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Down and Out in Paris and London Paperback – 15 March 1972

4.5 out of 5 stars 498 ratings

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What was a nice Eton boy like Eric Blair doing in scummy slums instead of being upwardly mobile at Oxford or Cambridge? Living Down and Out in Paris and London, repudiating respectable imperialist society, and reinventing himself as George Orwell. His 1933 debut book (ostensibly a novel, but overwhelmingly autobiographical) was rejected by that elitist publisher T.S. Eliot, perhaps because its close-up portrait of lowlife was too pungent for comfort.

In Paris, Orwell lived in verminous rooms and washed dishes at the overpriced "Hotel X," in a remarkably filthy, 110-degree kitchen. He met "eccentric people--people who have fallen into solitary, half-mad grooves of life and given up trying to be normal or decent." Though Orwell's tone is that of an outraged reformer, it's surprising how entertaining many of his adventures are: gnawing poverty only enlivens the imagination, and the wild characters he met often swindled each other and themselves. The wackiest tale involves a miser who ate cats, wore newspapers for underwear, invested 6,000 francs in cocaine, and hid it in a face-powder tin when the cops raided. They had to free him, because the apparently controlled substance turned out to be face powder instead of cocaine.

In London, Orwell studied begging with a crippled expert named Bozo, a great storyteller and philosopher. Orwell devotes a chapter to the fine points of London guttersnipe slang. Years later, he would put his lexical bent to work by inventing Newspeak, and draw on his down-and-out experience to evoke the plight of the Proles in 1984. Though marred by hints of unexamined anti-Semitism, Orwell's debut remains, as The Nation put it, "the most lucid portrait of poverty in the English language." --Tim Appelo

About the Author

GEORGE ORWELL (1903-1950) was born in India and served with the Imperial Police in Burma before joining the Republican Army in the Spanish Civil War. Orwell was the author of six novels as well as numerous essays and nonfiction works.

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4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top international reviews

Jennifer Jayne 2009.
5.0 out of 5 stars Orwell, down and out in Paris & London.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 26 March 2017
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A Music Fan
5.0 out of 5 stars A book everyone should read. Still relevent today
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 January 2020
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Ms J Hamilton
3.0 out of 5 stars Factual account of living in poverty
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 2 November 2017
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BazLoves
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written book rich with life experiences and a stark ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 27 September 2018
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Jules
4.0 out of 5 stars A very enjoyable read which hasn’t dated in style or substance.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 17 January 2016
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Nicola S. Smythe
3.0 out of 5 stars Still a worthwhile read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 9 January 2020
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Ben
5.0 out of 5 stars A Timeless Tale From The Fringes
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 2 February 2020
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Mr. B. Carter
4.0 out of 5 stars As the title suggests
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 17 December 2014
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Richard Fahey
4.0 out of 5 stars A must for all Orwell readers,but recommended reading for those who like social history.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 9 January 2015
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JRF
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual Orwell
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 3 May 2020
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Juliette Cunliffe
5.0 out of 5 stars A veritable joy!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 18 August 2016
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deaconred
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT BOOK - AWFUL EDITION
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 15 November 2019
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Velvet
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 4 July 2011
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Anthony Byrne
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 24 March 2018
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GIEL
5.0 out of 5 stars A history of the 1930s
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 16 February 2020
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