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Down and Out in Paris and London

Down and Out in Paris and London

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Down and Out in Paris and London

4/5 (90 notas)
238 páginas
4 horas
15 de mar. de 1972


From the author of 1984, George Orwell narrates the journey of a writer among the down-and-out in two great cities in this sobering, truthful portrayal of poverty and society.

Famous for its realistic and unsentimental description of poverty, Down and Out in London and Paris follows the adventures of a penniless British writer who finds himself rapidly descending into the seedy heart of two great European capitals. As a dishwasher in Paris, he describes in vivid detail the horrors of what goes on behind the scenes in the kitchens of posh French restaurants. In London, he encounters the disturbing world of the unhoused and charitable shelters. His adventures conniving landlords and negotiating with pawnshops as he searches for work, food, and lodging are told without self-pity and often with humor.  
15 de mar. de 1972

Sobre o autor

Eric Arthur Blair (1903 – 1950), known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic. His work is characterised by lucid prose, biting social criticism, opposition to totalitarianism, and outspoken support of democratic socialism.***Eric Arthur Blair (1903 – 1950), mais conhecido pelo pseudônimo George Orwell, foi um escritor, jornalista e ensaísta político inglês, nascido na Índia Britânica. Sua obra é marcada por uma inteligência perspicaz e bem-humorada, uma consciência profunda das injustiças sociais, uma intensa oposição ao totalitarismo e uma paixão pela clareza da escrita.

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Down and Out in Paris and London - George Orwell



THE Rue du Coq d’Or, Paris, seven in the morning. A succession of furious, choking yells from the street. Madame Monce, who kept the little hotel opposite mine, had come out on to the pavement to address a lodger on the third floor. Her bare feet were stuck into sabots and her grey hair was streaming down.

Madame Monce: "Salope! Salope! How many times have I told you not to squash bugs on the wallpaper? Do you think you’ve bought the hotel, eh? Why can’t you throw them out of the window like everyone else? Putain! Salope!"

The woman on the third floor: "Vache!"

Thereupon a whole variegated chorus of yells, as windows were flung open on every side and half the street joined in the quarrel. They shut up abruptly ten minutes later, when a squadron of cavalry rode past and people stopped shouting to look at them.

I sketch this scene, just to convey something of the spirit of the Rue du Coq d’Or. Not that quarrels were the only thing that happened there—but still, we seldom got through the morning without at least one outburst of this description. Quarrels, and the desolate cries of street hawkers, and the shouts of children chasing orange-peel over the cobbles, and at night loud singing and the sour reek of the refuse-carts, made up the atmosphere of the street.

It was a very narrow street—a ravine of tall, leprous houses, lurching towards one another in queer attitudes, as though they had all been frozen in the act of collapse. All the houses were hotels and packed to the tiles with lodgers, mostly Poles, Arabs and Italians. At the foot of the hotels were tiny bistros, where you could be drunk for the equivalent of a shilling. On Saturday nights about a third of the male population of the quarter was drunk. There was fighting over women, and the Arab navvies who lived in the cheapest hotels used to conduct mysterious feuds, and fight them out with chairs and occasionally revolvers. At night the policemen would only come through the street two together. It was a fairly rackety place. And yet amid the noise and dirt lived the usual respectable French shopkeepers, bakers and laundresses and the like, keeping themselves to themselves and quietly piling up small fortunes. It was quite a representative Paris slum.

My hotel was called the Hôtel des Trois Moineaux. It was a dark, rickety warren of five storeys, cut up by wooden partitions into forty rooms. The rooms were small and inveterately dirty, for there was no maid, and Madame F., the patronne, had no time to do any sweeping. The walls were as thin as matchwood, and to hide the cracks they had been covered with layer after layer of pink paper, which had come loose and housed innumerable bugs. Near the ceiling long lines of bugs marched all day like columns of soldiers, and at night came down ravenously hungry, so that one had to get up every few hours and kill them in hecatombs. Sometimes when the bugs got too bad one used to burn sulphur and drive them into the next room; whereupon the lodger next door would retort by having his room sulphured, and drive the bugs back. It was a dirty place, but homelike, for Madame F. and her husband were good sorts. The rent of the rooms varied between thirty and fifty francs a week.

