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Down and Out in Paris and London (Essential Penguin) [Paperback]

George Orwell
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
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Book Description

25 Feb 1999

Orwell's record of a period in the late Twenties when he lived among the tramps, dregs and plongeurs of London and Paris.

'It is the white-hot reaction of a sensitive observant, compassionate young man to poverty, injustice and the callousness ofthe rich ... It offers insights rather than solutions; but always insights have to precded solutions .... No one has ever claimed Down and Out is its author's best book, yet many of his admirers describe it as their favourite Orwell. Its flaws are numerous, but oddly endearing.'

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Down and Out in Paris and London (Essential Penguin) + The Road to Wigan Pier (Penguin Modern Classics) + Homage to Catalonia (Penguin Modern Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (25 Feb 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140282564
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140282566
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 11 x 18 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 193,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

George Orwell is one of England's most famous writers and social commentators. Among his works are the classic political satire Animal Farm and the dystopian nightmare vision Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell was also a prolific essayist, and it is for these works that he was perhaps best known during his lifetime. They include Why I Write and Politics and the English Language. His writing is at once insightful, poignant and entertaining, and continues to be read widely all over the world.

Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell) was born in 1903 in India, where his father worked for the Civil Service. The family moved to England in 1907 and in 1917 Orwell entered Eton, where he contributed regularly to the various college magazines. From 1922 to 1927 he served with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, an experience that inspired his first novel, Burmese Days (1934). Several years of poverty followed. He lived in Paris for two years before returning to England, where he worked successively as a private tutor, schoolteacher and bookshop assistant, and contributed reviews and articles to a number of periodicals. Down and Out in Paris and London was published in 1933. In 1936 he was commissioned by Victor Gollancz to visit areas of mass unemployment in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) is a powerful description of the poverty he saw there.

At the end of 1936 Orwell went to Spain to fight for the Republicans and was wounded. Homage to Catalonia is his account of the civil war. He was admitted to a sanatorium in 1938 and from then on was never fully fit. He spent six months in Morocco and there wrote Coming Up for Air. During the Second World War he served in the Home Guard and worked for the BBC Eastern Service from 1941 to 1943. As literary editor of the Tribune he contributed a regular page of political and literary commentary, and he also wrote for the Observer and later for the Manchester Evening News. His unique political allegory, Animal Farm was published in 1945, and it was this novel, together with Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which brought him world-wide fame.

It was around this time that Orwell's unique political allegory Animal Farm (1945) was published. The novel is recognised as a classic of modern political satire and is simultaneously an engaging story and convincing allegory. It was this novel, together with Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which finally brought him world-wide fame. Nineteen Eighty-Four's ominous depiction of a repressive, totalitarian regime shocked contemporary readers, but ensures that the book remains perhaps the preeminent dystopian novel of modern literature.

Orwell's fiercely moral writing has consistently struck a chord with each passing generation. The intense honesty and insight of his essays and non-fiction made Orwell one of the foremost social commentators of his age. Added to this, his ability to construct elaborately imaginative fictional worlds, which he imbued with this acute sense of morality, has undoubtedly assured his contemporary and future relevance.

George Orwell died in London in January 1950.

Product Description


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 an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

George Orwell, real name Eric Blair, was born in 1903 in Bengal but educated at Eton. He served with the Indian Impreial Poice, and later came to Europe, doing a series of ill-paid jobs which led to his writing DOWN AND OUT IN PARIS AND LONDON. He fought in the Spanish Civl War the the Republicans, but in later years became disillusioned with the aims of Communism, which lead to the writing of his two magnificent political satires Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty Four. He died in 1950.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Down and Out - read it 9 Nov 2006
If ever there was a book deserving the title 'modern classic', this is it. A thought provoking and subtle collection of anecdotes that will make you laugh and out loud and balk at the extremes of poverty described in equal measure. The fact that Orwell avoides self indulgence and manages to evoke a genuine sense of compassion is truely remarkable and whatever your political orientation, having read this book it is hard to feel anything but respect for the man.

Despite its age, down and out still strikes a resonant chord in the modern world and while much has changed in the intervening years, there are still enough parralels with todays society to make you take stock of the world we live in.

I greatly enjoyed this book and recommend everyone to read it.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sobering book 30 Jan 2007
George Orwell felt awkward for being middle class, once he started to make a bit of money as an author this added to his awkwardness and he spent a lot of time in dank and impoverished surroundings.

This book is largely autobiographic, it tells of his time spent with the homeless. Orwell would pretend to be a tramp, not just pretend - he would live as a tramp from time to time. It was his time as a tramp that feed the ideas in this book.

Orwell writes about the camaraderie in the tramp community with warmth, you can feel his fondness for the people he is writing about.

The tramp experience covers only the second part of the book.

The first part describes the life of Parisian hotel/restaurant kitchen workers. It isn't glamorous. It is a life devoid of love, warmth, and happiness. Boris is the star of the "Paris" part of this book.

This is not only one of Orwell's finest pieces of work, it is a book that changes how you feel about life. When I read this book I was struggling financially - but this book put things in perspective, and I still imagine scenes in this book when times are hard.

