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Down and Out in Paris and London

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This unusual fictional memoir - in good part autobiographical - narrates without self-pity and often with humor the adventures of a penniless British writer among the down-and-outs of two great cities. The Parisian episode is fascinating for its expose of the kitchens of posh French restaurants, where the narrator works at the bottom of the culinary echelon as dishwasher, This unusual fictional memoir - in good part autobiographical - narrates without self-pity and often with humor the adventures of a penniless British writer among the down-and-outs of two great cities. The Parisian episode is fascinating for its expose of the kitchens of posh French restaurants, where the narrator works at the bottom of the culinary echelon as dishwasher, or plongeur. In London, while waiting for a job, he experiences the world of tramps, street people, and free lodging houses. In the tales of both cities we learn some sobering Orwellian truths about poverty and of society.


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This unusual fictional memoir - in good part autobiographical - narrates without self-pity and often with humor the adventures of a penniless British writer among the down-and-outs of two great cities. The Parisian episode is fascinating for its expose of the kitchens of posh French restaurants, where the narrator works at the bottom of the culinary echelon as dishwasher, This unusual fictional memoir - in good part autobiographical - narrates without self-pity and often with humor the adventures of a penniless British writer among the down-and-outs of two great cities. The Parisian episode is fascinating for its expose of the kitchens of posh French restaurants, where the narrator works at the bottom of the culinary echelon as dishwasher, or plongeur. In London, while waiting for a job, he experiences the world of tramps, street people, and free lodging houses. In the tales of both cities we learn some sobering Orwellian truths about poverty and of society.

30 review for Down and Out in Paris and London

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kimley

    Do not read this book if you are unemployed. Do not read this book if you are homeless. Do not read this book if you are worried about the tanking economy. Do not read this book if you have no retirement savings. Do not read this book if you don't like eating stale bread and margarine. Do not read this book if you like eating in restaurants. Do not read this book if you are sensitive to foul odors. Do not read this book if you are one of those people who carries a hand-sanitizer at all times. Do not rea Do not read this book if you are unemployed. Do not read this book if you are homeless. Do not read this book if you are worried about the tanking economy. Do not read this book if you have no retirement savings. Do not read this book if you don't like eating stale bread and margarine. Do not read this book if you like eating in restaurants. Do not read this book if you are sensitive to foul odors. Do not read this book if you are one of those people who carries a hand-sanitizer at all times. Do not read this book if you are an artist, writer, musician or other creative occupation which certainly guarantees brushes with poverty. If you do read this book (which I highly recommend) make sure you have some bubble bath on hand as you will need a nice long well-perfumed soak afterwards.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    As anyone who has read 1984 can attest, Orwell is--among other things--a master of disgust, a writer who can describe a squalid apartment building, an aging painted whore or a drunken old man with just the right details to make the reader's nose twitch with displeasure, his stomach rise into the throat with revulsion. What makes this book so good is that--although he may continually evoke this reaction in his account of the working and the wandering poor--Orwell never demeans or dismisses the hu As anyone who has read 1984 can attest, Orwell is--among other things--a master of disgust, a writer who can describe a squalid apartment building, an aging painted whore or a drunken old man with just the right details to make the reader's nose twitch with displeasure, his stomach rise into the throat with revulsion. What makes this book so good is that--although he may continually evoke this reaction in his account of the working and the wandering poor--Orwell never demeans or dismisses the human beings who live in this repulsive environment. The people he describes may be disgusting, but they are often resourceful too, and Orwell makes it clear that it is the economic system itself--not the character flaws of particular individuals caught up in the system--which is to blame for so much squalor and suffering. I would recommend this book to anyone who wishes to read a vivid description of the conditions of those who live beneath the underbelly of society and the stratagems they use to survive, whether they be recently impoverished men endeavoring to maintain respectability, Paris dishwashers sweating through their underground existence, or British tramps enduring the daily bone-wearying trek for a cheap place to lay their heads.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    “It is a feeling of relief, almost of 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.” In 1927 Eric Arthur Blair A.K.A. George Orwell gives up his job as a policeman in Burma and moves back to his lodgings on Portobello Road in London with the intention of being a writer. Like with many artists, writers, and those that wishe “It is a feeling of relief, almost of 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.” In 1927 Eric Arthur Blair A.K.A. George Orwell gives up his job as a policeman in Burma and moves back to his lodgings on Portobello Road in London with the intention of being a writer. Like with many artists, writers, and those that wished to be one or the other, the siren song of Paris beckoned Orwell. In 1928 he moves to The City of Light. ”It was lamplight--that strange purplish gleam of the Paris lamps--and beyond the river the Eiffel Tower flashed from top to bottom with zigzag skysigns, like enormous snakes of fire.” His lodgings are robbed by an Italian man a trollop he has brought back to his room for what can be presumed for a carnal dalliance, but one must have a proper story for the parents especially when one is soliciting funds. This is really the beginning of a rather abrupt slide into poverty. Little did he know this change of circumstances was going to provide him with the material he needed to get published. A gagger--beggar or street performer of any kind. I do hope that everyone has had an opportunity to experience some poverty. When I was in college I had several moments where my gas tank was on E, that amber dot nearly burned a hole in my retina, and well food, skipping a few meals builds character. The one thing that I learned about my brief bouts of impecuniousness was that I didn’t like it. The anxiety of potentially revealing the precarious nature of my affairs was much more excruciating than the discomfort of hunger or even the tension inspired by the keenly tuned ear listening intently for the first cough of an engine starved for gas. The mind does sharpen when deprived of nutrients. A moocher--one who begs outright, without pretense of doing a trade. A slice of Orwell’s Paris. Orwell does become truly down and out barely scraping together enough money to maintain lodging. Everything pawnable or salable is already in the shops and now he must find a job. He tramps for miles all over the city following rumors of employment. He finally lands a position at a hotel restaurant washing dishes. It isn’t particularly difficult work, but the hours are unbelievably long. Since he is on the lowest rung of the very tall totem pole he is roundly cursed by everyone. ”Do you see that? That is the type of plongeur they send us nowadays. Where do you come from, idiot? From Charenton I suppose?” (There is a large lunatic asylum at Charenton.) “From England,” I said. “I might have known it. Well, mon cher monsieur, L’Anglais, may I inform you that you are the son of a whore?” I got this kind of reception every time I went to the kitchen, for I always made some mistake; I was expected to know the work, and was cursed accordingly. From curiosity I counted the number of times I was called maquereau during the day, and it was thirty-nine. A glimmer--one who watches vacant motor-cars. Down and Out in paris There is a camaraderie that comes from working long hours, from getting up with aching muscles, and a wool stuffed head from too little sleep. While in college I worked for a used bookstore that was the size of a grocery store. We were always understaffed, sometimes ridiculously understaffed. We needed three cashiers and generally had two. We needed three book buyers and generally had one. It wasn’t infrequent for people to work double shifts, not for the money, but because we couldn’t stand to think of our comrades left facing impossible odds. What was crazy is after we closed the store we would sit out in the parking lot, or when we could afford it go get a drink, and talk about books or about the craziness that happened during our shift until the wee hours of the morning. We were as bonded as soldiers in the trench because we were survivors. We didn’t bother to learn much about newbies until they had been there a month because chances were they would last a week or less. We were working for $4 an hour. A drop--money given to a beggar. The endless stream of dirty dishes is truly an Orwellian nightmare. While working in this fine restaurant Orwell did reveal some things that made me queasy. ”When a steak, for instance, is brought up for the head cook’s inspection, he does not handle it with a fork. He picks it up in his fingers and slaps it down, runs his thumb around the dish and licks it to taste the gravy, runs it round and licks again, the steps back and contemplates the piece of meal like an artist judging a picture, then presses it lovingly into place with his fat, pink fingers, every one of which he has licked a hundred times that morning.” But the place of course is kept spic and span, right? ”Everywhere in the service quarters dirt festered--a secret vein of dirt, running through the garish hotel like the intestines through a man’s body.” You may reassure yourself that restaurants are much better regulated now than they were in Paris in the 1920s and they are, but chat with a few people who work in the industry and it may not be as easy to reassure yourself. A flattie--a policeman. I always marvel at people that make a complete ass out of themselves berating a waiter in a restaurant. The distance that food must be carried from the cook to the table there is so much time for a waiter to enact some form of petty, but very satisfying revenge on some disrespectful jerk. To knock off--to steal. ”Waiters in good hotels do not wear moustaches, and to show their superiority they decree that plongeurs shall not wear them either; and the cooks wear the moustaches to show their contempt for the waiters”…. Thus Orwell had to shave his moustaches. Henry Miller was in Paris about the same time as Orwell. Miller wrote his books without worrying about what mommy and daddy might think. Orwell certainly put his remembrances through a strainer and certainly this book does not have the gritty intensity of a Miller novel. The descriptions of his time in the Paris restaurants are superbly drawn. They were certainly my favorite parts of the book. When he gets back to London he spends time tramping through the various charity houses and reveals the absurdity of the way they are run. He also makes a compelling case for changing the public view of who a tramp really is. A quick, enjoyable read, that for me, brought back some surprisingly fond memories of when I REALLY worked for living; and yet, still walked the razor edge of weekly impoverishment. ***3.75 stars out of 5