The lodgers were a floating population, largely foreigners, who used to turn up without luggage, stay a week and then disappear again. They were of every trade—cobblers, bricklayers, stonemasons, navvies, students, prostitutes, rag-pickers. Some of them were fantastically poor. In one of the attics there was a Bulgarian student who made fancy shoes for the American market. From six to twelve he sat on his bed, making a dozen pairs of shoes and earning thirty-five francs; the rest of the day he attended lectures at the Sorbonne. He was studying for the Church, and books of theology lay face-down on his leather-strewn floor. In another room lived a Russian woman and her son, who called himself an artist. The mother worked sixteen hours a day, darning socks at twenty-five centimes a sock, while the son, decently dressed, loafed in the Montparnasse cafes. One room was let to two different lodgers, one a day worker and the other a night worker. In another room a widower shared the same bed with his two grown-up daughters, both consumptive.

There were eccentric characters in the hotel. The Paris slums are a gathering-place for eccentric people—people who have fallen into solitary, half-mad grooves of life and given up trying to be normal or decent. Poverty frees them from ordinary standards of behaviour, just as money frees people from work. Some of the lodgers in our hotel lived lives that were curious beyond words.

There were the Rougiers, for instance, an old, ragged, dwarfish couple who plied an extraordinary trade. They used to sell post cards on the Boulevard St. Michel. The curious thing was that the post cards were sold in sealed packets as pornographic ones, but were actually photographs of chateaux on the Loire; the buyers did not discover this till too late, and of course never complained. The Rougiers earned about a hundred francs a week, and by strict economy managed to be always half starved and half drunk. The filth of their room was such that one could smell it on the floor below. According to Madame F., neither of the Rougiers had taken off their clothes for four years.

Or there was Henri, who worked in the sewers. He was a tall, melancholy man with curly hair, rather romantic-looking in his long, sewer-man’s boots, Henri’s peculiarity was that he did not speak, except for the purposes of work, literally for days together. Only a year before he had been a chauffeur in good employ and saving money. One day he fell in love, and when the girl refused him he lost his temper and kicked her. On being kicked the girl fell desperately in love with Henri, and for a fortnight they lived together and spent a thousand francs of Henri’s money. Then the girl was unfaithful; Henri planted a knife in her upper arm and was sent to prison for six months. As soon as she had been stabbed the girl fell more in love with Henri than ever, and the two made up their quarrel and agreed that when Henri came out of jail he should buy a taxi and they would marry and settle down. But a fortnight later the girl was unfaithful again, and when Henri came out she was with child. Henri did not stab her again. He drew out all his savings and went on a drinking-bout that ended in another month’s imprisonment; after that he went to work in the sewers. Nothing would induce Henri to talk. If you asked him why he worked in the sewers he never answered, but simply crossed his wrists to signify handcuffs, and jerked his head southward, towards the prison. Bad luck seemed to have turned him half-witted in a single day.

Or there was R., an Englishman, who lived six months of the year in Putney with his parents and six months in France. During his time in France he drank four litres of wine a day, and six litres on Saturdays; he had once travelled as far as the Azores, because the wine there is cheaper than anywhere in Europe. He was a gentle, domesticated creature, never rowdy or quarrelsome, and never sober. He would lie in bed till midday, and from then till midnight he was in his corner of the bistro, quietly and methodically soaking. While he soaked he talked, in a refined, womanish voice, about antique furniture. Except myself, R. was the only Englishman in the quarter.

There were plenty of other people who lived lives just as eccentric as these: Monsieur Jules, the Roumanian, who had a glass eye and would not admit it, Furex the Limousin stonemason, Roucolle the miser—he died before my time, though—old Laurent the rag-merchant, who used to copy his signature from a slip of paper he carried in his pocket. It would be fun to write some of their biographies, if one had time, I am trying to describe the people in our quarter, not for the mere curiosity, but because they are all part of the story. Poverty is what I am writing about, and I had my first contact with poverty in this slum. The slum, with its dirt and its queer lives, was first an object-lesson in poverty, and then the background of my own experiences. It is for that reason that I try to give some idea of what life was like there.


