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Down and Out in Paris and London

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  77,597 ratings  ·  5,251 reviews
This unusual fictional memoir - in good part autobiographical - narrates without self-pity and often with humor the adventures of a penniless British writer among the down-and-outs of two great cities. The Parisian episode is fascinating for its expose of the kitchens of posh French restaurants, where the narrator works at the bottom of the culinary echelon as dishwasher, ...more
Paperback, 213 pages
Published March 15th 1972 by Mariner Books (first published 1933)
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Anna I'm in the process of reading the book. One favourite scene so far is when Boris takes the author to a cobbler to ask for money. Boris and the cobbler…moreI'm in the process of reading the book. One favourite scene so far is when Boris takes the author to a cobbler to ask for money. Boris and the cobbler end up having a huge fight, get drunk and become friends. Boris ends up staying there overnight, and the author is just left all befuddled and out of the loop. (less)

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Average rating 4.08  · 
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 ·  77,597 ratings  ·  5,251 reviews

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Sep 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: british, 20th-century
Do not read this book if you are unemployed.

Do not read this book if you are homeless.

Do not read this book if you are worried about the tanking economy.

Do not read this book if you have no retirement savings.

Do not read this book if you don't like eating stale bread and margarine.

Do not read this book if you like eating in restaurants.

Do not read this book if you are sensitive to foul odors.

Do not read this book if you are one of those people who carries a hand-sanitizer at all times.

Do not rea
Bill Kerwin
Jul 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing

As anyone who has read 1984 can attest, Orwell is--among other things--a master of disgust, a writer who can describe a squalid apartment building, an aging painted whore or a drunken old man with just the right details to make the reader's nose twitch with displeasure, his stomach rise into the throat with revulsion. What makes this book so good is that--although he may continually evoke this reaction in his account of the working and the wandering poor--Orwell never demeans or dismisses the hu
Jeffrey Keeten
Sep 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
“It is a feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs - and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety.”

 photo george_orwell_zps86a90dae.jpg

In 1927 Eric Arthur Blair A.K.A. George Orwell gives up his job as a policeman in Burma and moves back to his lodgings on Portobello Road in London with the intention of being a writer. Like with many artists, writers, and those that wishe
Ahmad Sharabiani
Oct 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell

Down and Out in Paris and London is the first full-length work by the British 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 in near-destitution 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 o
Sep 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
this book isn't going to cause anyone to have the huge revelation that "poverty is hard!" or anything, because - duh - but it also doesn't piss me off the way morgan spurlock pisses me off, because orwell makes his story come alive and there is so much local color, so many individual life stories in here that this book, despite being horribly depressing, is also full of the resourcefulness of man and the resilience of people that have been left by the wayside. it is triumphant, not manipulative. ...more
Jul 18, 2011 rated it liked it
Orwell demonstrates his social conscience and empathy for the poor, which I think, makes his more famous attacks on totalitarianism more credible.

This is also an interesting novel to read for a glimpse into Paris and London of that time, between 1900 and 1930. Orwell worked in some restaurants and his view from the kitchen is far less romantic than Hemingway’s perspective from the table.

Not really a classic or a masterpiece, but a book that should be read.


Orwell’s take on destitution was every bit as good as I expected it to be: beautifully phrased, meticulous, honest, funny, but also moving, and along with his own vivid experiences of living a hand to mouth existence he blends the testimonies of other refugees and homeless people in Paris and London. This book might not have even come about had it not been for a thief who pinched the last of an ailing Orwell’s savings from his Paris boarding room in 1929, thus leading him to search for dishwashi
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, classics
İ´ve read the Essay “Paris Ve Londra'da Beş Parasız” written by George Orwell. It´s a biography of his own life and personal experiences. After George Orwell´s cancellation as officer of the British colonial power, he flew to Paris to work as an English teacher, because he aspired a job as a committed writer. Unfortunately his job as an English teacher and writer didn´t worked out and consequently he worked as a day labourer, harvester and dishwasher in a luxury restaurant. “Paris Ve Londra'da B ...more
Jan 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Do not read this book while eating! I've been told that this book is semi-autobiographical. If so, George Orwell had an even more interesting life than I'd imagined! This book was disturbing, insightful and also funny (great, great characters, some just plain weird!)