The contrast between the "Paris" and "London" aspects of the book couldn't be more different, even though both are concerning that corner of society who seem to have nothing.

Read this book on the bus/train on the commute to work and you'll get lost in the dark visuals it inspires. The book had many place names and people's names removed for fear of being libellous, at first this seems clumsy but you get used to it.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poverty and dirt in the 1920�s 15 Feb 2003
One word to describe this book would be "grimy" although that does not convey the wonderful writing style of Orwell- perhaps "almost glamorous grime" would be better. Never have I read such a good book that describes the poverty, dirt and atmosphere of the early twentieth century. The café/hotel culture of Paris and sharing tiny rooms with an assortment of characters in Paris seems to come alive with wit and verve. Similarly the boarding houses and homeless hostels "spikes" in London are gloomier but no less interesting.
Orwell introduces us to many eccentric people without the sexual overstatement that flawed Miller's Tropic Of Cancer- also set in Paris. The detail of the work washing pots and cooking food in the bowels of hotels in France is an eye opener as is the treatment of the homeless in London. Among the day-to-day living Orwell gives us some fascinating facts such as the (lack of) hygiene in the most expensive Parisian restaurants and that there were almost no homeless females in the 1920's.
Orwell's style is always gripping and we can see the beginnings of what he was later to refine further into 1984 and Animal Farm among other works. This is an excellent read that I would recommend to all- it has a wonderful mix of character, style, atmosphere and fact that is irresistible.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The road before The Wigan Pier 25 Sep 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Orwell was ahead of his time, really, as his incredibly crisp and intelligent writing will show. Following his 'adventures' through abject poverty, he writes philosophically on his situation and with a very constructive and forgiving manner. He treats things more like an experiment than a terrible situation, his tone as if he did it all for a laugh. Mind you, some of the people who he meets are truly fascinating, in particular the through and through communist, who when totally drunk, becomes a straight faced patriot. Bozo, too, was a tragic figure, but a remarkable man with magnificent outlooks. Reading it made me feel like Orwell was still alive, just simple looking back on his days of youth with all the modern world around him. Instead, the rather depressing knowledge that everyone in that book is now dead. Orwell would have a interesting thing to say about that, I'm sure. One final word, the book is brilliant.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ORWELL'S FIRST MASTERPIECE 26 Oct 1998
By A Customer
Most people are only familiar with Orwell through either Animal Farm or 1984, but Orwell has so much more to offer than just these two excellent books. Take Down and Out In Paris and London for example, it can be considered Orwell's first masterpiece as well as just his first book. In Down and Out In Paris and London the reader is given a glimpse at the dirty streets of both Paris and London in the 1930's, but through the unique eyes of Orwell. Not only does the reader see what it is to be "down and out" in these two world cities, but also the reader experiences why people become "down and out" through Orwell's narrative. We as readers learn that most of the people that are out on the street are not there by their own choice, but rather by the most unfortunate of circumstances. If one wants to experience Orwell, but not read the overread Animal Farm or 1984, read Down and Out In Paris and London because it is truly one of the early treats that Orwell produced. However, one must have an elementary background in French since many of the Paris scenes have French dialogue, and it would be most helpful to have this French knowledge to truly understand the book .
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very moving
I love this book because Orwell has such a great way of describing the richness of life. From his moves from wretched poverty to keeping his head above water he paints such an... Read more
Published 7 days ago by Alex
5.0 out of 5 stars Down and Out - Read it
I loved this book written by Winston Churchill's favourite author. Written in the 1930's when the term homeless person did not exist and the destitute were referred to as tramps. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Zya Twain
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely amazing
If by any chance you've been only familiar with Orwell's 1984 and / or Animal Farm, you must read this book as it is at the same time very different and also set the basis for... Read more
Published 22 days ago by Yuriy Akopov
5.0 out of 5 stars Super book
A well known classic from Orwell and for me a 'must read'. You should also try to get your hands on 'Why I write' - a small book probably out of print but I found one in our local... Read more
Published 1 month ago by KNUT
5.0 out of 5 stars Adds to my admiration for Orwell
Not many ex-public school boys would have had the confidence and self denial to live as Orwell did, literally down and out and starving for brief periods as described in this book. Read more
Published 1 month ago by A. Frost
4.0 out of 5 stars highly recommended
George Orwell's first book, very funny and well written particularly in the first part. The French capital in the 1930s feels quite a grotty place, not your imaginary 'City of... Read more
Published 1 month ago by X.W.
4.0 out of 5 stars Honest and compelling
Like other Orwell books it read like a conversation with him, an honest account that didn't feel pretentious or designed to show his superior insight. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Brendan Kelly
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
this was one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read, buy it for its easy to read style1
Published 1 month ago by Mr. William Land
3.0 out of 5 stars Down and out in London and Paris
I read some of this book many years ago when at school in the 70's so decided to buy it for my Kindle. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mike Sturman
3.0 out of 5 stars book club
the book itself was ok but when i did a bit of research on it i found that george orwell was untrue in lots of the claims he made and the book was rather manufactured to sell it at... Read more
Published 3 months ago by mike ulph
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