- Paperback: 196 pages
- Publisher: IndoEuropeanPublishing.com (January 11, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1604443502
- ISBN-13: 978-1604443509
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (263 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,423,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Down and Out in Paris and London
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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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
""The most lucid portrait of poverty in the English languagecombines good narrative with wit, humor, and honest realism."" --The Nation --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
"The current London adjective, now tacked on to every noun is ..."
The second half of the book follows the narrator back to his native England, where he must find a way to get by in London while awaiting a permanent job. Here we are introduced to the tramp's way of life - vagrancy, begging, and sleeping in the cheapest (and filthiest) accomodations available. But we also get to know some of the narrator's fellow tramps, and to feel for them. They are not all the worthless, lazy scum that the higher classes of the time would paint them as. Orwell concludes the book with a brief treatise on the vagrant's plight and ways in which it can be eased, as well as making the tramp a usefull part of society.
Obviously Orwell's closing call-to-action is not entirely relevant anymore, as the workings of society have changed somewhat over the last century, but the book is nevertheless fascinating. A reader may at first be a little thrown off by the lack of a central plot, but once past this it is easy to get sucked into the world Orwell has illustrated here. His imagery is so striking that you actually feel as if you are sharing the narrator's experiences. You can feel the intense heat of the hotel kitchens, feel the weakness and weariness that comes with malnutrition, smell the grease and the sweat and the dirt.
And yet, as bleak as all this sounds, the book is not depressing. The narrator never lapses into dejection or self-pity, and the reader is left with a sense of hope throughout the novel. Being poor is not presented as a dead end - there are always ways to get by, some of them quite ingenious. And the narrator is even able to find humor in some of the truly absurd situations he finds himself in.
Any fan of Orwell's works will not be disappointed with this book. Or even if you've read nothing by Orwell (in which case you absolutely must pick up "1984" at some point), and merely want a glimpse into the life of the poor and jobless at this point in history, this is the book for you. And the fact that the narrator is anonymous (although the story is largely based on Orwell's life, the narrator is not, as some reviewers have claimed, Orwell himself) helps us imagine that he could be anyone, and that even we could be living this life. It's fairly short and easy to read, but opens up a whole world - one that is rarely contemplated in much detail - with it's rich descriptions. Definitely a recommended read.
Unfortunately for Orwell and me, the errors in the Kindle version were quite distracting. For one thing, words that are considered improper have been ---- out. This is a major problem considering the book includes a section specifically about the improper language used in London during the time. Quite a bit of this section is ---- out. Furthermore, there are typos all over the place. I submitted corrections for 23 errors. Stopping every now and again to report content error did not help the flow of the story.
Overall, I am going to try and get my money back for this purchase. Maybe I'll read the story again someday and have a much more pleasing experience.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Though written in the '30s , it is representative of society today with the word Tramp being replaced by...Read more