LIFE in the quarter. Our bistro, for instance, at the foot of the Hôtel des Trois Moineaux. A tiny brick-floored room, half underground, with wine-sodden tables, and a photograph of a funeral inscribed "Crédit est mort; and red-sashed workmen carving sausage with big jack-knives; and Madame F., a splendid Auvergnat peasant woman with the face of a strong-minded cow, drinking Malaga all day for her stomach"; and games of dice for apéritifs; and songs about "Les Fraises et Les Framboises, and about Madelon, who said, Comment épouser un soldat, moi qui aime tout le régiment?"; and extraordinarily public love-making. Half the hotel used to meet in the bistro in the evenings. I wish one could find a pub in London a quarter as cheery.

One heard queer conversations in the bistro. As a sample I give you Charlie, one of the local curiosities, talking.

Charlie was a youth of family and education who had run away from home and lived on occasional remittances. Picture him very pink and young, with the fresh cheeks and soft brown hair of a nice little boy, and lips excessively red and wet, like cherries. His feet are tiny, his arms abnormally short, his hands dimpled like a baby’s. He has a way of dancing and capering while he talks, as though he were too happy and too full of life to keep still for an instant. It is three in the afternoon, and there is no one in the bistro except Madame F. and one or two men who are out of work; but it is all the same to Charlie whom he talks to, so long as he can talk about himself. He declaims like an orator on a barricade, rolling the words on his tongue and gesticulating with his short arms. His small, rather piggy eyes glitter with enthusiasm. He is, somehow, profoundly disgusting to see.

He is talking of love, his favourite subject.

"Ah, l’amour, l’amour! Ah, que les femmes m’ont tué! Alas, messieurs et dames, women have been my ruin, beyond all hope my ruin. At twenty-two I am utterly worn out and finished. But what things I have learned, what abysses of wisdom have I not plumbed! How great a thing it is to have acquired the true wisdom, to have become in the highest sense of the word a civilised man, to have become raffiné, vicieux," etc. etc.

"Messieurs et dames, I perceive that you are sad. Ah, mais la vie est belle—you must not be sad. Be more gay, I beseech you!

"Fill high ze bowl vid Samian vine,

Ve vill not sink of semes like zese!

"Ah, que la vie est belle! Listen, messieurs et dames, out of the fullness of my experience I will discourse to you of love. I will explain to you what is the true meaning of love—what is the true sensibility, the higher, more refined pleasure which is known to civilised men alone. I will tell you of the happiest day of my life. Alas, but I am past the time when I could know such happiness as that. It is gone for ever—the very possibility, even the desire for it, are gone.

"Listen, then. It was two years ago; my brother was in Paris—he is a lawyer—and my parents had told him to find me and take me out to dinner. We hate each other, my brother and I, but we preferred not to disobey my parents. We dined, and at dinner he grew very drunk upon three bottles of Bordeaux. I took him back to his hotel, and on the way I bought a bottle of brandy, and when we had arrived I made my brother drink a tumberful of it—I told him it was something to make him sober. He drank it, and immediately he fell down like somebody in a fit, dead drunk. I lifted him up and propped his back against the bed; then I went through his pockets, I found eleven hundred francs, and with that I hurried down the stairs, jumped into a taxi, and escaped. My brother did not know my address—I was safe.

"Where does a man go when he has money? To the bordels, naturally. But you do not suppose that I was going to waste my time on some vulgar debauchery fit only for navvies? Confound it, one is a civilised man! I was fastidious, exigeant, you understand, with a thousand francs in my pocket. It was midnight before I found what I was looking for. I had fallen in with a very smart youth of eighteen, dressed en smoking and with his hair cut à l’américaine, and we were talking in a quiet bistro away from the boulevards. We understood one another well, that youth and I. We talked of this and that, and discussed ways of diverting oneself. Presently we took a taxi together and were driven away.

