- Publisher: PENGUIN CLASSICS
- Format: Paperback | 256 pages
- Dimensions: 126mm x 196mm x 18mm | 200g
- Publication date: 1 December 2001
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0141184388
- ISBN 13: 9780141184388
- Sales rank: 1,731
George Orwell's vivid memoir of his time living among the desperately poor and destitute, Down and Out in Paris and London is a moving tour of the underworld of society from the author of 1984, published with an introduction by Dervla Murphy in Penguin Modern Classics. 'You have talked so often of going to the dogs - and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them.' Written when Orwell was a struggling writer in his twenties, it documents his 'first contact with poverty'. Here, he painstakingly documents a world of unrelenting drudgery and squalor - sleeping in bug-infested hostels and doss houses of last resort, working as a dishwasher in Paris' vile 'Hotel X', surviving on scraps and cigarette butts, living alongside tramps, a star-gazing pavement artist and a starving Russian ex-army captain. Exposing a shocking, previously-hidden world to his readers, Orwell gave a human face to the statistics of poverty for the first time - and in doing so, found his voice as a writer. If you enjoyed Down and Out in Paris and London, you might like Homage to Catalonia, also available in Penguin Modern Classics. "Orwell was the great moral force of his age." (Spectator). "The white-hot reaction of a sensitive, observant, compassionate young man to poverty." (Dervla Murphy).
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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. George Orwell died in London in January 1950.
By Maureen McDonald 20 Jun 2013
A very interesting read which will lend insight into the life of poverty.
The tale is part-fact, part-fiction as it is woven out of events in Orwell's own life. And what an unusual tale he had to tell!
This book falls into two distinct parts, both with an underlying common theme, the revealing of poverty at close range. Not an appealing subject, you will say. But have a look at the book and catch the strange fascination of the telling. First there is Paris, not the Paris of the boulevards or the Bois, nor yet of the Latin Quarter. But Paris of the slums, the Paris of those who live a precarious existence, always on the verge of actual starvation, a hand to mouth existence, from pawn shop to pawn shop. The youth who is telling of his own experiences, and of those around him, eventually lands a job as a dishwasher behind the scenes of a smart hotel restaurant. Vivid and lurid and unappetizing, are the pictures he gives of what goes on behind the scenes, human and otherwise. The second part of the book brings him to England, and the story recalls Josiah Flint's TRAMPING WITH TRAMPS, that expose of our own hobodom. Here is the English side of the picture today, exaggerated by the unemployment situation and the aftermath of war. It is particularly timely in showing the measures in active use for dealing with the many sorts and conditions of men who have hit the trail today, and who travel in hordes from one encampment to another. One wonders, in reading this book whether there is not here another Thomas Burke in the making. (Kirkus Reviews)