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Down and Out in Paris and London Audio CD – Dec 1 1998
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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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
"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.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Written in Orwell's to the point fashion, this is his life while progressing to be the great writer he became. Read morePublished 4 months ago by bookweasel
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 21 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
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