Long before Animal Farm and 1984, George Orwell wrote about a time in his life when he was alternately barely scraping by and penniless. I have to admit, I wasn't expecting a book about poverty to be so enjoyable to read, but the author’s animated writing style had me racing through his (mostly true) memoir. From 1929 to 1931, Orwell ventured deep into the squalor of two very glamorous cities, revealing the appalling working conditions of a dishwasher in Paris and the realities of life as a tramp in London. Serving as both a relic of its time and an enduring reminder of the trappings of class systems, Down and Out interweaves scathing social commentary with candid firsthand accounts of what hunger and poverty can do to a person. Recommended By Renee P., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
In this highly regarded work, famous for its realistic and unsentimental description of poverty, Orwell narrates 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 street people and charitable shelters. His adventures conning landlords and negotiating with pawnshops as he searches for work, food, and lodging are told with occasional humor and a clarity that teaches some sobering Orwellian truths about poverty and society.
"In Paris Orwell was trying to write fiction, but what survived is a marvellous, hallucinated essay on the life of a dishwasher. [An] engrossing, cheerful, steely look at the edge of starvation Orwell's own starvation..." Andrew Moss, Hungry Mind Review
"An excellent work." The New York Times Book Review
"While he experienced fully the sordid realities of his time, [Orwell] remained miraculously uncontaminated....The book is a very graphic piece of reportage and wryly amusing." The Atlantic Monthly
This unusual fictional account, in good part autobiographical, narrates without self-pity and often with humor the adventures of a penniless British writer among the down-and-out of two great cities. In the tales of both cities we learn some sobering Orwellian truths about poverty and society.
About the Author
George Orwell was born Eric Blair in 1903 in India. He served with the Imperial Police in Burma and worked variously as a dishwasher, teacher, and bookseller before joining the Republican Army in the Spanish Civil War. A member of the Home Guard during World War II as well as a writer for the BBC, he later became a correspondent for the London Observer. Orwell was the author of six novels as well as numerous essays and nonfiction works. He died in 1950.