrait of dark corners. What effected me most was not the images of hunger or humiliation, but the descriptions of the numbing tether of protracted work. It begged consideration of my own work. I'll leave the associations there.

Down and Out in Paris and London runs most effectively when it offers a personal story. A Serb who was signed on as a temp, busts his ass in a hotel, until noon. He then sighs, sulks and smokes until he's sacked. His reasoning is that if he works until a noon he has to paid a full day's wages. An interview with a chalk pavement artist is especially choking. I appreciated Orwell's self-deprecating candor as well as his wit.
( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
This is a review of the audio version, as narrated by Frederick Davidson (Blackstone Audio). "Down and Out in Paris and London" is widely viewed as one of Orwell's lesser works. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it greatly. Poverty in London and Paris is brought to life in Orwell's prose -- it paints a picture that is grim, sobering, and sensitive, as tempered with wit and humor. Readers interested in Orwell's life and work will certainly want to include it in their reading. The work is semi-autobiographical; the writer drew upon his own experiences living among the working classes. About half of the story takes place in Paris, where Orwell worked as a dishwasher in the disgusting kitchen of a posh French restaurant. The remainder is set in London, where the narrator lives among tramps and street people. Frederick Davidson's narration of this audio version is superb. Strongly recommended. ( )
1 vote danielx | Jul 30, 2018 |
It is altogether curious, your first contact with poverty. You have thought so much about poverty - it is the thing you have feared all your life, the thing you knew would happen to you sooner or later; and it is all so utterly and prosaically different...

You discover boredom and mean complications and the beginnings of hunger, but you also discover the great redeeming feature of poverty: the fact that it annihilates the future...

And there is another feeling that is a great consolation in poverty... It is a feeling of relief, almost pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs - and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety.

Of course, Orwell is describing a very particular type of poverty as an able-bodied, sound-minded, educated man with no dependents and connections that can provide him with a living wage. But his comparatively brief personal experience with poverty and the gritty-grotty life of a lowly plongeur and itinerant tramp in late 20s Paris and London respectively still provide very interesting insights, charting the evolution of his ideals.

Aside: There are interesting anecdotes, dated discriminations and stereotypes unfortunately typical of the times despite how open-minded Orwell was on many class-based ideologies, and a very unnecessary chapter two (which Orwell says is just to show the variety of characters who inhabit the world he was in at the time but I wish he showed more authorial condemnation at least). ( )
  kitzyl | May 6, 2018 |
A brief and alternately amusing and horrifying account of George Orwell's time almost penniless and almost always hungry in Paris and London in the 1920s**. In Paris he manages to pay for his apartment up front but has no money for food until he manages to get a job working incredibly long hours (by modern standards) as a plongeur (washer up) in a restaurant, In London he has nowhere to live and almost no money so is forced to join the tramps moving on daily from one lodging house or 'spike' (parish provided accommodation for tramps) - but only allowed to stay one night a month at each of the latter - hence the need to tramp from spike to spike. (I hadn't known this but it suddenly explained to me why there used to be tramps and aren't really anymore - homeless people can now be homeless in the same location - hooray for progress!)

It's an insider's view of poverty at the time but also in many ways still an outsider's/observer's view. Perhaps because of his class/upbringing or simply from the effect of being the recorder of the experiences but I didn't have the sense Orwell was completely part of this world. However, there is a lot of insight into what it must have been like to live in those circumstances at that time and Orwell has a lot of sympathy for those in that position.

One of the highlights of the book for me was a chapter towards the end with some notes on swearing and slang. Due to strict censorship at the time the swear words couldn't be printed, but rather than (as might seem more sensible) removing the entire chapter the publishers just blanked all the swear words which has the (presumably unintended effect) of causing the reader to spend more thought and energy trying to guess the swear words than if they had just printed them. Even recent publications of the book have the swear words blanked because there are no notes to show which swear words Orwell was actually writing about. Interestingly, they were allowed to print the French swear words.

**Having read some bits on wikipedia it seems there is some debate regarding the extent to which this is a factual account - some of the events may not have happened in the order given in Down and Out or may not have happened to Orwell himself. ( )
1 vote souloftherose | Apr 15, 2018 |
Tried to ignore it and persevere, but I just couldn't. I know I don't want to judge the behaviour of previous generations because they are influenced by things beyond my understanding; yet there was just too much anti-Semitism in this for me to carry on. ( )
  lydiasbooks | Jan 17, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 93 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (37 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
George Orwellprimary authorall editionscalculated
健, 小野寺Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kemppinen, JukkaTranslatorsecondary 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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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