"The taxi stopped in a narrow, solitary street with a single gas-lamp flaring at the end. There were dark puddles among the stones. Down one side ran the high, blank wall of a convent. My guide led me to a tall, ruinous house with shuttered windows, and knocked several times at the door. Presently there was a sound of footsteps and a shooting of bolts, and the door opened a little. A hand came round the edge of it; it was a large, crooked hand, that held itself palm upwards under our noses, demanding money.

"My guide put his foot between the door and the step. ‘How much do you want?’ he said.

"‘A thousand francs,’ said a woman’s voice. ‘Pay up at once or you don’t come in.’

"I put a thousand francs into the hand and gave the remaining hundred to my guide: he said good night and left me. I could hear the voice inside counting the notes, and then a thin old crow of a woman in a black dress put her nose out and regarded me suspiciously before letting me in. It was very dark inside: I could see nothing except a flaring gas-jet that illuminated a patch of plaster wall, throwing everything else into deeper shadow. There was a smell of rats and dust. Without speaking, the old woman lighted a candle at the gas-jet, then hobbled in front of me down a stone passage to the top of a flight of stone steps.

"‘Voilà!’ she said; ‘go down into the cellar there and do what you like. I shall see nothing, hear nothing, know nothing. You are free, you understand—perfectly free.’

"Ha, messieurs, need I describe to you—forcément, you know it yourselves—that shiver, half of terror and half of joy, that goes through one at these moments? I crept down, feeling my way; I could hear my breathing and the scraping of my shoes on the stones, otherwise all was silence. At the bottom of the stairs my hand met an electric switch. I turned it, and a great electrolier of twelve red globes flooded the cellarwith a red light. And behold, I was not in a cellar, but in a bedroom, a great, rich, garish bedroom, coloured blood red from top to bottom. Figure it to yourselves, messieurs et dames! Red carpet on the floor, red paper on the walls, red plush on the chairs, even the ceiling red; everywhere red, burning into the eyes. It was a heavy, stifling red, as though the light were shining through bowls of blood. At the far end stood a huge, square bed, with quilts red like the rest, and on it a girl was lying, dressed in a frock of red velvet. At the sight of me she shrank away and tried to hide her knees under the short dress.

"I had halted by the door. ‘Come here, my chicken,’ I called to her.

"She gave a whimper of fright. With a bound I was beside the bed; she tried to elude me, but I seized her by the throat—like this, do you see?—tight! She struggled, she began to cry out for mercy, but I held her fast, forcing back her head and staring down into her face. She was twenty years old, perhaps; her face was the broad, dull face of a stupid child, but it was coated with paint and powder, and her blue, stupid eyes, shining in the red light, wore that shocked, distorted look that one sees nowhere save in the eyes of these women. She was some peasant girl, doubtless, whom her parents had sold into slavery.

"Without another word I pulled her off the bed and threw her on to the floor. And then I fell upon her like a tiger! Ah, the joy, the incomparable rapture of that time! There, messieurs et dames, is what I would expound to you; voilà l’amour! There is the true love, there is the only thing in the world worth striving for; there is the thing beside which all your arts and ideals, all your philosophies and creeds, all your fine words and high attitudes, are as pale and profitless as ashes. When one has experienced love—the true love—what is there in the world that seems more than a mere ghost of joy?

"More and more savagely I renewed the attack. Again and again the girl tried to escape; she cried out for mercy anew, but I laughed at her.

"‘Mercy!’ I said, ‘do you suppose I have come here to show mercy? Do you suppose I have paid a thousand francs for that?’ I swear to you, messieurs et dames, that if it were not for that accursed law that robs us of our liberty, I would have murdered her at that moment.

"Ah, how she screamed, with what bitter cries of agony. But there was no one to hear them; down there under the streets of Paris we were as secure as at the heart of a pyramid. Tears streamed down the girl’s face, washing away the powder in long, dirty smears. Ah, that irrecoverable time! You, messieurs et dames, you who have not cultivated the finer sensibilities of love, for you such pleasure is almost beyond conception. And I too, now that my youth is gone—ah, youth!—shall never again see life so beautiful as that. It is finished.