  4. 5 out of 5

    karen

    this book isn't going to cause anyone to have the huge revelation that "poverty is hard!" or anything, because - duh - but it also doesn't piss me off the way morgan spurlock pisses me off, because orwell makes his story come alive and there is so much local color, so many individual life stories in here that this book, despite being horribly depressing, is also full of the resourcefulness of man and the resilience of people that have been left by the wayside. it is triumphant, not manipulative. this book isn't going to cause anyone to have the huge revelation that "poverty is hard!" or anything, because - duh - but it also doesn't piss me off the way morgan spurlock pisses me off, because orwell makes his story come alive and there is so much local color, so many individual life stories in here that this book, despite being horribly depressing, is also full of the resourcefulness of man and the resilience of people that have been left by the wayside. it is triumphant, not manipulative. i liked the part when he was down and out in paris better than the part he was down and out in england. even though he had a handy exit strategy in england, in the form of someone who was willing to lend him money when he was truly and completely broke, and even though he only had to live the tramp's life for a month in england before his job started, the english parts were just so much more dismal, so horrifyingly bleak. in paris, poverty is almost a lark. the accommodations are better, the homeless are allowed to congregate beneath bridges and these is almost a romantic tinge to being penniless. england is just grim. flat-out grim. big ups to orwell for his details - the smells and the disease and the horror of unwashed men being forced into cramped quarters are unfortunately very well-rendered and can be quite sickening at times. and the conditions of fine parisian restaurants at the time... shudder. don't read this while you are eating. but this book will make you want to eat, truly. the days without food, the dizziness, the suffering. i ate like a hog on sunday, and felt very guilty for doing so while reading this, but it left such a hollow in me, i had to fill it somehow. and - yes, this book was somewhat fabricated, and is like thoreau "in the wilderness," but that doesn't make orwell's observations any less legitimate or powerful. thank you for writing such a fine book, george orwell... come to my blog!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell Down and Out in Paris and London is the first full-length work by the British author George Orwell, published in 1933. It is a memoir in two parts on the theme of poverty in the two cities. The first part is an account of living in near-destitution in Paris and the experience of casual labour in restaurant kitchens. The second part is a travelogue of life on the road in and around London from the tramp's perspective, with descriptions of the types o Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell Down and Out in Paris and London is the first full-length work by the British author George Orwell, published in 1933. It is a memoir in two parts on the theme of poverty in the two cities. The first part is an account of living in near-destitution in Paris and the experience of casual labour in restaurant kitchens. The second part is a travelogue of life on the road in and around London from the tramp's perspective, with descriptions of the types of hostel accommodation available and some of the characters to be found living on the margins. عنوانها: «محرومان پاریس و لندن»؛ «آس و پاس ها»؛ «آس و پاس در پاریس و لندن»؛ «آس و پاس ها در لندن»؛ «بی‌خانمان‌های پاریس و لندن»؛ «ف‍ق‍ر و درب‍دری‌ در پ‍اری‍س‌ و ل‍ن‍دن»؛ نویسنده: جورج اورول؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز بیست و یکم ماه جولای سال 2006میلادی عنوان: محرومان پاریس و لندن؛ نویسنده: جورج اورول؛ مترجم: اسماعیل کیوانی؛ تهران، تیسفون، 1362؛ در 318ص؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، مصدق، 1395؛ در 248ص؛ شابک 9786007436554؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان انگلیسی - سده 20م عنوان: ف‍ق‍ر و درب‍دری‌ در پ‍اری‍س‌ و ل‍ن‍دن؛ نویسنده: جورج اورول، مترجم: ع‍ل‍ی‌ پ‍ی‍رن‍ی‍ا؛ تهران، ممتاز، 1362؛ در 318ص؛ عنوان: آس و پاس ها؛ نویسنده: جورج اورول، مترجم: اکبر تبریزی؛ تبریز، انتشارات بهجت؛ چاپ اول و دوم 1362؛ چاپ سوم 1385 در 269ص، شابک: ایکس - 964667190؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، بهجت، 1389؛ شابک 9789642763474؛ چاپ دیگر 1394؛ عنوان: آس و پاس ها؛ نویسنده: جورج اورول، مترجم: آوینا ترنم؛ تهران، ماهابه، هنر پارینه، 1394، در 286ص؛ شابک 9786005205558؛ چاپ سوم 1396؛ عنوان: آس و پاس در پاریس و لندن؛ نویسنده: جورج اورول، مترجم: عاطفه میرزایی؛ تهران، نشر پر؛ 1397؛ در 272ص؛ شابک 9786226041140؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، باران خرد؛ 1397؛ در 288ص؛ شابک 9786226199049؛ عنوان: آس و پاس در پاریس و لندن؛ نویسنده: جورج اورول، مترجم: بهمن دارالشفایی؛ تهران: انتشارات ماهی؛ 1393؛ در 237ص؛ شابک 9789642091942؛ چاپ دوم و سوم 1395؛ چاپ چهارم1396؛ چاپ پنجم 1397؛ عنوان: آس و پاس در لندن؛ نویسنده: جورج اورول، مترجم: فهيمه مهدوی؛ تهران: محراب دانش؛ 1398؛ شابک 9789642758531؛ عنوان: آس و پاس در پاریس و لندن؛ نویسنده: جورج اورول، مترجم: محبوبه ناصری؛ ساری آنوشا مهر؛ 1398؛ در 284ص؛ شابک 9786227092158؛ عنوان: آس‌و‌پاسهای پاریس و لندن؛ نویسنده: جورج اورول، مترجم: زهره روشنفکر؛ تهران، مجید، 1388؛ در 240ص؛ شابک 9789644531118؛ عنوان: بی‌خانمان‌های پاریس و لندن؛ نویسنده: جورج اورول، مترجم: علی منیری؛ تهران، ناژ، 1390؛ در 234ص؛ شابک 9789641740926؛ آس و پاس‌ها در پاریس و لندن، روایت نویسنده ی بریتانیایی «جورج اورول»، از زندگی فقرا و بی‌خانمان‌ها در «پاریس» و «لندن» است؛ این کتاب در ماه ژانویه سال 1933میلادی منتشر شد، و در انتشار آن برای نخستین بار جناب «اریک آرتور بلر» نویسنده، از نام مستعار «جورج اورول»، استفاده کردند؛ «اورول» پس از خوانش «تهیدستان جک لندن»، به زندگی در میان طبقات محرومان و مهاجران، در شهرهای «پاریس» و «لندن» غلاقمند شد؛ رویدادهای زندگی آمیخته با فقر ایشان، در بهار 1928میلادی، در مسافرخانه‌ های «پاریس»، و اشتغالش به ظرفشویی، در رستوران‌ها و هتل‌های «پاریس»، فصل‌های نخست این روایت را، شکل می‌دهد؛ راوی در بخشهایی از زندگی خویش در «پاریس»، با یک افسر پیشین روسیه، به نام «بوریس»، همراه میشود، که به سختی زندگی خویش را میگذراند، و از صاحبخانه یهودی خویش ناراضی است؛ برخی به همین دلیل، این کتاب را یهود ستیزانه میدانند؛ گزارش ایشان از «لندن»، بیشتر شرح روزگار بی‌خانمان‌های «انگلیسی» است، که در پی یافتن بستری برای خوابیدن، از نوانخانه‌ ای، به نوانخانه ی دیگر، رانده می‌شوند، یا شب‌ها را، در پیاده رو خیابانها، میگذرانند؛ «اورول» این نوع زندگی را، برای نوشتن گزارشی، در روزهای پایانی سال 1927میلادی، تجربه کرده بودند؛ نکته ی تاثیرگذار این روایت، بر خلاف نظر همگان، این است که همه ی بی‌خانمان‌ها، اشخاص بیعار، یا پست فطرت نیستند، و در بین آنها هنرمند، و روشنفکر نیز، میتوان پیدا کرد؛ در پایان کتاب «اورول»، پیشنهادهایی برای بهبود زندگی تهیدستان، و بی خانمانها ارائه می‌کنند؛ ...؛ تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 16/08/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  6. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    Orwell’s take on destitution was every bit as good as I expected it to be: beautifully phrased, meticulous, honest, funny, but also moving, and along with his own vivid experiences of living a hand to mouth existence he blends the testimonies of other refugees and homeless people in Paris and London. This book might not have even come about had it not been for a thief who pinched the last of an ailing Orwell’s savings from his Paris boarding room in 1929, thus leading him to search for dishwashi Orwell’s take on destitution was every bit as good as I expected it to be: beautifully phrased, meticulous, honest, funny, but also moving, and along with his own vivid experiences of living a hand to mouth existence he blends the testimonies of other refugees and homeless people in Paris and London. This book might not have even come about had it not been for a thief who pinched the last of an ailing Orwell’s savings from his Paris boarding room in 1929, thus leading him to search for dishwashing work in the kitchens of the French capital. Yes Paris was indeed a tough place to find shelter between the wars and even though Orwell eventually found a job at the anonymous Hotel X, a place where dirty roast chickens were served, and chefs spat in soup, he remained without pay for ten days and so was forced to sleep on a bench until he had enough to cover rent. Throughout the book, when he did manage to find somewhere to stay, some of the beds even had blocks of wood for pillows. “The Paris slums are a gathering-place for eccentric people – people who have fallen into solitary, half-mad grooves of life and given up trying to be normal or decent. Poverty frees them from ordinary standards of behaviour, just as money frees people from work,” he wrote then, although his sympathies were firmly with his fellow “beggars”. The book both illuminates the huge change between 1933 and now and exposes horrifying similarities. As Orwell reveals the cruelty of a lack of workers’ rights, where livelihoods are lost overnight or jobs not secure from one day to the next day, a modern audience cannot help but hear the words ‘zero hours contracts’. Job insecurity is still a major driver of homelessness nearly 90 years later. When in London Orwell describes the police arresting rough sleepers or ‘moving them on’, he foreshadows recent events such as the cleansing of the streets of Windsor before the royal wedding, and fines presented to beggars in Coventry. As he describes “the stories in the Sunday papers about beggars…with two thousand pounds sewn into their trousers” we can hear the headlines from this very year in a national newspaper proclaiming “fake homeless are earning £150 a day”. Orwell’s books, however, are more than just treatises aiming to right the political wrongs. Aside from his political intentions, much of Orwell’s appeal has always rested in his brilliance as a writer: his ability to distil vast ideas or injustices into the most perfect phrases, his descriptive passages artfully conjuring the slum backstreets of 1930s Paris, and his sense of the preciousness of humanity, bringing clarity and colour to people's lives. through all all the filth, dirt, and smelly bodies, Orwell writes here and there with small moments of beauty, that at first don't feel immediately apparent. And when he writes of the people he meets in Down and Out are “just ordinary human beings”, he is stating a simple and obvious fact – but one that, even today, is still too often forgotten. Of the two cities, I found the London half of the book the more interesting as I know less about the English capital than I do Paris; through my own knowledge and that provided by countless other writers nothing surprised me. Although it had it's funny moments, the seriousness of poverty really makes you sit up and take notice. This is just of an important book now as it was back then. A must read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    Orwell demonstrates his social conscience and empathy for the poor, which I think, makes his more famous attacks on totalitarianism more credible. This is also an interesting novel to read for a glimpse into Paris and London of that time, between 1900 and 1930. Orwell worked in some restaurants and his view from the kitchen is far less romantic than Hemingway’s perspective from the table. Not really a classic or a masterpiece, but a book that should be read. Orwell demonstrates his social conscience and empathy for the poor, which I think, makes his more famous attacks on totalitarianism more credible. This is also an interesting novel to read for a glimpse into Paris and London of that time, between 1900 and 1930. Orwell worked in some restaurants and his view from the kitchen is far less romantic than Hemingway’s perspective from the table. Not really a classic or a masterpiece, but a book that should be read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    İntellecta

    İ´ve read the Essay “Paris Ve Londra'da Beş Parasız” written by George Orwell. It´s a biography of his own life and personal experiences. After George Orwell´s cancellation as officer of the British colonial power, he flew to Paris to work as an English teacher, because he aspired a job as a committed writer. Unfortunately his job as an English teacher and writer didn´t worked out and consequently he worked as a day labourer, harvester and dishwasher in a luxury restaurant. “Paris Ve Londra'da B İ´ve read the Essay “Paris Ve Londra'da Beş Parasız” written by George Orwell. It´s a biography of his own life and personal experiences. After George Orwell´s cancellation as officer of the British colonial power, he flew to Paris to work as an English teacher, because he aspired a job as a committed writer. Unfortunately his job as an English teacher and writer didn´t worked out and consequently he worked as a day labourer, harvester and dishwasher in a luxury restaurant. “Paris Ve Londra'da Beş Parasız” isn´t about political emphasises and has principally an anecdotic character. However this biography shows and emphasises clearly the former living environment of the entirely poverty stricken lower classes. It´s questionable if the business of those big hotels is still the same after 70 years, as Orwell describes. But yet this biography is very enriching and motivates the reader to think about this personal story.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rowena

