Down and Out in Paris and London
Down and Out in Paris and London is the first full-length work by the English author George Orwell, published in 1933. It is a memoir in two parts on the theme of poverty in the two cities. The first part is an account of living on the breadline in Paris and the experience of casual labour in restaurant kitchens. The second part is a travelogue of life on the road in and around London from the tramp's perspective, with descriptions of the types of hostel accommodation available and some of the characters to be found living on the margins.Plot Summary : Two verbless sentences introduce the scene-setting opening chapters, which describe the atmosphere in the Paris quarter and introduce various characters who appear later in the book. From Chapter III to Chapter X, where the narrator obtains a job at "Hotel X," he describes his descent into poverty, often in tragi-comic terms. An Italian compositor forges room keys and steals his savings and his scant income vanishes when the English lessons he is giving stop. He begins at first to "sell" some of his clothes, and then to "pawn" his remaining clothes, and then searches for work with a Russian waiter named Boris--work as a porter at Les Halles, work as an English teacher and restaurant work. He recounts his two-day experience without any food and tells of meeting Russian "Communists" who, he later concludes, on their disappearance, must be mere swindlers.After the various ordeals of unemployment and hunger the narrator obtains a job as a plongeur (dishwasher) in the "Hôtel X" near the Place de la Concorde, and begins to work long hours there. In Chapter XIII, he describes the "caste system" of the hotel--"manager-cooks-waiters-plongeurs"--and, in Chapter XIV, its frantic and seemingly chaotic workings. He notes also "the dirt in the Hôtel X.," which became apparent "as soon as one penetrated into the service quarters." He talks of his routine life among the working poor of Paris, slaving and sleeping, and then drinking on Saturday night through the early hours of Sunday morning. In Chapter XVI, he refers briefly to a murder committed "just beneath my window [while he was sleeping .... The thing that strikes me in looking back," he says, "is that I was in bed and asleep within three minutes of the murder. We were working people, and where was the sense of wasting sleep over a murder"Author's Biography : Eric Arthur Blair (25 June 1903 - 21 January 1950), who used the pen name George Orwell, was an English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic. His work is marked by lucid prose, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and outspoken support of democratic socialism.Orwell wrote literary criticism, poetry, fiction, and polemical journalism. He is best known for his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (published in 1949) and the allegorical novella Animal Farm (1945). His non-fiction works, including The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), documenting his experience of working class life in the north of England, and Homage to Catalonia (1938), an account of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, are widely acclaimed, as are his essays on politics, literature, language, and culture. In 2008, The Times ranked him second on a list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945"Extrait : There were the Rougiers, for instance, an old, ragged, dwarfish couple who plied an extraordinary trade. They used to sell postcards on the Boulevard St Michel. The curious thing was that the postcards 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.
`Unforgettable...A masterpiece: the most extraordinary series of vignettes, sketched with terrifying precision, of life deep in the greasy underbelly of destitution.' * Sunday Express * `The truth in chapters of real life...Extraordinary confessions.' * New Statesman * `Orwell was there long, long before me, "ripping the lid off" fine dining and depicting, in unsparing terms, the filth, the language, the subculture, the complete disconnect between what was seen in the dining room and what happened behind the kitchen doors...Down and Out in Paris and London changed my life.' -- Anthony Bourdain, from the introduction
George Orwell, born Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950) was a teacher, novelist and journalist. He also served his country, including in the Home Guard during the Second World War. He later became the literary editor of the Tribune and wrote for the Observer and Manchester Evening News. The author of nine books, Orwell is best known for the allegorical Animal Farm (1945) and dystopian satire 1984 (1949). They have gone on to become two of the most influential books of the twentieth century.