"Ah yes, it is gone—gone for ever. Ah, the poverty, the shortness, the disappointment of human joy! For in reality—car en réalité, what is the duration of the supreme moment of love? It is nothing, an instant, a second perhaps. A second of ecstasy, and after that—dust, ashes, nothingness.

"And so, just for one instant, I captured the supreme happiness, the highest and most refined emotion to which human beings can attain. And in the same moment it was finished, and I was left—to what? All my savagery, my passion, were scattered like the petals of a rose. I was left cold and languid, full of vain regrets; in my revulsion I even felt a kind of pity for the weeping girl on the floor. Is it not nauseous, that we should be the prey

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  • (3/5)
    This is Orwell's first major work, a non-fiction journal account of his own travels among the tramps in Paris and London during the Great Depression. Though I found the tales amusing, this reads like an early work-- not as tight as his later accounts, like Road to Wigan Pier, which is in my Top 10 of all time. Still, his analysis is spot on, but there's little of it; most of this book is travel vignettes. Recommended if you're in interested in Orwell's canon. Otherwise, not his best if you're only going to read one.
  • (4/5)
    An investigation into the what and the why of the poor based on Orwell's own experiences in Paris and London during the 1920s / early 30s. How much is memoir and how much is fiction is hard to tell, but I expect a lot of the detail is based on fact. The first section deals with Paris. Here Orwell (or the narrator who we presume is Orwell) describes the lives of the destitute. He meets a Russian called Boris that leads him into a job as a plongeur, the lowest rung on the hotel kitchen staff ladder. This entails very long hours of hard work in dirty and hot conditions. A host of characters and anecdotes pass by until Orwell gets a job in London, except he has to wait a month for it to begin, during which time he lives on the road with a tramp called Paddy. This was much different to Paris. Tramps, because of the law, could not spend more than one night a month in the same 'spike' hence they wandered (still wander?) the countryside moving from one hostel to another. As in Paris we learn something of what it is like to be hungry and treated with little respect.

    Following each half of the book Orwell gives a chapter over to some more considered thoughts on the lives of plongeurs and tramps. He likens the life of a plongeur to a slave, but a slave doing work that is not even necessary but down to fear of the mob. Tramps he finds are often victims of vagrancy laws that keep them moving and when the are not moving they are effectively held in cells. This to no real end other than to appease the perception that they are all thieves and blackguards.

    "Then the question arises, Why are beggars despised?- for they are despised universally. I believe it is for the simple reason that they fail to earn a decent living. In practice nobody cares whether work is useful or useless, productive or parasitic; the sole thing demanded is that it shall be profitable. In all the modern talk about energy, efficiency, social service and the rest of it, what meaning is there except 'Get money, get it legally, and get a lot of it'? money has become the grand test of virtue. "

    "It is curious how people take it for granted that they have a right to preach at you and pray over you as soon as your income falls below a certain level."