    Do not read this book while eating! I've been told that this book is semi-autobiographical. If so, George Orwell had an even more interesting life than I'd imagined! This book was disturbing, insightful and also funny (great, great characters, some just plain weird!) The first half of the book depicts the main character's experiences living in poverty in Paris.Some of the descriptions about the living and working conditions are quite gruesome. All those bugs! Orwell sheds more light on what it mu Do not read this book while eating! I've been told that this book is semi-autobiographical. If so, George Orwell had an even more interesting life than I'd imagined! This book was disturbing, insightful and also funny (great, great characters, some just plain weird!) The first half of the book depicts the main character's experiences living in poverty in Paris.Some of the descriptions about the living and working conditions are quite gruesome. All those bugs! Orwell sheds more light on what it must feel like to be poor; the ennui etc.I don't think I'll be able to eat at a Parisian restaurant anytime soon because now I'm a little paranoid about the cooking conditions. The second half of the book finds the protagonist back in London and we learn more about what it means to be a "tramp." Equally as disgusting descriptions as those in the Paris section, especially the part where several tramps had to use the same bucket of dirty water for cleaning themselves up, yuck! Orwell definitely puts a human face on the tramps. He explains how tramping is a huge social problem and then suggests how this problem can be remedied. As I live in Vancouver, the Canadian city with the highest number of homeless people, I agree with his explanations and thoughts. My only gripe was with this particular edition of the book. Way too many typos, both in English and in French. Also, they censored out some of the swear words, bizarre. Fantastic book! Orwell rarely disappoints me with his wit and insight.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amalia Gkavea

    “It is a feeling of relief, almost of 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.”

  11. 4 out of 5

    B0nnie

    The film Midnight in Paris begins with some beautiful scenes of Paris: the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Seine, the Sorbonne, the Eiffle Tower, the arc de triomphe. And before long, arrives a parade of artistes from the 1920s milieu - Hemmingway, Bunuel, Dali, etc, - all speaking *SparkNotes*. But in the distant background (very distant) I hear a faint sound of et in arcadia ego and Orwell protests “say, I was there in the 1920s too - I saw all that. And I wrote a damn fine book about it”. That bo The film Midnight in Paris begins with some beautiful scenes of Paris: the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Seine, the Sorbonne, the Eiffle Tower, the arc de triomphe. And before long, arrives a parade of artistes from the 1920s milieu - Hemmingway, Bunuel, Dali, etc, - all speaking *SparkNotes*. But in the distant background (very distant) I hear a faint sound of et in arcadia ego and Orwell protests “say, I was there in the 1920s too - I saw all that. And I wrote a damn fine book about it”. That book is Down and Out in Paris and London, written later on in England (he wrote 2 books while in Paris but he destroyed them after one rejection. He regretted doing that). If I were to take a stroll, à la “Midnight in Paris”, I might find myself on 6 rue du Pot de Fer, 1928: ‘Salope! Salope! How many times have I told you not to squash bugs on the wallpaper? Do you think you’ve bought the hotel, eh? Why can’t you throw them out of the window like everyone else? Putain! Salope!’ The woman on the third floor: ‘Vache!’ Quarrels, and the desolate cries of street hawkers, and the shouts of children chasing orange-peel over the cobbles, and at night loud singing and the sour reek of the refuse-carts, made up the atmosphere of the street. It was a very narrow street—a ravine of tall, leprous houses, lurching towards one another in queer attitudes, as though they had all been frozen in the act of collapse. All the houses were hotels and packed to the tiles with lodgers, mostly Poles, Arabs and Italians. At the foot of the hotels were tiny bistros, where you could be drunk for the equivalent of a shilling. On Saturday nights about a third of the male population of the quarter was drunk. There was fighting over women, and the Arab navvies who lived in the cheapest hotels used to conduct mysterious feuds, and fight them out with chairs and occasionally revolvers. At night the policemen would only come through the street two together. It was a fairly rackety place. And yet amid the noise and dirt lived the usual respectable French shopkeepers, bakers and laundresses and the like, keeping themselves to themselves and quietly piling up small fortunes. It was quite a representative Paris slum. No Peugeots here. Orwell was not living a glamourous life. He had recently thrown away a promising career in Burma, and was determined to make it as a writer or die trying. He published a few articles, but soon runs out of money and must find work. He takes a job (as a foreigner, “not seriously illegal”) washing dishes at the luxury hotel Lotti in 1929. That experience is the ‘Paris’ segment of the book. He returns to England at the end of the year and “tramps” around with the down and out for the ‘London’ part. The lifestyle of a tramp was unhealthy and mean. One "ate cat's meat, and wore newspaper instead of underclothes, and used the wainscoting of his room for firewood, and made himself a pair of trousers out of a sack". It is boring, "a tramp's sufferings are entirely useless. He lives a fantastically disagreeable life, and lives it to no purpose whatever." It is exhausting, "he had not eaten since the morning, had walked several miles with a twisted leg, his clothes were drenched, and he had a halfpenny between himself and starvation." And it is no fun, "tramps are cut off from women". On the bright side, "poverty frees them from ordinary standards of behaviour, just as money frees people from work." “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 thought it would be quite simple; it is extraordinarily complicated. You thought it would be terrible; it is merely squalid and boring. It is the peculiar lowness of poverty that you discover first; the shifts that it puts you to, the complicated meanness, the crust-wiping.” The first version of Down and Out is completed by Oct 1930, under the name George Orwell (used for the first time, to protect his upper lower middle class parents). The French translation La Vache Enragée is published in 1935. Orwell’s inspirations for this book, indeed this life: The Lower Depths Maggie, a Girl of the Streets and Selected Stories The People of the Abyss The Road The Life of Mr. Richard Savage, Son of the Earl Rivers Germinal Themes: impoverishment, failure, privation, penury, leftovers, overextended, pennilessness, beggary, pauperism, difficulties, reduced circumstances, hunger, lack, want, dearth, depletion, exhaustion, vacuity, meagerness, dogged, indigent, impecuniousness, need, hardship, suffering, misery, dirt, filth, grime, lowness, grunge, muck, dust, rats, bugs, vermin, trapped, penury, destitution, greasiness, smelly icky slums, vagrancy, exiguity, mendicancy, down, out, crust-wiping, and all things squalid

  12. 4 out of 5

    W

    Quite a harrowing book,with its depiction of stark poverty,menial work and the constant struggle for the basic necessities of life . I found it hard to read,but it was very moving as well. Orwell also did a similar job in another book,The Road to Wigan Pier. That too,was very bleak and compassionate. Orwell knew about hardship.He had given up his job in the imperial police,and things were not too bright for him financially. He actually became a dishwasher for a while. He lived that life,he could Quite a harrowing book,with its depiction of stark poverty,menial work and the constant struggle for the basic necessities of life . I found it hard to read,but it was very moving as well. Orwell also did a similar job in another book,The Road to Wigan Pier. That too,was very bleak and compassionate. Orwell knew about hardship.He had given up his job in the imperial police,and things were not too bright for him financially. He actually became a dishwasher for a while. He lived that life,he could talk about it with authenticity. It's been some years since I read it,it stays in memory.But I'd find it difficult to read again,it's too raw and realistic.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Grace Tjan

    What I learned from this book (in no particular order): 1. There is hardly such a thing as a French waiter in Paris: the waiters are all Italian and German. They just pretend to be French to be able to affect that certain hauteur and charge you exorbitant prices for that mediocre Boeuf Bourgignon. 2. Some of them are spies. Waitering is a common profession for a spy to adopt. It is also a popular profession among AWOL ex-soldiers and wannabe snobs. 3. Real scullery maids do “curse like a scullion” What I learned from this book (in no particular order): 1. There is hardly such a thing as a French waiter in Paris: the waiters are all Italian and German. They just pretend to be French to be able to affect that certain hauteur and charge you exorbitant prices for that mediocre Boeuf Bourgignon. 2. Some of them are spies. Waitering is a common profession for a spy to adopt. It is also a popular profession among AWOL ex-soldiers and wannabe snobs. 3. Real scullery maids do “curse like a scullion” (hey, that’s a Hamlet quotation!). No doubt Shakespeare had watched a real-life Elizabethan scullion at work. 4. Men cooks are preferred to women, not because of any superiority in technique, but for their punctuality in delivering orders. The only woman cook featured in the book has nervous breakdowns at exactly 12 pm, 6 pm and 9 pm every day, although it must be noted that they are caused by circumstances that are beyond her control. 5. A French cook will spit in the soup --- that is, if he is not going to drink it himself. He is an artist, but his art is not cleanliness. To a certain extent he is even dirty because he is an artist, for food, to look smart, needs dirty treatment. 6. A steak will not be handled with a fork: the cook will just pick it up in his fingers and slap it down, run his thumb round the dish and lick it to taste the gravy. He will further press it lovingly with his fat, pink fingers, every one of which he has licked a hundred times that morning. When he is satisfied, he takes a cloth and wipes his fingerprints from the dish, and hands it to the waiter. 7. And the waiter, of course, will dip HIS fingers into the gravy --- his nasty, greasy fingers which he is forever running through his briliantined hair. 8. The scullery is the filthiest part of all: it is nothing unusual for a waiter to wash his face in the water in which clean crockery is rinsing. 9. The Plongeur is the lowest kitchen worker in a French restaurant who deals with the dirtiest, sweatiest work available. However, he is allowed two liters of wine a day, because otherwise, he will steal three. Everyone seems to work faster when partially drunk anyway. 10. A bum’s life, whether in Paris or London, is a real BUMMER. BUT SERIOUSLY, George Orwell went slumming in Paris and London, and the result is probably one of the best-written accounts of the bumming life ever penned. However, don’t read it if you are sensitive to pungent, unsparing descriptions of filthy kitchens, foul body odors, bug-infested beds and other unsavory aspects of a life gone to the dogs.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest I was inspired to read this book after picking up and enjoying A MOVEABLE FEAST by Ernest Hemingway, which was a beautifully written memoir of living in Paris as a broke writer in the 1920s. I didn't even think I liked Hemingway as an author until I read that book and was totally blown away by the vivid descriptions of the "lost generation" working on many of their magna opera that would make them famous-- in the case of F. Scott Fitz Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest I was inspired to read this book after picking up and enjoying A MOVEABLE FEAST by Ernest Hemingway, which was a beautifully written memoir of living in Paris as a broke writer in the 1920s. I didn't even think I liked Hemingway as an author until I read that book and was totally blown away by the vivid descriptions of the "lost generation" working on many of their magna opera that would make them famous-- in the case of F. Scott Fitzgerald, posthumously so. DOWN AND OUT IN PARIS AND LONDON is Orwell's memoir of being a broke writer in the 1930s and it is... well, vivid, yes, but not in the fun way. More like in the visceral doom-scrolling way that so many of us are accustomed to in Our Year 2021. There are two parts to this book. It opens with Paris, which in some ways does glamorize poverty, I feel. Or maybe that's just because Paris is more livable to those in dire straits. He paints comical portraits of his landlords and fellow tenants, and of his co-workers at the hotel at which he worked as a dishwasher. This was my favorite portion of the book because it feels the most light-hearted-- he has some cunning observations on the poor versus the rich, on the hypocrisies of society, and a few cunning tips on how to even the odds as someone who has the odds stacked against them. Unfortunately, this is also the part of the book that is rife with antisemitism. Given the time at which this was published, it was not shocking to excuse it, but the zeitgeist does not excuse the fact that many of his comments would be wholly inappropriate today, even if it makes it easier to understand why he says and thinks the things he does. Apparently, Orwell came to question many of his harmful beliefs later in life in his journals (he was an ardent diarist) and if that is the case, it is glad news, because history is filled with creators who have messed up some way ethically and rather than introspect and seek to be better people, they have simply doubled-down and closed their ears. The London portion, as others have pointed out, is much starker and far more grim. There is a description of a lodging house that is truly horrifying. The characters he meets in this portion are also interesting but I feel like they didn't have the verve of the people he met in the Paris portion, and Orwell himself seems so much more exhausted here. The work is harsher and less forgiving, people seem so much more jaded, the conditions are draconian, etc. I also found it to be more repetitive and skimmed some portions, although I did like his chapter where he lists out some of the "cant" he observed among people working the streets, and meditates on slang, appropriated words, and Cockney dialect. Whether you like or hate Orwell (and there are reasons to feel either way), I think this is a fascinating insight into his life, and there were several events that seemed to inspire his two major works, 1984 and Animal Farm (particularly his observations on how the working class is exploited and basically worked to the bone while the rich pretend to care but don't). The first portion of the book is like hearing about that one "bro" friend of yours recount travel to a questionable location while staying in a dangerous hostel. The second portion of the book is like hearing about that same "bro" friend recounting a terrible ordeal. The tonal shift between the two portions is noticeable and even though it affected my reading, it really made the book feel raw and real in a way that some of these literary figures sometimes don't because so much time has passed that their personalities feel removed from their work. Anyone who enjoys edgy memoirs or learning more about literary figures will enjoy this. 3 to 3.5 stars

