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Down and Out in Paris and London [Audio CD]

George Orwell , Frederick Davidson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 1 1998 0786161477 978-0786161478 Audiobook CD
Orwell’s own experiences inspire this semi-autobiographical novel about a man living in Paris in the early 1930s without a penny. The narrator’s poverty brings him into contact with strange incidents and characters, which he manages to chronicle with great sensitivity and graphic power. The latter half of the book takes the English narrator to his home city, London, where the world of poverty is different in externals only.

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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.


The white-hot reaction of a sensitive, observant, compassionate young man to poverty -- Dervla Murphy Orwell was the great moral force of his age Spectator --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale of poverty June 2 2009
Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell is an incredible story about poverty. Orwell describes the experiences of being out of work, then of working as a plongeur (a dish washer - one of the lowest jobs imaginable) in Paris, and of becoming a tramp in London. Orwell writes beautifully with humour and describes each of the experiences with great details while maintaining the reader's interest. This novel is about poverty, but if you are looking for a story with a proper plot, then this in not the book for you.

The novel is written in first person, yet the protagonist is never named. This story is thought to include many events from Orwell's life. Orwell's stories are magnificent and are those that I always recall because they can be related to the real world.

The protagonist is an Englishman whose money is one day stolen, and as an English teacher, he is left without work because he no longer has any students. The little money he has left is getting spent too quickly, and each day he has less and less. He contacts the only man he seems to know in Paris, and finds that he is, unfortunately, in the same situation - almost penniless and without work. Work is terribly difficult to find. The lodging houses are uncomfortable to sleep in for the night. How does the Englishman deal with poverty?

It is a sad tale that makes you feel grateful that you have a roof above your head; are not forced to eat bread, margarine, and tea as your only meals; and never have to starve yourself for days at a time if you are ever left penniless. It is shocking to see how far vagabonds traveled just for free tea or food.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars La Vache Enragée Jan. 23 2007
George Orwell, whose real name is Eric Blair, was born in India in 1903. He served in Burma with the Indian Imperial Police and spent the end of the 1920s - as any self-respecting author would've done - living in Paris . Orwell later fought for the Republicans against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. He became well-known following the publication of "Animal Farm" (a satire on Soviet Russia) and died in 1950, shortly after the publication of "1984".

"Down and Out in Paris and London" was first published in 1933 and is a largely autobiographical account - though there have been a few tweaks here and there. It covers Orwell's times living on the breadline : working as a plongeur in Paris, being caught out by con-artists and life as a tramp on his return to England. The book was originally called "A Scullion's Diary" and - it would appear - focused only on his days in Paris. After it was rejected a few times, Orwell tried his luck with the stories of his life on the streets in and around London added. To be honest, I find it a pity this happened, as the stories set in Paris are much more readable. While some of the characters we meet - Charlie, for example - are far from admirable, Orwell himself doesn't come out of the book entirely unscathed. His occasional foolishness is forgivable, but his apparent snobbery and insincerity can be a bit hard to take. For example, as the book closes, he comments he'd like to know people like Paddy (a fellow tramp he'd met in England) "intimately". However, on the very same page, the news of Paddy's apparent death is met with barely a shrug of the shoulders : "perhaps my informant was mixing him up with someone else". More honestly, it's clear from how he wrote about Paddy that Orwell considered himself better than his 'mate' and - rather than getting to know him intimately - just didn't care.

Recommended with reservations : if you only read two books by George Orwell, make this your third pick.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Orwell's denial of the post war democracy March 12 2003
By Alisa
In Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell, otherwise known as Eric Blair, introduces his readers to a compelling tale that loosely retraces his own life during the time he spent in Paris and London in the thirties. In this semi-autobiographical chronicle, he records the hardships that he faced as a Parisian "plongeur" (a restaurant worker at the very bottom of the industry's hierarchy) and as a voluntary "tramp" in London. Clearly, Orwell's account is a very personal one; however, it resonates the destitution of so many others who were equally unfortunate to have been the victims of the post-war social reform failure and the subsequent Great Depression that descended upon the world in the late nineteen twenties and thirties.
The author focuses on France and Britain in particular because these two countries, magnificent superpowers of the past, have abandoned their poor in order to pursue different agendas in terms of their political policy. During this era, France was much concerned with securing its borders with Germany. This was a reaction to the Great War, during which France suffered great losses in every aspect. Although Britain was not faced with similar issues as France, it struggled with its political instability that arose in the light of the economic hardship of the Great Depression. Orwell acknowledges the differences between the two countries but insists on the recurring similarities in the treatment of the lowest social class. In his account, Orwell presents several important issues that would most likely be overlooked or altogether unknown to those outside the lower social order that Orwell describes.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Not to my liking ...
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 more
Published 1 day ago by moonfish
4.0 out of 5 stars cencored
Great book, however this version is HEAVILY edited and censored, which is disappointing because it really takes away from the story. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Ben Montpellier
5.0 out of 5 stars A RETURN TO GEORGE ORWELL
Published 18 months ago by Gordon Good
5.0 out of 5 stars A Chronicle Of Life At The Very Bottom
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 more
Published 23 months ago by Patrick Sullivan
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Your Average Tour Guide
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 more
Published on Jan. 7 2012 by Daffy Bibliophile
4.0 out of 5 stars On beind "Down and Out" for those who aren't
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 more
Published on May 22 2007 by E. Lalonde
4.0 out of 5 stars On being "Down and out" for those who aren't
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 more
Published on May 17 2007 by E. Lalonde
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Kitchen and Hitchin´¿ Confidential
Like most of us, I read Orwell in high school ("Animal Farm" and "1984") and remained largely unaware that he´¿d written anything that didn´¿t involve either... Read more
Published on May 27 2002 by Volkswagen Blues
4.0 out of 5 stars All too realistic
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 more
Published on April 18 2002 by alight
5.0 out of 5 stars A Different Point of View
In this book George Orwell describes how it really is being a lower class individual in two of the most famous cities in the world. Read more
Published on March 21 2002 by Josh
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