Down and Out in Paris and London – George Orwell

GUEST REVIEWER – Surly Joe

“He might be ragged and cold or even starving, but so long as he could read, think and watch for meteors, he was, as he said, free in his own mind.”
― George OrwellDown and Out in Paris and London

  • Down and Out copyTitle: Down and Out in Paris and London
  • Author: George Orwell
  • ISBN: 015626224X (ISBN13: 9780156262248)
  • Series: Stand Alone
  • Published: March 15th 1972 by Mariner Books (first published 1933)
  • Format: Paperback
  • Genre/s: Fiction/Memoir
  • Source: Purchased

Before the acclaim of Animal Farm and 1984, before gaining recognition as one of the twentieth century’s greatest and most influential authors, there was poverty. Squalid, extreme, bug-infested poverty. Down and Out in Paris and London, published in 1933, is George Orwell’s autobiographical account of life on the streets, searching for work, searching for food and a place to sleep, pawning clothes for a piece of bread, a cup of tea and a cigarette. His Paris was not the City of Lights, his London was not the height of British splendor. Success meant finding work in a grand hotel restaurant for just enough money to avoid starvation, working seven days a week, seventeen hours a day, standing in slop, serving the oblivious rich patrons on the other side of the kitchen door.who don’t realize that their food was just laying on the floor being picked at by vermin.

When work ended, life meant “tramping” from town to town, sleeping in lodging houses, Salvation Army hostels or on park benches, hoping not to get arrested. At times, there was no food for days, no bathing for weeks. But ironically, Orwell also describes “a feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out…and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety”. Down and Out in Paris and London is Orwell’s descriptive study of poverty in two of the world’s greatest cities. It doesn’t explain why he was poor, how long he was poor or how he escaped from being poor. He just was. It was his existence. And when it ended, he
took his experiences and learnings and moved on.

This unusual fictional account – in good part autobiographical – narrates without self-pity and often with humor the adventures of a penniless British writer among the down-and-out 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 society. – Goodreads

George_OrwellEric Arthur Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist. His work is marked by keen intelligence and wit, a profound awareness of social injustice, an intense opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language, and a belief in democratic socialism.

He is best known for the dystopian novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” (published in 1949) and the satirical novella “Animal Farm” (1945)—they have together sold more copies than any two books by any other twentieth-century author. His 1938 book “Homage to Catalonia”, an account of his experiences as a volunteer on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War, together with numerous essays on politics, literature, language, and culture, are widely acclaimed.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/bookclub/down-and-out-in

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