  15. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    First published in 1933, this was George Orwell’s first full length book which made it into print. Although it reads as though the events within it were concurrent, in fact much of the latter part of the book was published as an essay, titled, “The Spike,” while the author was in Paris. However, the fact that events do not necessarily follow the narrative, certainly does not invalidate the book, or the points that Orwell makes – sadly still very valid today. The first half of the book sees Orwell First published in 1933, this was George Orwell’s first full length book which made it into print. Although it reads as though the events within it were concurrent, in fact much of the latter part of the book was published as an essay, titled, “The Spike,” while the author was in Paris. However, the fact that events do not necessarily follow the narrative, certainly does not invalidate the book, or the points that Orwell makes – sadly still very valid today. The first half of the book sees Orwell in Paris. Although certainly not flush, he does not experience poverty until his meagre savings are stolen. Orwell’s aunt was, as we now know, in Paris at the time – although we do not know whether she helped him financially. Whether she did or not, it is certainly that he did experience financial hardship and that this led him to taking up work as a lowly dishwasher in hotels and restaurants. The scenes of hotel life are so vividly written that you have no problem imagining the organised chaos, sheer filth and wonderfully exotic characters that exist within the pages. Paris, at that time, had a huge Russian émigré population and Orwell is befriended by Boris, a Russian refugee and waiter. Through him, Orwell embarks on arduous attempts to find work. When work is finally obtained, the seventeen hour days, exhaustion and grinding work is offset by the possibility of eating regularly. Some of the characters in the Paris section of the book work so long that they seem trapped in kitchens and hotels around the city. If you go out for a meal after reading this book I will be very surprised! In the book, Orwell returns to England after finally being driven to write to a friend to help him find work. When he arrives in London, he is lightly told that his employers had gone abroad for a month, but “I suppose you can hang on till then?” Of course, things did not happen quite this way – as we know, the London part of the book was written before the Paris section. Orwell was later to insist that the events within the book had taken place, albeit not in the order they are written here and it is not necessarily important that a little artistic tension is used to give the storyline a little tension. The London section of the book sees Orwell living as a tramp in London. A real down and out, tramping from one hostel, or ‘spike’ to another. He shows the reality of that life – of being forced to move on constantly, because of rules which refused a man a bed two nights running, the way the tramps were forced into prayer meetings for a cup of tea and a bun, of their resentment and discomfort, of laws which meant the police could move tramps on if they were asleep and the general discomfort and filth they lived with. This is moving journalism, which really presents a vivid portrait of a life on the edge. As Orwell points out, when funds are low panic sets in. When there is nothing, there is just existence from one meal to the next. He makes many valid points about how the poor are treated and how their life could be improved. Having just read a news report which suggested that so many people in Britain are reduced to using food banks due to problems with their benefit payments and punitive punishments, you have to sadly conclude that his conclusions about the treatments of people living in poverty are still more than valid.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ted

    I've loved everything I've ever read by Orwell, including this book which is very autobiographical "fiction", written in the first person. The temporal setting of the "novel" is sometime in the 1920s I think. This is actually not a bad book to sample Orwell with, of course nowhere near as famous as Animal Farm or 1984, but it reads much like a memoir (a very interesting one) and hence can be experienced as a sample of Orwell's writing style and views on society, without those things being masked I've loved everything I've ever read by Orwell, including this book which is very autobiographical "fiction", written in the first person. The temporal setting of the "novel" is sometime in the 1920s I think. This is actually not a bad book to sample Orwell with, of course nowhere near as famous as Animal Farm or 1984, but it reads much like a memoir (a very interesting one) and hence can be experienced as a sample of Orwell's writing style and views on society, without those things being masked by the futurist/fantasy plots of the more famous books.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    This reminded me a bit of Thoreau's Walden in that you don't feel like Orwell had to go through with this. It's self-imposed deprivation. However, while Thoreau went on a camping trip to prove he was a hardy outdoorsman and that anybody could and should do it, Orwell put himself through his ordeal in order to investigate a situation. The same problem exists in both circumstances though. Both men could extract themselves at any time if they wished. In Orwell's situation, that means he was only ex This reminded me a bit of Thoreau's Walden in that you don't feel like Orwell had to go through with this. It's self-imposed deprivation. However, while Thoreau went on a camping trip to prove he was a hardy outdoorsman and that anybody could and should do it, Orwell put himself through his ordeal in order to investigate a situation. The same problem exists in both circumstances though. Both men could extract themselves at any time if they wished. In Orwell's situation, that means he was only experiencing the details of being poor, not fully feeling the all-but inescapable confinement of being destitute. Knowing you can't get out of a situation has a deleterious affect on one's outlook and actions. Having said that, Orwell gets as close to the real thing as probably possible in Down and Out in Paris and London. Throughout much of the narrative, he's living hand to mouth with only the clothes on his back for possessions. The going is tough and made tougher by the prejudice people show towards a tramp. But Orwell's a good storyteller with plenty of tales to tell. His characterizations of some quite colorful characters are a joy. So, while this topic can get heavy at times, there's enough lighthearted fun within these pages to make the reading fairly even. Because parts of this book were admittedly embellished and other parts are clearly a factual account, it's hard to know how to shelve this and it's not always easy to trust what you're reading. I want to say that it's obvious what's real and what isn't, but seeing how some people fall hard for fake news these days, I'm hesitant to label anything "obvious".