The first half of the book depicts the main character's experiences living in poverty in Paris.Some of the descriptions about the living and working conditions are quite gruesome. All those bugs! Orwell sheds more light on what it mu
Jan 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The film Midnight in Paris begins with some beautiful scenes of Paris: the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Seine, the Sorbonne, the Eiffle Tower, the arc de triomphe. And before long, arrives a parade of artistes from the 1920s milieu - Hemmingway, Bunuel, Dali, etc, - all speaking *SparkNotes*. But in the distant background (very distant) I hear a faint sound of et in arcadia ego and Orwell protests “say, I was there in the 1920s too - I saw all that. And I wrote a damn fine book about it”.

That bo
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Quite a harrowing book,with its depiction of stark poverty,menial work and the constant struggle for the basic necessities of life .

I found it hard to read,but it was very moving as well. Orwell also did a similar job in another book,The Road to Wigan Pier. That too,was very bleak and compassionate.

Orwell knew about hardship.He had given up his job in the imperial police,and things were not too bright for him financially. He actually became a dishwasher for a while. He lived that life,he could
Grace Tjan
Jun 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
What I learned from this book (in no particular order):

1. There is hardly such a thing as a French waiter in Paris: the waiters are all Italian and German. They just pretend to be French to be able to affect that certain hauteur and charge you exorbitant prices for that mediocre Boeuf Bourgignon.

2. Some of them are spies. Waitering is a common profession for a spy to adopt. It is also a popular profession among AWOL ex-soldiers and wannabe snobs.

3. Real scullery maids do “curse like a scullion”
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

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I was inspired to read this book after picking up and enjoying A MOVEABLE FEAST by Ernest Hemingway, which was a beautifully written memoir of living in Paris as a broke writer in the 1920s. I didn't even think I liked Hemingway as an author until I read that book and was totally blown away by the vivid descriptions of the "lost generation" working on many of their magna opera that would make them famous-- in the case of F. Scott Fitz
Dec 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First published in 1933, this was George Orwell’s first full length book which made it into print. Although it reads as though the events within it were concurrent, in fact much of the latter part of the book was published as an essay, titled, “The Spike,” while the author was in Paris. However, the fact that events do not necessarily follow the narrative, certainly does not invalidate the book, or the points that Orwell makes – sadly still very valid today.

The first half of the book sees Orwell
Jason Koivu
Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
This reminded me a bit of Thoreau's Walden in that you don't feel like Orwell had to go through with this. It's self-imposed deprivation. However, while Thoreau went on a camping trip to prove he was a hardy outdoorsman and that anybody could and should do it, Orwell put himself through his ordeal in order to investigate a situation. The same problem exists in both circumstances though. Both men could extract themselves at any time if they wished. In Orwell's situation, that means he was only ex ...more
Jan 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I've loved everything I've ever read by Orwell, including this book which is very autobiographical "fiction", written in the first person. The temporal setting of the "novel" is sometime in the 1920s I think. This is actually not a bad book to sample Orwell with, of course nowhere near as famous as Animal Farm or 1984, but it reads much like a memoir (a very interesting one) and hence can be experienced as a sample of Orwell's writing style and views on society, without those things being masked ...more
Apr 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
George Orwell is a damn good writer. Sure, he whipped out 1984 and Animal Farm, but it's from his essays and nonfiction that I'm learning Orwellian tricks--and by that I mean, the very best sort of craft points.

Yes, I know that his first book, Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) is characterized as a novel--usually with some qualifier like "semi-autobiographical" or "thinly-veiled." But given that Orwell saves several chapters for his personal commentary about, among others, the life of a Pa
Oct 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this right after finishing A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway; both are set in Paris in the 1920s, so I'm eager to compare the two and damn there's a lot to say. I feel like Orwell was much more genuine and really saw the greater scope of events and tried to show "the big through the small". So by showing his experiences in Paris and London he managed to showcase the universal reality of what it's like to be poor and destitute and what the reasons for poverty are.
It is a feeling of r
Alice Poon
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
Five stars from me. I would use three words to describe this book: “somber, side-splitting, shrewd”. “Somber” refers to the subject matter, which is about abject poverty and hunger in urban cities, as seen through Orwell’s eyes in Paris and London on his experimental tour. “Side-splitting” is my reaction to the ironic and dry humor that he effortlessly displays in describing some episodes. “Shrewd” refers to his observation of the lives of those barely surviving in society’s lowest echelons, oft ...more

Poverty is no a sin. Honest work is nothing to be ashamed of. Obviously. Let’s agree to disagree - Orwell seems to say.