  • (5/5)
    a great book
  • (5/5)
    This memoir, the first book published by George Orwell, is a fascinating look at the different manners in which the British and French society dealt with poverty in the late 1920s.
  • (5/5)
    My first FS collectable and I am very impressed with the quality. What's more, it has a ribbon marker.
  • (3/5)
    An interesting semi-anthropological account of life at the lowest rungs of society in Paris and London by a young Orwell. One senses a sensitive wilfulness in choosing such a life as well as the intense tiredness that scraping by as a dishwasher in a filthy Paris kitchen leaves one. Some of the writing is a bit clunky, particularly the introductions to chapters where he reflects back on the lot of a dishwasher, or a tramp, but already you can see the clear-eyed observation going on behind his eyes. A quick read for me. I read it after reading Keep the Aspidistra Flying, and I rather preferred the novel to the non-fiction because it was better structured and had a strain of black humor going through it.
  • (5/5)
    As the title suggests, this book is about Orwell's time as a down-and-out in Paris and London. As most people are not used to this mode of existence, it was educational. It was also very easy to read and entertaining due to Orwell's skill at writing and eye for amusing anecdotes.During his time in Paris he went through various jobs and forms of accomodation, having to pawn his clothes and go without food for days between finding employment. His existence in London was somewhat rougher, and his insight into the life of the tramps around him is revealing. Having been educated at Eton, and having worked as a journalist, he was able to appreciate the contrast between lives at each end of the social spectrum. I would recommend this to any reader.
  • (5/5)
    Audio CD. Pretty frigging incredible to have a description of the characters, culture, and setting of impoverished Paris and London written by a true master of language, narrative, and dialogue. And Patrick Tull kills, as anyone who has heard him knows.
  • (2/5)
    This was terribly repetitive, but maybe that was part of the point. When a person is down and out, perhaps the only option is more of the same until something happens to make matters worse, or, rarely, make things better. The foregone conclusion of this book was that the main character would make out fine (an educated Englishman apparently has more options) so it was difficult to really empathize when things went wrong. I do think I could have gotten what I needed from the book by reading the first few chapters and the last one, without missing anything substantial.
  • (5/5)
    A vivid personal account about the "fringes" of poverty and a timeless work of journalism. I was amazed at how many differences there are in the London and Paris episodes recounted here. Sadly, this seems like a work that will be perpetually relevant, even as politics and policies shift.
  • (4/5)
    Orwell pens a convincing story, so seemingly personal that I still don't believe it should be classified as "fiction." In the vein of a journal adapted for reading, this book also has the feeling of being a piece of journalism. Down and Out in Paris and London is not merely a fictional memoir, it is a expose on the working poor and those below the lowest of society. From Orwell's transition from "being" in Paris to scraping by in London and the end of the book, he offers some scathing observations and suggestions on how to help out those stuck toiling just for a slice of bread and butter once a day.
  • (4/5)
    An interesting and fast read on poverty in Paris and London. Although Orwell experienced and wrote this long ago, many of his observations still seem relevant today. His description of hotel kitchens and "casual wards" will stick with me for a very long time. Also, I enjoyed his little notes at the very end giving suggestions on how to make the lives of those living in poverty just slightly easier. Although this book wasn't as much of a "thinker" as 1984 or Animal Farm, this book gives new insight to the life of the poor. The only reason I gave this 4 starts instead of 5 was that the book seemed somewhat superficial. Even Orwell mentions near the end that he wishes he could have delved further into the lives of the people he met. I would have loved to learn more about the mindset of the people that he interacted with. From what I can see from the glances we get in the book, so many of these people have adapted to the life of poverty in a way that is probably unthinkable to people never having gone through it.
  • (4/5)
    'down and out in Paris and London,' is a very good insight into what it would be like to live in the lower class societies of both cities in the nineteen-thirties. It isn't just somebody looking from the outside, but Orwell actually experiences the poverty himself. Therefore this book doesn't hide anything from the reader.The characters that Orwell meets along the way really brings the story to life. A well written book that brings some issues in society to the forefront.
  • (4/5)
    Wasn't sure what to expect with this one, but found it immensely enjoyable. I found the details of Orwell's life in poverty in both Paris and London to be very interesting and written extremely well. The 'action' is interspersed occasionally with commentary on various situations which made me think about the enormous differences between society in the early 20th century and today. Despite its age the book is extremely accesible and I'll be looking to more of the authors memoirs.
  • (4/5)