  18. 5 out of 5

    leynes

    I read this right after finishing A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway; both are set in Paris in the 1920s, so I'm eager to compare the two and damn there's a lot to say. I feel like Orwell was much more genuine and really saw the greater scope of events and tried to show "the big through the small". So by showing his experiences in Paris and London he managed to showcase the universal reality of what it's like to be poor and destitute and what the reasons for poverty are. It is a feeling of r I read this right after finishing A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway; both are set in Paris in the 1920s, so I'm eager to compare the two and damn there's a lot to say. I feel like Orwell was much more genuine and really saw the greater scope of events and tried to show "the big through the small". So by showing his experiences in Paris and London he managed to showcase the universal reality of what it's like to be poor and destitute and what the reasons for poverty are. It is a feeling of relief, almost of 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 fof anxiety. I am trying to describe the people in our quarter, not for the mere curiosity, but because they are all part of the story. Poverty is what I am writing about, and I had my first contact with poverty in this slum. Before getting deeper into the analysis, I need to tell you how funny this book is. I've read some of Orwell's nonfiction but this is by far his most personal account. Usually, Orwell is very stingy with sarcasm and humour, but this time around we were really on the same page. He met so many different and interesting people in Paris and the comic relief was quite high in most of these encounters. In one scene George talks about Fureux and how he always got stupidly drunk on the weekends and started singing The Marseillaise. Due to his patriotic fever, the other fellows in the bar started to tease him and shout "down with France" to get him all reved up. The whole scene in itself is quite hilarious but then George solves the scene in the funniest way possible by telling the reader that "In the morning he [Fureux] reappeared, quiet and civil, and bought a copy of L'Humanité" (a magazin that is quite left and not patriotic at all). I was hollering! I really enjoyed that George included snippets of the french language in this because it added a great deal to the atmosphere and made it so easy to picture Paris with its hotels and people in the 1920s. Overall George spoke some great truths in this novel. He was just so brutally honest about money and I found it admirable. It got me thinking about how much the times (and the currencies) have changed. ;) Some of the realities of the 1920s are impossible to even think about today. Six francs is a shilling, and you can live on a shilling a day in Paris if you know how. But it is a complicated business. Eighteen hours a day, seven days a week. Such hours, though not usual, are nothing extraordinary in Paris. I loved how honest he was about being ashamed of being poor. And how he tried to hide it from the laundress, the hoteliers and basically everybody. He talked about how little he had to eat, that he could only wash himself once a month and was wearing practically the same clothes everyday because he sold the rest of his stuff. It is quite crazy to think about. Also, the idea that in the 20s a little chamber in a hotel was far cheaper than renting an appartment seems unreal to contemporary readers. He talks about the horrendous experiences he had with the people with whom he had to share his chambers with and how some of them "had the indecency to bring a woman in here, while I was there on the floor. The low animal!" Oh poor George! Boris, a friend of George's who used to work in a hotel became George's closest companion on their hunt for a job, and he was also one of my favorite people in this account. He was quite a good sport and always remained optimistic throughout their streak of bad luck . Also, his humour was top-notch: 'But what about the suitcase?' 'Oh, that? We shall have to abandon it. The miserable thing only cost twenty francs. Besides, one always abandons something in a retreat. Look at Napoleon at the Beresina! He abandoned his whole army.' I mean HOW GREAT IS THAT QUOTE. I'm getting serious Oscar Wilde-vibes from it. The only thing that I wondered about was George's sex life. Yeah, okay, that is a little weird but George seemed to live sex-less. He had no problem with talking about women and when one of his friends got laid but he himself didn't seem to be too interested in that. He was clearly averted to some homesexual approaches that he had to deal with but of a woman? no word. In his London episode, he talks about the evils of a tramp's life and how the sexless life affects a lot of men who are poor and that they turn to homosexuality and some even rape woman to satisfy their needs. This, of course, is a very backwards and old-fashioned view on life with which I don't agree. I was appalled throughout by George's dislike for homosexuality and his need to find excuses for sexual abuse, but it was interesting nonetheless, to get this first-hand account of the past. I was also quite shocked to see at how much wine they drank. And that people of their profession (dishwashers etc.) drank wine like water. It quite reminded me of Hemingway and his alcoholism. People at that time were really crazy in some ways. I also enjoyed his commentary on the quite strict hierarchy existing in a hotel, and how he as a dishwasher was basically on the bottom—people who did the most strenous word, made the least money. He analysed the different forces that come into play in regards to money and power and how it influences society. At the end of his Paris adventures he dedicates a whole chapter to the "social significance of a plongeur's life". He is brutally honest and speaks freely on how stupid this way of employment is: No doubt hotels and restaurants must exist, but there is no need that they should enslave hundreds of people. [...] Essentially, a 'smart' hotel is a place where a hundred people toil like devils in order that two hundred may pay through the nose for things they do not really want. Fear of the mob is superstitious fear. It is based on the idea that there is some mysterious, fundamental difference between rich and poor, as though they were two different races, [...] but in reality there is no such difference. To sum up. A plongeur is a slave, and a wasted slave, doing stupid and largely unnecessary work. He is kept at work, ultimately, because of a vague feeling that he would be dangerous if he had leisure. A little fun fact regarding waiters: George says that in some hotels/ restaurants waiters get sooo many tips that they actually pay the patron for their employment and they get paid no wages, they manage to live (quite excessively) off tips. That's crazy to think about! I won't talk too much about his London adventures because for me, it was all about Paris and the revelations George had there. His London episode was fun to learn about nonetheless. I had this odd realization that poverty (in a way) prevents loneliness. George was never alone at any time. He always found people (strangers basically) who shared his condition and always took him in, tried to make him one of their own. I find that quite fascinating. I also really appreciated the times in which he compared Paris to London and how he had to accomodate certain aspects of his destitute life: In Paris, if you had no money and could not find a public bench, you would sit on the pavement. Heaven knows what sitting on the pavement would lead to in London - prison, probably. I suppose they were 'nancy boys'. They looked the same type as the apache boys one sees in Paris. One of the most interesting London chapter was the one in which he talked about beggars and why people hate them and don't think it's a real job. It is taken for granted that a beggar does not 'earn' his living, as a bricklayer or a literary critic 'earns' his. [...] If one could earn even ten pounds a week at begging, it would become a respectable profession immediately. A chapter I found very charming and in which I could highly relate to George was the chapter in which he basically made a glossary of London slang, defining the words he wasn't familiar with before. It is just such a George Orwell thing to do and I loved it. My story ends here. It is a fairly trivial story, and I can only hope that it has been interesting in the same way as a travel diary is interesting. [...] At present I do not feel that I have seen more than the fringe of poverty. [...] I shall never again think that all tramps are drunken scoundrels, nor expect a beggar to be grateful when I give him a penny, nor be surprised if men out of work lack energy, nor subscribe to the Salvation Army, nor pawn my clothes, nor refuse a handbill, nor enjoy a meal at a smart restaurant. That is a beginning. It is, George, it is. Down and Out in Paris and London is by far my favorite piece of nonfiction by Orwell. It's rich in social commentary and criticism and I'd highly recommend it to everyone looking for a raw and honest account of poverty in Europe's capitals in the 1920s.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    George Orwell is a damn good writer. Sure, he whipped out 1984 and Animal Farm, but it's from his essays and nonfiction that I'm learning Orwellian tricks--and by that I mean, the very best sort of craft points. Yes, I know that his first book, Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) is characterized as a novel--usually with some qualifier like "semi-autobiographical" or "thinly-veiled." But given that Orwell saves several chapters for his personal commentary about, among others, the life of a Pa George Orwell is a damn good writer. Sure, he whipped out 1984 and Animal Farm, but it's from his essays and nonfiction that I'm learning Orwellian tricks--and by that I mean, the very best sort of craft points. Yes, I know that his first book, Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) is characterized as a novel--usually with some qualifier like "semi-autobiographical" or "thinly-veiled." But given that Orwell saves several chapters for his personal commentary about, among others, the life of a Paris plongeur, London slang and swearing, tramps, sleeping options for the homeless in London, and the Salvation Army, it seems a stretch to me to use the word "novel." I understand his book to, at most, have about as much inevitable fudging as a memoir. DOPL is about exactly that--Orwell mired in poverty, looking for work or working 17-hour shifts in hellfire hot hotel kitchens, begging, pawning, banding together with others in the same state, starving, and generally fighting to survive. The temptation would be to lay it all out there--"This happened, and then this happened, and then this happened....." Orwell doesn't fall for it. Rather, he uses anecdotes proportionally: the shorter ones add scope and breadth to what might otherwise be read as an individualized experience; longer ones push the narrative forward; still longer ones fundamentally shape Orwell's experiences and opinions. With narrative intention for each sub-story, Orwell keeps the book from being a diary-esque dumping ground for every interesting thing that happened to him. He allows each story only as much it needs to serve its textual purpose. Given proper weight, the story of the weeping cook in the bad restaurant is as compelling as that of Boris, the former Russian army captain now sleeping in bug-infested sheets in the slums--even though we spend significantly more time with Boris than the cook. What's the point? Why wouldn't a diary-esque series of observations be just as compelling? If DOPL took this travelogue route, it'd still have worth. But because Orwell takes pains to shape a narrative, one with continuity even when he leaps into another country and set of characters midway through, readers are prepared for the chapters when Orwell's first-person narrator turns discursive. Why don't we resent the narrator for getting all political on us in the midst of a good story? Orwell refrains from opining in scene, saving it up for discursive chapters placed at natural pauses. The first discourse doesn't appear until the narrator is transitioning between Paris and London. We readers want to reflect before we make that leap; otherwise, it'd be too abrupt. The discourse actually builds tension, because while we know the narrator is steaming towards London, with one chance to pull himself out of dire straights, he's not there yet. The discursive chapter delays the resolution and heightens suspense. And finally, Orwell's plain-language voice is a stay against the resentment we might feel for a pontificating narrator. "For what they are worth I want to give my opinions on the Paris plongeur. ..." Nothing high and mighty in that tone; our guard drops. Rather than riddiling his commentary with adjectives, adverbs, and other grammatical efforts towards artificial emphasis, Orwell puts his money on nouns: facts, observations, and general good sense. Which means he's following his own advice, from the essay he'd later write titled "Politics and the English Language." Not that I'm one for artifical emphasis, but it's only one of the best essays ever written, ever.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Agnieszka

    Poverty is no a sin. Honest work is nothing to be ashamed of. Obviously. Let’s agree to disagree - Orwell seems to say. In this part-autobiographical story he depicts how life looked like in Parisian slums and London poorhouses in late twenties XX century. In Paris Orwell used to live in rented rooms, dirty and buggy hovels, for over one year. He had earned some money giving English lessons and writing to the local newspapers but when the money had run out he needed to find a work. And it was th Poverty is no a sin. Honest work is nothing to be ashamed of. Obviously. Let’s agree to disagree - Orwell seems to say. In this part-autobiographical story he depicts how life looked like in Parisian slums and London poorhouses in late twenties XX century. In Paris Orwell used to live in rented rooms, dirty and buggy hovels, for over one year. He had earned some money giving English lessons and writing to the local newspapers but when the money had run out he needed to find a work. And it was then when he first experienced poverty, discovered how it is to be hungry, eating only bread with margarine. All of sudden he couldn’t afford on sending clothes to laundry, had to cut off his smoking , was even forced to pawning his overcoats in the pawn shop and so on, so on. Paris in that days was a place full of refugees from all the world, especially Russia. And here on the scene enters Boris, one of the closest Orwell’s friend in this time. His parents got killed in the Revolution, his passion are war and soldiers. Boris likes one café because of the statue of Napoleon’s marshal standing nearby and is ready get out metro at Cambronne station instead of Commerce, though Commerce was nearer; he liked the association with General Cambronne, who was called on to surrender at Waterloo, and answered simply, 'merde. Yes, Boris is not an ordinary man. Definitely. And he has a dream to become a maitre d’hotel one day. So that our protagonists find employment in the hotel and Orwell is starting to work as a plongeur. According to him it was humiliating, grueling and completely useless job, a kind of contemporary slavery. The kitchen was like nothing I had ever seen or imagined-a stifling, low-ceilinged inferno of a cellar, red-lit from the fires, and deafening with oaths and the clanging of pots and pans. We can see them, people working as plonguers, spending all days in hot undergrounds, working and swearing each others, then returning homes, and in spare time drinking themselves up. And so day after day, year after year. As if they came down from Chaim Soutine’s portraits – that‘s how I see them. The work is weary, they get paid to stay them alive, no dreams, no prospects. But there were bright sides too. Food they were given to was really lousy but nobody seemed to care about it. PATRON was not mean about drink; he allowed us two litres of wine a day each, knowing that if a PLONGEUR is not given two litres he will steal three. Orwell really feels sympathy for all that poor wretches, points out the ways to ease their plight but provoked beyond endurance decides back to England. But before he will do it let’s hear Boris once again. Tomorrow we shall find something, mon ami, we both have brains-a man with brains can't starve. Despite all that crap and misery Boris seems to be an incurable optimist. When he must slip away unseen and leave his suitcase states lightly one always abandons something in a retreat. Look at Napoleon at the Beresina!He abandoned his whole army. Just brilliant. I smieszno i straszno as our Russian friends would say. When Orwell arrived in London where he was to look after one disabled man it found out that his new employers have gone abroad and he must manage on his own for one month. So that begins odyssey from one poorhouse to other, from one lodging-house to other. A wide range of that ones. We sleep with him in all that dirty and stinky places, experience doubtful and reluctant charity and meet all bunch of social outcasts – his companions in misery. One of them is Bozo who’s considering himself as a free man with or without money, and being forced to sell his razor only states Sold my razor without having a shave first: Of all the-fools!. Another time we are the witnesses a fight between two tramps because one said bullshit while the other heard bolshevik. I can’t help but personally really like that pun. So what’s the point? Look around, Orwell seems to tell us, there’s always something you can improve, someone who needs help. I shall never again think that all tramps are drunken scoundrels, nor expect a beggar to be grateful when I give him a penny, nor subscribe to the Salvation Army, nor pawn my clothes, nor refuse a handbill, nor enjoy a meal at a smart restaurant. That is a beginning. And how about you ?

