BLURB: “George Orwell’s vivid memoir of his time living among the desperately poor and destitute, Down and Out in Paris and London is a moving tour of the underworld of society from the author of 1984, published with an introduction by Dervla Murphy in Penguin Modern Classics. Written when Orwell was a struggling writer in his twenties, it documents his ‘first contact with poverty’. Here, he painstakingly documents a world of unrelenting drudgery and squalor – sleeping in bug-infested hostels and doss houses of last resort, working as a dishwasher in Paris’s vile ‘Hôtel X’, surviving on scraps and cigarette butts, living alongside tramps, a star-gazing pavement artist and a starving Russian ex-army captain. Exposing a shocking, previously-hidden world to his readers, Orwell gave a human face to the statistics of poverty for the first time – and in doing so, found his voice as a writer”
REVIEW: I did actually read this book over a week ago now, but haven’t had time to review it until now – which is a pity, because this book is completely and utterly fascinating. George Orwell’s true story of the time he spent in the beautiful capitals of Paris and London gives a whole new dimension to these historic cities – one of which is my home – and tells the reader what it was really like to live not only in poverty, which is dangerous anyway, but to live during a time when everyone was regarded with suspicion due to the spreading of communism in the Eastern Bloc. Orwell met several fascinating characters while writing this memoir, some of which were communists themselves, and many of different nationalities. This makes us feel as though we are getting a worldwide scope on current events of the time, looking at the ways different people with different backgrounds view the same situations. Not only is the book entertaining and enlightening, I also found it extremely inspiring. Considering his rather upper class upbringing, Orwell was no stranger to hard work and desperate poverty, often living on less than five sous a day while in Paris; and this seemed only to make him a stronger person and a better writer, as well as developing his political views to such an extent that he gave us classic literature like 1984 and Animal Farm. I really admire Orwell after reading this book, even more so than I did before, and am almost grateful for the hardship he experienced; because, in a sense, it gave him the ability to create literature that would last for decades after his death.