- Reading level: 14+ years
- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Mariner Books (15 March 1972)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 015626224X
- ISBN-13: 978-0156262248
- Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.3 x 20.3 cm
- Customer Reviews: 498 customer ratings
Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
#4,10,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #41373 in Contemporary Fiction (Books)
Down and Out in Paris and London Paperback – 15 March 1972
|Paperback, 15 March 1972||
Audio Cassette, Abridged, Audiobook, Unabridged
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In Paris, Orwell lived in verminous rooms and washed dishes at the overpriced "Hotel X," in a remarkably filthy, 110-degree kitchen. He met "eccentric people--people who have fallen into solitary, half-mad grooves of life and given up trying to be normal or decent." Though Orwell's tone is that of an outraged reformer, it's surprising how entertaining many of his adventures are: gnawing poverty only enlivens the imagination, and the wild characters he met often swindled each other and themselves. The wackiest tale involves a miser who ate cats, wore newspapers for underwear, invested 6,000 francs in cocaine, and hid it in a face-powder tin when the cops raided. They had to free him, because the apparently controlled substance turned out to be face powder instead of cocaine.
In London, Orwell studied begging with a crippled expert named Bozo, a great storyteller and philosopher. Orwell devotes a chapter to the fine points of London guttersnipe slang. Years later, he would put his lexical bent to work by inventing Newspeak, and draw on his down-and-out experience to evoke the plight of the Proles in 1984. Though marred by hints of unexamined anti-Semitism, Orwell's debut remains, as The Nation put it, "the most lucid portrait of poverty in the English language." --Tim Appelo
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In the context of comparing beggars with ordinary working people, he quotes,
Other than 1984, I find this one close to my influencing circle. These days, I find people more Darwinistic in terms of discussing the poverty with the moral pretense of survival. With a little more compassion and common sense, people could find this work enlightening, comforting, mending up their wounds. I couldn't compare Orwell with any other influencers in that regard.
Other than most of his novels, I feel more attached to the lively characters who got along with the author on the journey. Some of my favorite quotes from some of the destitute people out there living inside the book.
"Nothing is easier than getting money, mon' ami" - Boris
"The only way to get money from writing is to marry a publisher's daughter, mon' ami" - Boris
“He might be ragged and cold or even starving, but so long as he could read, think and watch for meteors, he was free in his own mind.” - Bozo
“If you’ve got any education, it don’t matter to you if you’re on the road for the rest of your life... 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', and you’re all right.” - Bozo
I would recommend this book to everyone here in my friend circle who believe : everyone in west is born rich and privileged , which is so untrue !
Nobody has written in such detail and with such writerly style on the marginalised men of this world. An eye opener and a masterpiece.
Top international reviews
The latter part of the book is about his return to London and how he survived day to day living on the streets with tramps and vagabonds and relying on charity for meals and a bed for the night.
This happened before he made his name as an author.
I read this book in an afternoon, I just could not put it down, a very good read!!
Orwell introduces a fascinating and highly diverse range of characters, all of whom he brings to life and weaves into his story of survival on the breadline in the underbelly of two great cultural cities (although he wanders further afield out of London).
The situations are acutely observed and you can almost feel his politics being formed in the stories.
His writing is eminently engrossing and I felt that I was alongside him as one of the unseen and uncared for cogs which make the wheels of life turn.
This is one of those books I have been meaning to get for ages and I am really pleased that it lived up to the wait.
A very enjoyable read which hasn’t dated in style or substance.
Social authority ensures that life is not as bad today as those described I'm Orwells book.
I first read this book over 30 years ago, and on 're-reading"ita lot of it came straight BACK to me--memory is subjective, where I put my glasses or keys often eludes me.
Orwell, whilst having a relatively comfortable life actually did work for a while as a plonguer in Paris,and went on the road as a tramp for a while,some things don't change MUCH, paddys account of sleeping on the Embankment"you don't get many benches there, and they are soon taken,try to get to sleep as soon as possible,as the noise of the trains and dem flashing lights make it nearly impossible to get any"this tale has a certain resonance with anyone trying to sleep at Gatwick north terminal, or Stansted airport,awaiting a very early morning flight, jobsworth, come round at 4am to wake juan up, not that sleep is possible, the clattering wheels of suitcases ensure this.
Pity Orwell is not around to rewrite down and out with a modern twist--onward to Wigan Pier
I have to say,I preferred the chapters when he was in London to those about Paris.Despite graphically depicting his almost unimaginable poverty among it's outrageous characters in all their sickening depravity and squalor to realistic effect,they don't seem to have the sanguine and clear-cut authority when describing the down-and-outs and work houses of London.They contained a simple clarity compared to the more turbulent and perhaps exaggerated life of the scoundrels and rogues of bohemian Paris,that was more immediate and powerful.The descriptions of the Parisians seemed to be have been recounted as detailed fact by comparison.
Although not as powerful and stunning as his famous later book,"The Road to Wigan Pier",Orwell's views on socialism and oppression that have endeared him to the world,can be seen to have been developed here,and that is what makes the book important.
This a book to be 'lived', not read through, and I was disappointed to find I had come to its close.
Just as an aside, I enjoyed the author's closing comments about what he had learned. His comment about the Salvation Army brought memories flooding back of, many years ago, my father saying he would give nothing to the Salvation Army, ever agin. His own father had died, a very comfortably off gentleman, and he had much underwear, completely new, some still in its wrappers, long johns and such like. My father took it to the SA and it was refused out of hand. How very much use those garments could have been to their visitors.
Yes, there is SO much to be learned from this book.
Great book tho.
I am not really interested in Animal Farm which we are supposed to rave about but I love the observations and writing style of Orwell. I enjoy reading about the characters and my favourite character is Bozo. I enjoy his philosophy, and being poor myself I like the idea of the sky being a 'free show'. Also lots of tramps are 'bright' and have something to say.
As an update to his hotel story, working in the hotel industry itself, it can still very very bad in small hotels. We can work 60 hours a week, with limited staff and only last week I was asked to work 48 hours a week in Kent below minimum wage which could face the hotel with prosecution. ALso guests want us to go the extra mile, for example, so they can check in before 2pm, or they ask us to leave luggage or leave their wine in our fridge or do other special things ... and you know what, they give us NO TIP. Housekeepers have to clear up filthy rooms from couples after wedding parties or for clearing up after drunk businessmen, and still no tip! There is a high turnover in hotels due to terrible wages, hardly any tips, and employers bullying staff, particularly if they stand up for their rights. Right now in my hotel, about 4 people are leaving and they were so keen at the beginning when they first got the jobs. I would leave too, but it is so hard to find jobs now.earing up after drunk businessmen, and still no tip!
I used to work in an ex workhouse and it was interesting to see what they were like in Orwell's time. We used to have ghosts in the office and we think it was something to do with a death at the poorhouse.
All in all, a gripping read even 70 years on.