Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

Rating: 2.5 Stars ★★★☆☆

The rue du Coq d’Or, Paris, seven in the morning.


As a young man living in Paris, George Orwell finds himself struggling to survive with very limited resources. This memoir chronicles his time among the poor in Paris, and his drudging work as a dishwasher in a Paris hotel. Later, he recounts the time he spent living among the vagabonds in London.


There’s no doubt about it: George Orwell knows how to write and how to create atmosphere. And this book provides interesting insight into a part of history we rarely get to see: the daily life of the poor.

George Orwell’s descriptions of poverty during that time were really fascinating. He also admits that he barely saw more than the fringes of poverty. Still, what he experienced was difficult enough.

You discover the boredom which is inseparable from poverty; the times when you have nothing to do and, being underfed, can interest yourself in nothing.

There’s also some great scenes with Orwell’s trademark ironic wit. They are really on point and I enjoyed them a great deal.

Dirt is a great respecter of persons; it lets you alone when you are well dressed, but as soon as your collar is one it flies towards you from all directions.

However, overall the book was also overwhelmingly negative in its descriptions of people. Particularly Jews are described only in terms of the worst stereotypes. He seems to have a problem with the French.

The crowds were better dressed and the faces comelier and milder and more alike, without that fierce individuality and malice of the French.

That was what mostly put me off this book a bit, the way he judges people. It’s a shame because he’s also really compassionate when talking about the vagabonds he travels with.


An interesting story of the life of the poor in Paris and London at the end of the 20s.


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