    The title isn't pretentious; it doesn't claim to be something it isn't. This book is, quite literally, about being down and out in Paris and London. Having been published in 1933 it is, as far as I know, the first full-length book that Orwell published. However early it comes in his career, you can sense some of the nascent ideas and concerns that would haunt his work for the rest of his life: the virtues of democratic socialism and the plight of the working poor. In Paris, Orwell takes a job as a plongeur in an anonymous hotel. He trenchantly describes the "caste system" that exists within all of the finest hotels in Paris, from the manager to the lowest of the low, the dishwashers. His work is grueling, lasting up to fourteen or sixteen hours a day, only to go home, get almost no sleep, and have to do the same thing the next day, six days a week. While in Paris, he befriends an ex-military Russian by the name of Boris who is much the same predicament. Eager to find a job that allowed more than a few hours of sleep every night, he eventually quits his job and heads to London. When he arrives in London, he is without a job and is forced to live in hostels and lodging houses. Because of British law which says that you can't stay in the same one for more than a few days, he is forced into becoming a transient. In London, he meets several people, including the Irishman Paddy and Bozo, a street artist. His ability to relate to them as more than simply "homeless" people is extraordinarily honest and sincere. He openly admits that these people are every bit as interesting (sometimes more so) than the middle-class Parisians and Londoners who walk the city streets and look down on Orwell and his friends. The details of his day-to-day life can be debilitating to anyone with even a soupcon of optimism, but the book isn't without its gems. There are a handful of times when Orwell interrupts the action of the novel and interjects his critical social commentary. Even though they only last a couple of pages a piece, this constitutes some of the best writing in the book, reminiscent his greatest essays. This is a shining example, from Chapter XXXIV on "tramps":"To take a fundamental question about vagrancy: Why do tramps exist at all? It is a curious thing, but very few people know what makes a tramp take to the road. And, because of the belief in the tramp-monster, the most fantastic reasons are suggested. It is said, for instance, that tramps tramp to avoid work, to beg more easily, to seek opportunities for crime, even - least probable of reasons - because they like tramping. I have even read in a book of criminology that the tramp in an atavism, a throwback to the nomadic stage of humanity. And meanwhile the quite obvious cause of vagrancy is staring one in the face. Of course a tramp is not a nomadic atavism - one might as well say that a commercial traveler is an atavism. A tramp tramps, not because he likes it, but for the same reason as a car keeps to the left; because there happens to be a law compelling him to do so. A destitute man, if he is not supported by the parish, can only get relief at the casual wards, and as each casual ward will only admit him for one night, he is automatically kept moving. He is a vagrant because, in the state of the law, it is that or starve. But people have been brought up to believe in the tramp-monster, and so they prefer to think that there must be some more of less villainous motive for tramping" (p. 201).
  • (3/5)
    A look at poverty and street life through the eyes of a dish washer.An interesting read and a downer at times.
  • (4/5)
    A great debut book. Orwell demonstrates his obvious journalistic talents.
  • (5/5)
    Great recollection by Orwell on his pseudo-investigative days as a bum in Paris and England. This guy was no armchair philosopher.
  • (4/5)
    Orwell is the original Gonzo journalist. Honestly written, Orwell exposes the real underbelly of Paris and London by putting himself directly in the flow of filth produced by the wealthy. Highly recommended, fantastic work.
  • (4/5)
    I read both 1984 and Animal Farm in high school and found the first to be quite tedious while the second was quite good, and I read a number of Orwell's essays in university which led me to believe that he's one of those writers who is better at producing non-fiction than fiction. This belief was confirmed in Down And Out In Paris And London, which is both "an excellent book and a valuable social document," as one 1930s reviewer put it.Obviously Orwell was no slouch when it came to writing fiction, either, but his non-fiction is such a rare and beautiful thing: articulate, readable, intelligent and witty. He writes about his time spent as a dishwasher in Paris and his time as a homeless tramp in London. Neither of these experiences sounds particularly interesting, yet Orwell makes them so, drawing them in clear and precise terms with his remarkable command of English and sprinkling the text with his comments on the injustice, cruelty and pointlessness of the things he witnesses. In England, for example, the state provides what tramps call 'spikes' - free but prison-like boarding houses - but tramps are not provided with any useful work there, and are not permitted to stay in the same one each night, which sends them trekking across the countryside to the next spike like "so many Wandering Jews." In Paris, he marvels at the fact that kitchen workers essentially live a life of slavery: they work sixteen or seventeen hours a day, and barely have enough time to sleep, let alone find another job or educate themselves, so they are forced to work as kitchen hands for the rest of their lives. It's easy to see Orwell's socialist beliefs in their crucible, and it's a fascinating glimpse into a world that no longer exists (although I suppose the extent to which our society has improved is up for debate).Down And Out In Paris And London is a brilliant piece of writing, and I now intend to seek out the rest of Orwell's other non-fiction works.
  • (4/5)
    I like reality and the reality of being hand-to-maout, cold & hungry was something new to George Orwell. It's a true story that he tells well.
  • (4/5)