In this part-autobiographical story he depicts how life looked like in Parisian slums and London poorhouses in late twenties XX century. In Paris Orwell used to live in rented rooms, dirty and buggy hovels, for over one year. He had earned some money giving English lessons and writing to the local newspapers but when the money had run out he needed to find a work. And it was th
Diane Barnes
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: slow-reads
Note to self: Under no circumstances find myself down and out in Paris and London, or anywhere else, for that matter. I wouldn't last a week. When I was younger, after my first visit to New Orleans, I decided that if I were ever homeless, I would work my way down to that city and be one of those little old ladies in rags tap dancing for coins thrown into a hat. I figured I could make enough every day to at least go to a Pizza Hut Buffett and fill up once a day, then sleep on a park bench in a wa ...more
Laala Kashef Alghata
“The mass of the rich and the poor are differentiated by their incomes and nothing else, and the average millionaire is only the average dishwasher dressed in a new suit.” — George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London

I am a staunch George Orwell fan. I think he’s absolutely amazing and if you’re limiting yourself to his classic novels (Animal Farm, 1984), you are doing yourself a disservice. His essays and non-fiction books are amongst his best works.

Down and Out is Orwell’s account of the
Aug 06, 2017 rated it did not like it
a few days ago, my dad and I had a conversation on what you can call antisemitic and what you can't. we had this conversation when I asked if George Orwell hated Jewish people or not. this question didn't come out of the blue, in less than 20 pages I had already read twice about Jews being disgusting and the worst people in the world, only there to take away from you your money and dignity.

I am Jewish, and I am fucking tired of reading about this. My dad - who isn't Jewish - said I couldn't call
Much like Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, Orwell's heavily autobiographical journalistic novel makes me vaguely uncomfortable—I just can never quite bring myself to fully embrace depictions of "playing poverty" by young white men from bourgeois (or better) backgrounds. Granted, the comparison is a bit unfair, as Hemingway was clearly indulging in a project of retroactive self-mythification and intentionally fudging details while Orwell was attempting something akin to a social exposé, using his ex ...more
Aug 26, 2016 rated it liked it
This was a very powerful book, and while I didn't care for the first part of it when he finally got a job in a restaurant, I felt I had to read the details of his job and the abuse he received while working there. The remainder of the book was very good, especially when he moved to London.

This and the book "Nickel and Dimed" would be good for high school teachers to give to their students to read and to discuss. It may change some people's views that the poor are lazy or all are drug addicts. In
David Sarkies
Sep 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology
Life Below the Poverty Line
8 September 2016 - London

There is so much in this book and it is actually really hard to know where to start, however I will start off by saying that it is not strictly an autobiography. Sure, Orwell did land up in a situation in Paris when all of his money had been stolen and had to work as a plounger, which is basically another name for a minimum wage kitchen hand (if the minimum wage actually existed back then), and he did live for a time on the streets of London a
Sep 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
George Orwell described ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’ as a “fairly trivial story” with the hope that it is interesting “in the same way as a travel diary is interesting”. What Orwell provides us with is certainly much more than the “trivial story” to which he refers. What we have is a very descriptive, readable and engaging (whilst depressing and at times repulsive) account of his time as a ‘Plongeur’ (employed to carry our menial kitchen work) in Paris coupled with a similarly compelling a ...more
Jan 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
At a time when there is considerable discussion of income inequality or structured social inequality in the United States and elsewhere around the world, an encounter with George Orwell's Down & Out In Paris & London represents a reminder that this disparity has long been with us.

A key difference is that Orwell was an Eton grad, hardly a natural anarchist or from a precinct in the British slums but nevertheless spent considerable energy delving deeply into the nature of poverty. In fact, this n
Daniel Gonçalves
Do not kid yourself. Orwell’s novel about the consequences of living in poverty is not fiction. This might sound like a paradox, a very strange oxymoron, but it isn’t. And I’ll explain why.

This is the “made-up” story of an English writer who goes to France. Once there, he is faced with a sudden lack of wealth income. Living with almost no money, he finds it is imperative to find work. After weeks without a job, a job at an expensive Hotel in Paris surfaces when he meets a friend who tells him ab
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“The average millionaire is only the average dishwasher dressed in a new suit. Change places, and handy dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief? Everyone who has mixed on equal terms with the poor knows this quite well. But the trouble is that intelligent, cultivated people, the very people who might be expected to have liberal opinions, never do mix with the poor. For what do the majority of educated people know about poverty?”

This is one of the main reasons I read: to let an author tak
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Eric Arthur Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist. His work is marked by keen intelligence and wit, a profound awareness of social injustice, an intense opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language, and a belief in democratic socialism.

In addition to his literary career Orwell served as a police officer with the Indian Imperial

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