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Keep the Aspidistra Flying Paperback – March 19, 1969

4.1 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews

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London, 1936. Gordon Comstock has declared war on the money god; and Gordon is losing the war. Nearly 30 and "rather moth-eaten already," a poet whose one small book of verse has fallen "flatter than any pancake," Gordon has given up a "good" job and gone to work in a bookshop at half his former salary. Always broke, but too proud to accept charity, he rarely sees his few friends and cannot get the virginal Rosemary to bed because (or so he believes), "If you have no money ... women won't love you." On the windowsill of Gordon's shabby rooming-house room is a sickly but unkillable aspidistra--a plant he abhors as the banner of the sort of "mingy, lower-middle-class decency" he is fleeing in his downward flight. In Keep the Aspidistra Flying, George Orwell has created a darkly compassionate satire to which anyone who has ever been oppressed by the lack of brass, or by the need to make it, will all too easily relate. He etches the ugly insanity of what Gordon calls "the money-world" in unflinching detail, but the satire has a second edge, too, and Gordon himself is scarcely heroic. In the course of his misadventures, we become grindingly aware that his radical solution to the problem of the money-world is no solution at all--that in his desperate reaction against a monstrous system, he has become something of a monster himself. Orwell keeps both of his edges sharp to the very end--a "happy" ending that poses tough questions about just how happy it really is. That the book itself is not sour, but constantly fresh and frequently funny, is the result of Orwell's steady, unsentimental attention to the telling detail; his dry, quiet humor; his fascination with both the follies and the excellences of his characters; and his courageous refusal to embrace the comforts of any easy answer. --Daniel Hintzsche


A completely harrowing and stark account of poverty ... written in clear and violent language -- Cyril Connolly --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (March 19, 1969)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156468999
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156468992
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,033 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
It is a bit difficult task to place George Orwell (pen name for Eric Aruthur Blair) in the history of the 20th century English literature. A novelist? A journalist? A critic? Or just a guy who loved propaganda? Whatever it is, he is and will be remembered as the one who wrote "1984" and "Animal Farm." Still, before he wrote these famous works, he wrote a pretty good book of novel, and that is what you're looking at now.
"Keep the Aspidistra Flying" one of the most starange titles you ever see, is about a "poet" (and formerly a copywriter for advertizing company) Gordon Comstock, who, with sudden desire to be free from the curse of money, left this good job and starts the life of an aspiring artist. As he had previously a book of his own poems published (the title "Mice"), and received a review from The Times Literary Supplement, which said "exceptional promise," why not pursue his way as an artist? And his next project "London Pleasure" which must be the next Joyce or Eliot will be completed soon, probably next month, or next year perhaps....
As his misadventure starts, Rosemary, his long-suffering but always faithful sweetheart, naturally is dismayed, and it takes a long time for him to realize that his happiness, whatever it is, is possible with her presence. But aside from the romantic aspect of the novel, which in itself is well-written with good portrait of independent Rosemary, the book attracts us with the author's satire on the middle-classness of England, which is represented by those ugly, die-hard aspidistra decorating the windows of every house. Gordon's loathing of respetability is deftly turned into a dark comedy that attack the parochical mind of some people, sometimes including Gordon himself.
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Format: Paperback
Having completed "Keep the Aspidistra Flying", I have now read all of the novels of George Orwell. I can say with such authority that this one may be his best. George Orwell was, first and foremost, a Socialist and this book is his examination of being a Socialist in a Capitalist world. His hero, Gordon Comstock, is mired in a dead-end job that is just middle-class enough to require proper dress and behavior but not enough to enable him to afford any but the most essential living expenses. We sympathize with him. Or at least we do until we realize that his disdain for the pursuit of money has pointed him in the opposite direction. He is so anti-capitalist that he purposely keeps himself in his lower state. He quit a previous job because it paid too much. He won't strive beyond his current status because then he would enter a higher social status. He is convinced of the righteousness of his beliefs even though he has bled his sister dry "borrowing" money from her over the years. She "lends" him the money because the family always had such high hopes for this erudite young man. Gordon complains, to those that listen, that money is the root of all evil yet he is so ready to be victimized by it. He complains to his girl-friend that she measures him by his net-worth. This isn't true but he can't see that the problem is that HE is measuring himself by his own net-worth. He talks the talk but can't walk the walk. Well, money leads to one disaster of his own making and ends up as the solution to another "disaster" of his own making. I'm sure the prospective reader would prefer to read the book to see how his story ends so I won't go into any more details here.
This novel is enjoyable on many levels.
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Format: Paperback
To the reviewer who claimed this bit of "capitolism bashing" [sic] is not worth half the status of 1984:

Perhaps you're right that it is not as good as that book. I definitely don't see myself reading it more than three times as I have with that one. Unless one is intimately familiar with Orwell's ouvre on the whole-and not just Animal Farm and 1984-I could see how they could come to this conclusion.

However, if you have read any of Orwell's essays (his criticisms of concurrent literature, his defenses of and attacks on socialism, his biographical works), you will see that this book fits in nicely with the rest of his work. If it were just for those two aforementioned books, Orwell would still have a high place in the literary canon, but there is so much more to his style than his writings/warnings against fascism.

I would not recommend reading this one until one has also read Down and Out in Paris and London and Road to Wigan Pier. Once those two have been taken in, the simple beauty of Keep the Aspidistra Flying will be more apparent. In those two relatively lesser-known works, Orwell expounds on the philosophy that is more indicative of his place in literature than the Winston Smith paranoia. One of Orwell's chief concerns in writing, it seems to me, was in displaying how the effects of money can rule one's life more than any government. In Down and Out and Wigan, we see what abject poverty-when it isn't a choice-can do to the human spirit. In Aspidistra, we have a main character-Gordon Comstock-who seems to accept this as a given, and supposes that, when this kind of poverty is a choice, one can break free of the trappings of the capitalistic burden.

This is the thrust of the work.
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