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Down and Out in Paris and London (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 27 Sep 2001
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'You have talked so often of going to the dogs - and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them'. George Orwell's vivid memoir of his time among the desperately poor and destitute in London and Paris is a moving tour of the underworld of society. Here he painstakingly documents a world of unrelenting drudgery and squalor - sleeping in bug-infested hostels and doss houses, working as a dishwasher in the vile 'Hoctel X', living alongside tramps, surviving on scraps and cigarette butts - in an unforgettable account of what being down and out is really like.
About the Author
Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950), better known by his pen-name, George Orwell, was born in India, where his father worked for the Civil Service. An author and journalist, Orwell was one of the most prominent and influential figures in twentieth-century literature. His unique political allegory Animal Farm was published in 1945, and it was this novel, together with the dystopia of Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which brought him world-wide fame. His novels and non-fiction include Burmese Days, Down and Out in Paris and London, The Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia.
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The latter part of the book is about his return to London and how he survived day to day living on the streets with tramps and vagabonds and relying on charity for meals and a bed for the night.
This happened before he made his name as an author.
I read this book in an afternoon, I just could not put it down, a very good read!!
Orwell introduces a fascinating and highly diverse range of characters, all of whom he brings to life and weaves into his story of survival on the breadline in the underbelly of two great cultural cities (although he wanders further afield out of London).
The situations are acutely observed and you can almost feel his politics being formed in the stories.
His writing is eminently engrossing and I felt that I was alongside him as one of the unseen and uncared for cogs which make the wheels of life turn.
This is one of those books I have been meaning to get for ages and I am really pleased that it lived up to the wait.
A very enjoyable read which hasn’t dated in style or substance.
Social authority ensures that life is not as bad today as those described I'm Orwells book.
I first read this book over 30 years ago, and on 're-reading"ita lot of it came straight BACK to me--memory is subjective, where I put my glasses or keys often eludes me.
Orwell, whilst having a relatively comfortable life actually did work for a while as a plonguer in Paris,and went on the road as a tramp for a while,some things don't change MUCH, paddys account of sleeping on the Embankment"you don't get many benches there, and they are soon taken,try to get to sleep as soon as possible,as the noise of the trains and dem flashing lights make it nearly impossible to get any"this tale has a certain resonance with anyone trying to sleep at Gatwick north terminal, or Stansted airport,awaiting a very early morning flight, jobsworth, come round at 4am to wake juan up, not that sleep is possible, the clattering wheels of suitcases ensure this.
Pity Orwell is not around to rewrite down and out with a modern twist--onward to Wigan Pier
I have to say,I preferred the chapters when he was in London to those about Paris.Despite graphically depicting his almost unimaginable poverty among it's outrageous characters in all their sickening depravity and squalor to realistic effect,they don't seem to have the sanguine and clear-cut authority when describing the down-and-outs and work houses of London.They contained a simple clarity compared to the more turbulent and perhaps exaggerated life of the scoundrels and rogues of bohemian Paris,that was more immediate and powerful.The descriptions of the Parisians seemed to be have been recounted as detailed fact by comparison.
Although not as powerful and stunning as his famous later book,"The Road to Wigan Pier",Orwell's views on socialism and oppression that have endeared him to the world,can be seen to have been developed here,and that is what makes the book important.
This a book to be 'lived', not read through, and I was disappointed to find I had come to its close.
Just as an aside, I enjoyed the author's closing comments about what he had learned. His comment about the Salvation Army brought memories flooding back of, many years ago, my father saying he would give nothing to the Salvation Army, ever agin. His own father had died, a very comfortably off gentleman, and he had much underwear, completely new, some still in its wrappers, long johns and such like. My father took it to the SA and it was refused out of hand. How very much use those garments could have been to their visitors.
Yes, there is SO much to be learned from this book.
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