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alice Poon

    Five stars from me. I would use three words to describe this book: “somber, side-splitting, shrewd”. “Somber” refers to the subject matter, which is about abject poverty and hunger in urban cities, as seen through Orwell’s eyes in Paris and London on his experimental tour. “Side-splitting” is my reaction to the ironic and dry humor that he effortlessly displays in describing some episodes. “Shrewd” refers to his observation of the lives of those barely surviving in society’s lowest echelons, oft Five stars from me. I would use three words to describe this book: “somber, side-splitting, shrewd”. “Somber” refers to the subject matter, which is about abject poverty and hunger in urban cities, as seen through Orwell’s eyes in Paris and London on his experimental tour. “Side-splitting” is my reaction to the ironic and dry humor that he effortlessly displays in describing some episodes. “Shrewd” refers to his observation of the lives of those barely surviving in society’s lowest echelons, often down to the most trivial minutiae and with keen insight. The book is a unique kind of partly fictional, semi-autobiographical, travel diary in which Orwell tells the experiences of a British writer working alongside plongeurs (dishwashers or scullions) in a Paris hotel kitchen, and then living with tramps (homeless people) upon his return to England. His description of the Paris hotel kitchen will make you think twice before stepping into a high-class hotel restaurant ever again! These are some trenchant passages from the book:- When one is overworked, it is a good cure for self-pity to think of the thousands of people in Paris restaurants who work such hours (seventeen-hour day, seven days a week), and will go on doing it, not for a few weeks, but for years. I believe that this instinct to perpetuate useless work is, at bottom, simply fear of the mob. The mob (the thought runs) are such low animals that they would be dangerous if they had leisure; it is safer to keep them too busy to think……But the trouble is that intelligent, cultivated people, the very people who might be expected to have liberal opinions, never do mix with the poor. For what do the majority of educated people know about poverty? Why are beggars despised? I believe it is for the simple reason that they fail to earn a decent living…. Money has become the grand test of virtue. By this test beggars fail, and for this they are despised.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Laala Kashef Alghata

    “The mass of the rich and the poor are differentiated by their incomes and nothing else, and the average millionaire is only the average dishwasher dressed in a new suit.” — George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London I am a staunch George Orwell fan. I think he’s absolutely amazing and if you’re limiting yourself to his classic novels (Animal Farm, 1984), you are doing yourself a disservice. His essays and non-fiction books are amongst his best works. Down and Out is Orwell’s account of the “The mass of the rich and the poor are differentiated by their incomes and nothing else, and the average millionaire is only the average dishwasher dressed in a new suit.” — George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London I am a staunch George Orwell fan. I think he’s absolutely amazing and if you’re limiting yourself to his classic novels (Animal Farm, 1984), you are doing yourself a disservice. His essays and non-fiction books are amongst his best works. Down and Out is Orwell’s account of the time he spent almost penniless in the Paris slums, and then in London, sleeping in workhouses and cheap hostels when he had a little more money. He talks of the people he met, the places they frequented, his opinion on the jobs he worked and those of his fellow down-and-outs, who are often homeless. I picked up the book knowing I’d enjoy it — it is Orwell, and I’d be hard-pressed to not love him — but the book gave me more than that. It makes you think. And I mean really think, not sort of graze your mind on the surface of a problem. I have, quite thankfully, never been in the position of wanting. My parents have provided the comforts we need or want and I have been blessed. My father, however, came from no money. He’s a self-made man. He will often talk about the struggles he faced trying to juggle making money with attending university. He would tell us how he’d have to wear two pairs of socks with a plastic bag in between them so that the snow wouldn’t sink right through. He’d tell us of having to go to work at 5am to scrub dishes at a restaurant to make money, and then begin attending his lectures at noon straight to midnight. So hearing about Orwell stuck in a hotel, washing dishes, is not a difficult leap for me to make. I have been raised to respect money, to respect those trying to make their way of life, and to try and respect every job that someone does. This is going to sound immodest, but I want to say it because it has a lot to do with this book. I never thought I was unaware of poverty. I may not have experienced it, but I believed we did our part, in awareness and other matters, and I could not be called naive. I have never thought that anyone was better than any other person based on their income, and all in all I thought my stance on poverty and wealth was a healthy one. It wasn’t. I was still grossly unaware of what so many people go through. As I sat and read through the experiences of this remarkable man, I thought of how much I didn’t know, how naive I really was, and how I needed to understand much more than I do. Then came the sucker punch — at the end of the book, after everything he has told us, Orwell says, “At present, I do not feel that I have seen more than the fringe of poverty.” And you realise, suddenly, that that’s true — but what does that say of you? If he thought he only knew the fringe, that means I know nothing.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jessaka

    This was a very powerful book, and while I didn't care for the first part of it when he finally got a job in a restaurant, I felt I had to read the details of his job and the abuse he received while working there. The remainder of the book was very good, especially when he moved to London. This and the book "Nickel and Dimed" would be good for high school teachers to give to their students to read and to discuss. It may change some people's views that the poor are lazy or all are drug addicts. In This was a very powerful book, and while I didn't care for the first part of it when he finally got a job in a restaurant, I felt I had to read the details of his job and the abuse he received while working there. The remainder of the book was very good, especially when he moved to London. This and the book "Nickel and Dimed" would be good for high school teachers to give to their students to read and to discuss. It may change some people's views that the poor are lazy or all are drug addicts. In some ways "Nickel and Dimed" has a lot in common with this book, even though one was written about the 1920s and "Nickel and Dimed" is about the working poor here in America. Orwell's character, that was based on his time in Paris and London, worked 17 hours a day in a restaurant and had to deal with the abuse and the lack of sleep. "Nickel and Dimed" is about people who work two jobs and can't afford an apartment, nor can they make ends meet. Some sleep in their cars. What grabbed me also was the fact that some places that fed the poor in London made the homeless listen to a prayer and a sermon before they were served a meal. The homeless didn't like it back then, and they don't like it now. Where I live there are church organizations that feed the poor that will not allow the prayers or the preaching, but there is one that does or should I say, did. I was volunteering for this group until they started this; I quit. Then they had more board meetings, nothing to do with my quitting, and they decided to stop with the prayers. So I am going back to help, if indeed they have stopped. What I find about this is how disgraceful it is when people push their religion off onto others. It is especially so when they do this with the homeless because the homeless need the food and will put up with this in order to be fed. It is also condescending to think that people are homeless or poor because they don't have Christ, and I think that this is what they are trying to say to them when they start with the prayers. Also, it is blackmail: No prayer, no preaching, no food. Back to the book: Some of the conditions in the Lodging Inns in London were a disgrace. While it was nice that they put a roof over the heads of the poor, they had to sleep in dirty blankets and sheets, and bugs crawled all over the rooms, the bathrooms were filthy, and then because everyone slept in the same room some people would keep others awake all night and sometimes someone would vomit in the room. Of course Orwell described these conditions in so much detail that you felt like you were sleeping in one of those places. Now, the narrator of this story always looked for work, but often it was not to be found, and so he talks about the many ways that he had to survive. Many of the homeless today can't work for various reasons. I have a friend whom I met on an online forum who was trying to get disability, and while that was pending he got welfare, but it wasn't enough to pay rent. He slept in the bushes of a LA library. He emailed me almost daily from a library computer, and it took him 4 years to get his disability, as the judge just kept refusing him. Just before getting his disability he had refused housing from a group that was trying to help him. He was afraid that they would take away his money. He was also afraid to sleep in shelters or to even go to a Mission to get food. The next time he was offered a home I told him to take it because LA is expecting a lot of storms that winter. He took the apartment; the rains didn't come, California is still in a drought, but he now has a roof over his head. Then a few months later he won his disability case, the new judge saw his need. He and I are still friends, but he is in a better state of mind now, and for that I am glad.

