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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 (44 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 19.95 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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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
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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5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Kitchen and Hitchin´¿ Confidential May 27 2002
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 talking Trotskyite animals or a terrifyingly functional dystopia. A friend of mine gave me ´¿Down and Out in Paris and London´¿ a month ago, and I was unable to put it down until I was done. In what is basically the chronicle of a couple of months of self-induced misery, Orwell explodes a lot of myths surrounding poverty and the spirit-breaking labor that is, for many, the only exit from it.
We know the gist of the book: Orwell sets up shop amongst the ´¿common people,´¿ first washing dishes in various Paris restaurants and then tramping around London and environs. Proceeding via introductions and anecdotes--some hilariously funny, others downright heart-rending--´¿Down and Out in Paris and London´¿ offers a detailed tour of a side of life that most of us will only ever read about. From the painstaking descriptions of exactly what kind of muck is to be found on the floor of a restaurant´¿s kitchen in 1920s and 1930s Paris (you don´¿t want to know, but he tells you) to elaborations on how to skirt begging laws in London and the dangers associated with such living, Orwell makes his points, one after the other. To his credit, though, there is little dogmatic moralizing; when, at the end of the book, he tells you what he´¿s learned, he doesn´¿t seem to feel the need to shove down the reader´¿s throat what is clearly stuck in his own. The feeling is strong, though, that you´¿d have to be blind, crazy or both, not to reach the same conclusions.
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4.0 out of 5 stars All too realistic April 18 2002
By alight
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 conditions. The pettiness and sweat that comprise the days are remarkable for their constancy, and Orwell does an excellent job conveying the mind-numbing exhaustion that accompanies 18-hour days. Alternating such long days with periods of job searches, this section provides a still-relevant look at those who live a single paycheck from homelessness.
London has a different pace, as Orwell spends a month tramping about while waiting for a job to come through. His happiness at being back in England is obvious, and regular comments about the friendliness and pure spirit of the English people get a little repetitive, but he uses those feelings to make an important point. Closing the chapter is a short address that speaks of poverty and English laws that made it extremely difficult to establish any sort of regular life; he brings the still-present plight of the homeless into sharp relief. His points about certain institutions "stinking of charity" are fantastic food for thought for anyone employed in the social services.
With such insight into poverty, his casual rascism is jolting. Easy and frequent references to Jews, Irish, Russians, and pretty much everyone who isn't a native Englishman are abysmally in key with the times the book was written, and it gets tiresome. Ultimately, it is disappointing that a writer can be so passionate about overthrowing the stereotype of the "tramp monster", and yet so thoughtlessly perpetuate the idea that all Jews have large noses, wiry black hair, and cheat everyone they have dealings with. These attitudes will lessen the overall value of this work for some readers, but there is still much to gain from giving it a try.
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Most recent customer reviews
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 16 months ago by Ben Montpellier
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 22 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
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale of poverty
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... Read more
Published on June 2 2009 by Sam
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
3.0 out of 5 stars La Vache Enragée
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... Read more
Published on Jan. 23 2007 by Craobh Rua
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
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite Orwell Book
Orwell was the type of writer who was so
dedicated to his calling that he abandoned his
petty bourgeois ways to take up with the
scavengers, feeding off the crumbs... Read more
Published on Feb. 9 2002 by Patrick Julian Cassidy
5.0 out of 5 stars Poverty in Europe
In Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell brings to life the tales of people experiencing poverty in Paris and London. Read more
Published on Nov. 5 2001 by Patrick Easley
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