    Semi-autobiographical account of a penniless life in Paris and London. Interesting and funny.

  • (5/5)
    It reads like a tourist's guide to Paris and London, but does not offer the usual advices: instead, this is the biographical account of George Orwell's life as a penniless author in the two cities.Do not expect nice accounts of the places, but the realism is there - if you feel like, try to find the streets mentioned in both cities, and you will have a feel of what was life for him. The characters are realist, acerbic and quite colourful, and reminds me of Joyce's Ulysses, but without the complexity of language.This is a definite read for a taste of 1920-1930s realism, with a taste of the backstreets, pimps and slums of the two capitals between the wars, but without being overly negative in its viewpoint. This is recommended for anyone interested in social realism, sociology and can be read in conjunction with Zola's 'L'assommoir'.
  • (5/5)
    I love that Anthony Bourdain loves this book too. This book is a must for anyone who works or has worked in a kitchen. This is one I can re-read and never tire of it. Much of the book reveals the tragedies of the poor but Orwell is also a master at tragi-comedy.
  • (4/5)
    Fascinating and sobering account of living in true poverty... I thought this would be a book of bohemian hijinks, but I was completely wrong. The Paris section was more fun for me, since I knew intimately many of the places he was wandering about, but London was interesting because he was truly homeless there, not merely poor. Paris also seemed more lively because even the very poor managed to drink plenty of wine every day. The British version is endless cups of tea, which I found very depressing. I really don't understand the British fascination with tea -- even the most completely destitute would apparently rather spend a few pennies on tea than an extra slice of bread (to say nothing of fruit or meat). I guess tea kills hunger to a degree, but I'd still rather have wine.
  • (5/5)
    Prior to reading this book, my knowledge of Orwell was rather limited - I'd read the standards: Animal Farm and 1984 - and I loved his essay Politics and the English Language, but that was all.I found Down and Out in Paris and London both entertaining and thought-provoking. It's not really written as either an autobiography or a straight non-fiction book but is closer to journalism than anything else. And it's very entertaining - the episodes and characters Orwell conveys are lively, and Orwell's own musings on the essentially useless nature of poverty (by which he concludes that poverty has no real purpose) are precise, humane, and accurate.More than anything, this book made me grateful for such simple pleasures as a long hot shower, a clean place to sleep, and decent food. I think anyone would enjoy this book, and I'd certainly recommend it.
  • (5/5)
    Among its other strengths, this book contains the best description I've ever encountered of what it's like to work as a dishwasher.
  • (3/5)
    Life among the penniless--tramps and street artists and dishwashers. The most section is the system at Hotel X.
  • (4/5)
    A story that follows a poor brit journalist through his time working at various restaurants in Paris as a grunt laboring kitchen hand, and through his tramp days in London. In both places, the character is penniless, barely surviving for dinner, and sharing the stories of the people that surround him in his daily life.Though the anecdotes and vignettes are interesting and compelling (though not as stomach wrenching as some have stated), the books weight lays in Orwell statements n the plights of plongeurs in Paris and the tramps in London (which occur on page 115 and 200 respectively in the Harvest edition). In these he angrily opines on how the state and the bourgeoisie are at worst starving the poor while making them nomads and at best making them slaves. These are the most powerful portions of this short novel.
  • (5/5)
    Brilliant. Orwell's trademark come through: a rational and painfully honest recounting of the world around him. Not as historically important as his finest work of memoir, 'Homage to Catalonia', but a great read. Lovers of food, history and social criticism all come together at the same table.