  24. 4 out of 5

    David Sarkies

    Life Below the Poverty Line 8 September 2016 - London There is so much in this book and it is actually really hard to know where to start, however I will start off by saying that it is not strictly an autobiography. Sure, Orwell did land up in a situation in Paris when all of his money had been stolen and had to work as a plounger, which is basically another name for a minimum wage kitchen hand (if the minimum wage actually existed back then), and he did live for a time on the streets of London a Life Below the Poverty Line 8 September 2016 - London There is so much in this book and it is actually really hard to know where to start, however I will start off by saying that it is not strictly an autobiography. Sure, Orwell did land up in a situation in Paris when all of his money had been stolen and had to work as a plounger, which is basically another name for a minimum wage kitchen hand (if the minimum wage actually existed back then), and he did live for a time on the streets of London as a tramp, but he did so not by necessity but rather because he was looking for something to write about. However it is certainly going to the opposite end of the spectrum from Mrs Dalloway, the previous book that I read, which dealt mainly with the upper eschelons of society (and their first world problems). Actually I'm starting to wonder about this whole idea of the first world problem. Sure, my issues at the moment relate to the fact that I am in a small hotel room with no wifi, limited credit on my mobile phone, and the fact that the cord for my laptop not only doesn't reach from them socket to the bed upon which I am sitting, but it also has a European adaptor which means I am going to have to spend money on an adaptor for Australia so I don't have to fork out the money for a new power supply once I get home. I'm sure that these problems are minor compared to the beggar sitting on Praed Street in Paddington with a cup in his hand relying upon the generosity of those walking by, or the guy on Paul Mall that could hardly stand up because his legs were simply not working and the men that were dressed in suits that were worth more than he would ever earn in his lifetime simply threw their noses up and him and wandered to the nearest wine bar. While the issues that Orwell raises in this book certainly apply to Australia, since I am currently in London (though I am leaving very soon), and have recently travelled the continent (even if it was only the Low Lands and France), I will try to stick to what I have seen here. Also, the book can be easily divided into two parts – the life of a tramp, or a beggar, and the life of a minimum wage worker (if such a thing actually existed back in Orwell's day). The thing with what Orwell experienced is the harsh reality of capitalism where human beings are simply given a worth based on their productive capability, and when we have unskilled labour, and plenty off it, then the laws of supply and demand simply say that their wages are based upon the available workforce, and when there is a lot of people going for the same jobs, then the laws of economics simply say that their pay should be based as such. This is why we have minimum wage laws, because people who work should be able to earn enough money to at least be above the poverty line. As with beggars though; things have changed since Orwell wrote this book. We no longer have spikes, or work houses, where the beggar would get a room for a night, and a simple meal, in return for half a days work, and then had to move on to the next one. What we do have is an allowance that theoretically should put them above the poverty line, so that they at least can have food to eat, clothes to wear, and a roof over their head. The problem is, and this hasn't changed at all, is that many of the people that rely on these benefits are uneducated, which means that they are idle. As such the free money, and in reality it is free money, means that it is going to be used to relieve that boredom – cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. Governments are attempting to deal with that through a basic income card, but what is happening is that the store keepers, much as was the case in Orwell's time, are adding fees on top of purchases to basically skim off to the top these people who aren't actually able to use this income card in any place other than places that accept this card. Then there is a term used in Australia called 'Work for the Dole'. That is a recipient of unemployment benefits has to do a set number of hours of work a week to receive their benefits. I'm actually in favour of this, but it is open to abuse. First of all left wing agitators are dead against it claiming that it not only puts other people out of work, but it creates what is in effect a slave workforce. Mind you, they are generally guiding the lily a lot because McDonalds simply cannot sack its entire workforce and use 'work for the dole' labour, namely because only certain organisations, those who rely entirely on voluntary labour, can actually employ somebody through a work for the dole scheme. However, if somebody is doing such work then I feel that they should be entitled to an increased payment than what they are receiving, especially if it hinders their ability to find a full time job. One interesting thing that I discovered as I wandered through Europe is that on the continent you find a lot more beggars that will be carrying babies, or have children with them. This is simply not seen in either England or Australia. On the continent you do need to watch out for them, especially since they train their children to steal from you. For instance if somebody approaches you at the Eiffel Tower with a clip board and asks if you speak English, scream at them in a language that is neither French, nor English, and get as far away from them as possible. Another thing that I picked up from this book are the type of beggars. Many of us simply consider that a beggar is somebody who is sitting at the side of the road with a cup in hand. This is not always the case – for instance Orwell suggests that those people who busk in the local public space, draw pictures on the sidewalk, or make sculptures out of sand, are basically in the same position, except that they have some artistic ability. In fact I remember wandering through the streets of Brussels and seeing a couple of girls playing the violin. They were good, really really good, but it makes me wonder whether they spent all that time at university learning how to play the violin only to land up on the streets of Brussels begging for small change. Actually, I remember sitting at a cafe in Naples once and a guy wandered through the streets playing an accordion. Now, my brother loves the accordion, and started giggling and looking at the guy, much to the horror of the waiters. Sure enough he comes up to us, and plays in front of us until we actually give him money. It sort of reminds me of that Cheech and Chong film where they set up in the middle of some French town, start playing rock music, and everybody comes out of their houses and throws money at them to make then shut up. Now the minimum wage thing is also interesting because there is one thing that I discovered as I was wandering around London – that is that I would land up with a lot of small change, change that would eventually become useless. Normally I just tell the service attendant to keep the change, but in places like Sainsbury's, McDonalds, and such, they actually can't do that. In fact if you tell them to keep the change they have to put it in a donation box on the counter. Personally that absolutely appals me, particularly since these guys are being paid a minimum wage (which is about seven quid in England). I don't mind the tip jar, where the staff divide the tips among themselves at the end of the night, but after discovering that the small change at KFC goes to their 'special charity' I decided that I would pass on that and give it to the guy with his cup in his hand. Sure, he might end up using the money to go and buy drugs, but then again at least I know where that is going – I really don't know what KFC are doing with the money that they are refusing to give as tips to their staff. Oh, English beer – I should mention English beer since Orwell made a comment about it as well. What he was doing was that he was debunking the myth that the tramps use their money to get drunk. Well, as it turns out English beer is little more than coloured water, which means you need an awful lot (something like thirty pounds worth) to actually get tipsy. However, he is gilding the lily a bit there because while it is true that English beer is pretty weak, gin is not – and it is also pretty cheap. If you want to get plastered in England, you don't go for the beer, you go for the gin – that will definitely do the job for you. In fact, I'm just going to pop down to the off license just to see how much a bottle of gin will actually set me back (about twelve pounds for a small bottle, so no, it's not cheap now, but it probably was back in Orwell's day).

  25. 4 out of 5

    James

    George Orwell described ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’ as a “fairly trivial story” with the hope that it is interesting “in the same way as a travel diary is interesting”. What Orwell provides us with is certainly much more than the “trivial story” to which he refers. What we have is a very descriptive, readable and engaging (whilst depressing and at times repulsive) account of his time as a ‘Plongeur’ (employed to carry our menial kitchen work) in Paris coupled with a similarly compelling a George Orwell described ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’ as a “fairly trivial story” with the hope that it is interesting “in the same way as a travel diary is interesting”. What Orwell provides us with is certainly much more than the “trivial story” to which he refers. What we have is a very descriptive, readable and engaging (whilst depressing and at times repulsive) account of his time as a ‘Plongeur’ (employed to carry our menial kitchen work) in Paris coupled with a similarly compelling account of the time he spent as a ‘Tramp’ amongst the ‘Tramping community’ of London. In addition there is in and amongst (albeit a limited amount of) very valid and pertinent social commentary and sociological analysis of the social systems supporting and surrounding these two particular existences and the wider social position and standing of ‘the poor’ in general in societ(ies). So what Orwell (from his relatively privileged position and social standing) could quite easily be accused of here, in what could be described as his apparent holidaying with ‘the poor’ – is perhaps a significant condescension to, or patronising of the group of people he was living and working with, or on a wider scale the generic ‘poor’ as a whole? However, it seems to me that what Orwell is doing here and what he is giving us, is born out of an eagerness and moral imperative to understand the lives of such as the French ‘Plongeur’ and the English ‘Tramp’ – moreover to understand why and how such existences are (or were at that time) seemingly perpetuated and supported by societal systems. Presenting us with very vivid accounts of lives lived under such circumstances – very much raising questions for society to answer. Dependant on which source you read – the events that are described in Orwell’s book either happened to him, he witnessed or were recounted to him as true events - the never ending drudgery of the kitchen ‘Plongeur’ in Paris, the perpetual street walking in search of food and shelter of the London tramp both recounted and portrayed here vividly by Orwell. Both seemingly surviving on (what would seem to most of us from our privileged standpoint) absurdly small amounts of money and food – and the appallingly fundamental existence that goes with that. What is described with both (particularly so with the ‘Tramps’) is the perpetual search for money, for food, for shelter, for survival. Such a very basic existence on the most basic of food, sleeping and living in the most unsanitary of conditions – the never ending hours of work (the ‘Plongeur’) the never ending hours of enforced drifting (the ‘Tramp’). There are clear parallels between the very poorly paid then and their modern day contemporaries (in the UK) on zero-hours contracts, minimum wages, very much at the mercy of their employers. Likewise, between the ‘Tramps’ of the pre-welfare state London and the homeless ‘underclass’ of 21st century UK – who despite the best efforts of the welfare state and many charitable organisations, are still very much (more than ever) with us today. Along with the description of the utterly miserable and difficult existence led by both ‘Plongeur’ and ‘Tramp’ – we have (what may be considered all too brief) sociological analysis and look at the following: A. The fear and loathing of the poor by the more privileged in society B. The control and perpetuation of ‘The Poor’ by way of societal systems C. The considered futility and meaningless of both existences D. The maintenance of societies status quo I approached this book by Orwell with some trepidation – the only other Orwell books I had read having been the near perfect ‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm’ – both amongst some of the greatest short novels ever written in the English language. Clearly though, ‘Down and Out’ is a very different kind of book – it does not, nor should not bear comparison. I was also concerned about the potential for romanticising the poor, in the way of the ‘noble’ and ‘honourably’ destitute. Nevertheless, Orwell’s book (which is at the very least semi-autobiographical) Orwell gives his account – very vivid, very much ‘warts and all’ of the acutely hard life of those he was living with – to an extent holding that mirror up to society and challenging us to look at what is in front of us – abject poverty and futile existences in the heart of rich countries such as France and the UK. Orwell asks or infers here many, many questions about ‘the poor’ in society and doesn’t in any way shy away from the degradation and abject poverty of their existence and to that extent his book is successful. What the 21st century reader should perhaps be considering here – is which of the questions that Orwell raises, still remain unanswered so many years later? As an appendix – a few further thoughts on ‘Down and Out’ after writing my initial review: What Orwell does here is provide an ostensibly almost journalistic account of his time amongst the poor of Paris and London – by doing so he is challenging the reader to consider (from their probably privileged perspective) the truly awful way in which many at that time lived (and many still do) in abject poverty and squalor and by doing so to raise the questions that society should be asking itself. Whilst it is clearly true that the 21st century societies of Paris and London may well be very different from those at the time of Orwell’s writing (it’s now almost a hundred years ago) and we should therefore consider the following: - We may define ‘poverty’ now differently - Some of the underlying causes of that poverty may have changed - The modern day experience of poverty may well also be different - The way that contemporary poverty manifests itself may have changed The above notwithstanding however, are not the questions perhaps suggested or prompted by Orwell throughout ‘Down and Out’ still just as pertinent and relevant today as they were in the 1920’s when Orwell was writing? If so, then why is that? - There still such disparities in wealth? - There such a social divide? - The ‘poor’ continue to be demonised by the privileged? - In ‘civilised’ and cash rich societies such as the UK and France, the ‘poor’ still exist? - Such abject poverty not been consigned to history? Above all else: - Why do we still need to ask ourselves these questions?

  26. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Gonçalves

    Do not kid yourself. Orwell’s novel about the consequences of living in poverty is not fiction. This might sound like a paradox, a very strange oxymoron, but it isn’t. And I’ll explain why. This is the “made-up” story of an English writer who goes to France. Once there, he is faced with a sudden lack of wealth income. Living with almost no money, he finds it is imperative to find work. After weeks without a job, a job at an expensive Hotel in Paris surfaces when he meets a friend who tells him ab Do not kid yourself. Orwell’s novel about the consequences of living in poverty is not fiction. This might sound like a paradox, a very strange oxymoron, but it isn’t. And I’ll explain why. This is the “made-up” story of an English writer who goes to France. Once there, he is faced with a sudden lack of wealth income. Living with almost no money, he finds it is imperative to find work. After weeks without a job, a job at an expensive Hotel in Paris surfaces when he meets a friend who tells him about it. Working as a Plonguer (in French, “dishwasher”) in the underground caves of the Hotel’s kitchen, he becomes submerged in drudgery. In 1929, Paris was far from a paradise city, as some like to conceive it. It was a slum filled with vagrancy and indecency, masqueraded by a veneer of pomposity and luxury. Orwell wants to make sure the reader grasps this point of view. The plotting of the book is a mere pretext for Orwell. In truth, he tries to explore the narrative as a dissertation mechanism. The book’s genius resides in its accurate, vivid description of humanity. In it, the reader is faced with a disturbing series of first-person accounts of what it was like to be deprived of money in a society that depends upon it. Known for his pertinent essays, George Orwell cannot write novels that feed themselves solely on escapism. The subject matter of his stories often serve as subtle ploys. All he desires to do is make people think about the world in which they are so idly involved. It concerns itself with tickling one’s conscience.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    Note to self: Under no circumstances find myself down and out in Paris and London, or anywhere else, for that matter. I wouldn't last a week. When I was younger, after my first visit to New Orleans, I decided that if I were ever homeless, I would work my way down to that city and be one of those little old ladies in rags tap dancing for coins thrown into a hat. I figured I could make enough every day to at least go to a Pizza Hut Buffett and fill up once a day, then sleep on a park bench in a wa Note to self: Under no circumstances find myself down and out in Paris and London, or anywhere else, for that matter. I wouldn't last a week. When I was younger, after my first visit to New Orleans, I decided that if I were ever homeless, I would work my way down to that city and be one of those little old ladies in rags tap dancing for coins thrown into a hat. I figured I could make enough every day to at least go to a Pizza Hut Buffett and fill up once a day, then sleep on a park bench in a warm climate. When I was tired, I would go to the public library and read. It didn't sound half bad. Well, according to George Orwell, it's not quite that easy. Not at all. And since this is the genius who gave us 1984 and Animal Farm, I'm going to take his word for it, and try to keep myself out of those circumstances. This was my first experience at reading Orwell's non-fiction, and I like his common sense attitude, his humor, and his sympathy for the common man. I will search out his essays after this. 2ND Note to self: Stop eating in restaurants.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Quo

