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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 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
'He saw through everything... Many have tried to imitate his particular kind of clarity without anything like his moral authority' - Peter Ackroyd, The Times 'A man who looked at his world with wonder and wrote down exactly what he saw, in admirable prose' - John Mortimer --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.See all Product Description
I must have missed the train on this one. I only got about 1/4 of the way in and found it monotonous and very repetitive. I was expecting much more from George Orwell. Read morePublished 13 months ago by moonfish
Great book, however this version is HEAVILY edited and censored, which is disappointing because it really takes away from the story. Read morePublished on May 1 2013 by Ben Montpellier
GREAT READ. IT'S A TRUE CLASSIC. SHOULD BE PART OF THE HIGH SCHOOL CURRICULUM.
ALTHOUGH IT WAS WRITTEN SEVENTY YEARS AGO MANY OF THE SOCIAL ASPECTS CAN BE APPLIED TO TODAYS... Read more
Orwell experiences first hand, the extremes of poverty. The setting is in both the cities of Paris and London. Orwell has a very keen sense of observation. Read morePublished on Nov. 2 2012 by Patrick Sullivan
This was the first published novel by Eric Blair, a.k.a. George Orwell, and is a semi-autobiographical account of a life of poverty in two of the most glamorous metropolises in the... Read morePublished on Jan. 7 2012 by Daffy Bibliophile
Orwell's semi-autobiographical novel on his experiences of being "Down and Out in Paris and London" has a strong socialist, though occasionally perhaps anti-feminist and... Read morePublished on May 22 2007 by E. Lalonde
Orwell's semi-autobiographical novel on his experiences of being "Down and Out in Paris and London" has a strong socialist, though occasionally perhaps anti-feminist and... Read morePublished on May 17 2007 by E. Lalonde
Like most of us, I read Orwell in high school ("Animal Farm" and "1984") and remained largely unaware that heï¿½d written anything that didnï¿½t involve either... Read morePublished on May 27 2002 by Volkswagen Blues
Orwell's foray into two separate worlds of utter poverty is definitely fascinating. In Paris, he writes clearly of restaurant scutwork and the lives that are wasted in such brutal... Read morePublished on April 18 2002 by alight