    At a time when there is considerable discussion of income inequality or structured social inequality in the United States and elsewhere around the world, an encounter with George Orwell's Down & Out In Paris & London represents a reminder that this disparity has long been with us. A key difference is that Orwell was an Eton grad, hardly a natural anarchist or from a precinct in the British slums but nevertheless spent considerable energy delving deeply into the nature of poverty. In fact, this n At a time when there is considerable discussion of income inequality or structured social inequality in the United States and elsewhere around the world, an encounter with George Orwell's Down & Out In Paris & London represents a reminder that this disparity has long been with us. A key difference is that Orwell was an Eton grad, hardly a natural anarchist or from a precinct in the British slums but nevertheless spent considerable energy delving deeply into the nature of poverty. In fact, this novel is at times more like an ethnographic study than a novel, with George Orwell in mufti, living the life of a plongeur or dishwasher at a five star hotel in Paris and later as a tramp in search of nightly lodgings in London. If financially bereft, one suspects that Orwell could have availed himself of friends or relatives in the late 1920s but he identified with the underclass and wanted to understand their plight as fully as possible, much as he did when he became a coal miner, an experience that later translated into another very compelling Orwell book, The Road To Wigan Pier, a novel that resembles an anthropological study. In Paris, the author finds his role as a plongeur not just a case of long hours for minimal pay but degrading work and yet in spite of the occasional chaos, unsanitary conditions, noise & infighting by the other hotel kitchen workers, there are occasional moments when the workers pull together and have at least a limited pride in the various functions required to provide first class meals for wealthy patrons. This spirit is completely lacking when Orwell is down & out in London, scuffling with other lost souls for food, a place to stay and a sense of worth. To accomplish a parity with his fellow London tramps, the author pawns his passable clothes for filthy, ill-fitting garments so that he can blend into the throng of dispossessed Londoners, 90% of whom are men, staying at congested, disgusting, bug-ridden flophouses & occasional Salvation Army way-stations. Orwell somehow manages to assimilate with other tramps & senses that tramps are not regarded as fully human but seen as a potentially unruly mob to be feared. It is this fear of a supposedly dangerous mob that makes people conservative in their opinions. A rich man if intellectually honest comments:The mob are such low animals that they would be dangerous if they had leisure. We know that poverty is unpleasant but we don't expect to do anything about it. We are sorry for the lower classes as we are sorry for a cat with mange but we will fight like devils against any change in your condition. We feel that you are much safer as you are and the present state of affairs suits us, so much so that we are not going to risk setting your free.However, Orwell feels that fear of the mob is a superstitious fear that is based on the idea that there is some mysterious, fundamental difference between rich & poor, as though they were different races. But in reality, the mass of the rich & the poor are differentiated by their incomes and nothing else. According to the author, the average millionaire is only the average dishwasher dressed in a new suit. There are rather discomforting examples of Antisemitism within the text, perhaps not that unusual for the time & place but nonetheless difficult to endure in reading Down & Out In Paris & London and particularly since Orwell seemed to identify so readily with the underclass, especially its British manifestation. In the novel, he also casts similar aspersions on other non-British characters who cross his path, including Poles and Americans as well as Jews. The novel is at times one-sided but it offers a portrait of a side of life that many would prefer to ignore and Orwell presents sensitive cameos of an underclass that remains very much with us 85 years after the novel first appeared. There are no prescriptions for long-term solutions within the novel but one senses considerable compassion on the part of the author as a result of sharing in their circumstances and Orwell continued to speak on behalf of the poor & homeless throughout his life. It has been said that George Orwell can best be described as a perpetual English rebel. According to a biography by Robert Colls, Orwell was "an intellectual who did not like intellectuals, a Socialist who did not trust the state, a Protestant who did not believe in God even though he believed in the value of religion and a lifelong dissenter who believed in the right to dissent from dissent." The author was often hard to peg but it was also felt that none of Orwell's political beliefs were inconsistent with being a Liberal, though apparently that did not make him one. Ultimately he identified foremost with working class people, little valuing wealth or fame. George Orwell also had a ingrained sense of being an exile, even while taking pride in almost all things English, apparently excepting the game of Cricket. In many ways his profile may resemble that of Graham Greene. And curiously perhaps, his tombstone indicates,"Here lies Eric Arthur Blair", with no mention of Mr. Orwell.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    Much like Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, Orwell's heavily autobiographical journalistic novel makes me vaguely uncomfortable—I just can never quite bring myself to fully embrace depictions of "playing poverty" by young white men from bourgeois (or better) backgrounds. Granted, the comparison is a bit unfair, as Hemingway was clearly indulging in a project of retroactive self-mythification and intentionally fudging details while Orwell was attempting something akin to a social exposé, using his ex Much like Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, Orwell's heavily autobiographical journalistic novel makes me vaguely uncomfortable—I just can never quite bring myself to fully embrace depictions of "playing poverty" by young white men from bourgeois (or better) backgrounds. Granted, the comparison is a bit unfair, as Hemingway was clearly indulging in a project of retroactive self-mythification and intentionally fudging details while Orwell was attempting something akin to a social exposé, using his experiences to expose the European middle class readership of the realities of menial labor and begging. It's not that I intrinsically have a problem with these men's social privilege, it's the fact that it's never explicitly accounted for, which quickly leads to an untruthful romanticization of the disempowerment and disenfranchisement that is legitimately experienced by many people (who I'm quite sure don't find it a bit glamorous or romantic). The narrative (if it can be accurately described as such) is an often awkward blend of colorful picaresque storytelling and stern Marxist-influenced polemics, but Orwell is at his best when relishing in the detailed minutia of the social microcosms he often finds himself enmeshed in, ranging from a posh French hotel to the British vagrant community. Because I have worked in the hospitality industry I was fascinated by the rigid workplace hierarchies of Parisian hotels and restaurants, and I thoroughly enjoyed the depictions of the countless creative ways that the sparking facades presented to paying tourists are undermined behind every kitchen and closet door ("roughly speaking, the more one pays for food, the more sweat and spittle one is obliged to eat with it"). Things might be much more sanitary now, but the behind-the-scene subversions and resentments were on occasion remarkably familiar. Once Orwell transfers from Paris to London, however, things get progressively more dull—the witty, stylistic flourishes and the vibrant characterizations and anecdotes Orwell employs in his presentation of Paris gives way to a serious, plodding social-realist depiction of British street people, and the diatribes also become more frequent. At which point I had to force myself to finish the last few chapters, which unfortunately means I ended on a more sour note, which isn't very indicative of my experience with the majority of the text. C'est la vie. [Read for ENG630:02 - Expatriate Writers in Paris: 1930's, 1940's and Beyond] "Poverty is what I am writing about, and I had my first contact with poverty in this slum. The slum, with its dirt and queer lives, was first an object-lesson in poverty, and then the background for my own experiences. It is for that reason that I try to give some idea of what life was like there."

  30. 5 out of 5

    Helle

    The unknown and unsuccessful Eric Blair chose to publish this book under a pseudonym because he didn’t want anyone to be able to identify the real people mentioned in the book. He could always change back to his own name, he considered, if the book was well received, but as we know, he kept the name George Orwell, though in fact Down and Out in Paris and London was his first real, if minor, success. The fact that the book was marketed as a novel was, according to the foreword in my edition, done The unknown and unsuccessful Eric Blair chose to publish this book under a pseudonym because he didn’t want anyone to be able to identify the real people mentioned in the book. He could always change back to his own name, he considered, if the book was well received, but as we know, he kept the name George Orwell, though in fact Down and Out in Paris and London was his first real, if minor, success. The fact that the book was marketed as a novel was, according to the foreword in my edition, done in order to improve sales (which worked), but it is not a novel in any way. Orwell was known as a competent essay writer, and this book would fall under that same genre: essays on poverty. In both the Paris and the London sections, the ‘stories’ are interspersed with polemical discussions of society and poverty, making way for what later became known as Orwellian commentaries on the machinations of oppressive societies. His vivid, yet terse and non-sentimental descriptions of life as a lowly plongeur (dishwasher) in a filthy hotel kitchen in Paris were shocking, as was his account of the lives of tramps in London, his own included. It is how he gently piles on the atrocious realities of these lives of poverty that slowly makes an impact and raises the question why the young Eric Blair would put himself through this for so long when he strictly speaking didn’t have to. Presumably it played an important role in forming the writer who developed, already at this stage, a keen awareness of social injustice. (If I didn’t naively believe that things have improved dramatically since the 1930s, I would never again set foot in a restaurant. There are some positively gruesome descriptions of the extreme lack of hygiene. As he says, the more one pays for food, the more sweat and spittle one is obliged to eat with it. Blech). In Paris, he befriends a young Russian named Boris, who seems to have inspired his namesake in The Goldfinch (my favourite character in that novel), at least he exhibits the same vigorous, obstinately optimistic yet hopeless attitude through ditto dialogue. E.g.: Boris was wild with joy. In a sort of sacrificial ecstasy he rushed into the nearest tobacconist’s and spent fifty centimes on a cigar. He came out thumping his stick on the pavement and beaming. ‘At last! At last! Now, mon ami, our fortune is really made. etc. Aside from the informative and interesting content, the language of the book has the virtue of clarity that Orwell believed in but also some wonderfully picturesque descriptions of both cities in question and their inhabitants, for instance this of a left bank street in Paris: It was a narrow street – a ravine of tall leprous houses, lurching towards one another in queer attitudes, as though they had all been frozen in the act of collapse. I was intrigued with the philosophical discussion Orwell has with another destitute at some point toward the end: Bozo: (…)You don’t need to get like that. If you’ve got any education, it don’t matter to you if you’re on the road for the rest of your life. Orwell: Well, I’ve found just the contrary. It seems to me that when you take a man’s money away he’s fit for nothing from that moment. Bozo: No, not necessarily. If you set yourself to it, you can live the same life, rich or poor. You can still keep on with your books and your ideas. You just got to say to yourself, ‘I’m a free man in here’ – he tapped his forehead – ‘and you’re alright’. Orwell is likewise intrigued with this view, though he never manages to share it. The whole book is the reaction of a sensitive observer of life in the underworld of two great cities and who, through this book, found his voice as a writer.

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