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The People of the Abyss

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  2,158 Ratings  ·  209 Reviews
In 1902, Jack London purchased some secondhand clothes and, posing as a stranded American sailor, set out to discover how the London poor lived. His research makes shocking reading. Moving through the slums as one of the poor; eating, drinking, and socializing with the underclass; lining up to get into a flophouse, London was scandalized and brutalized by the experience of ...more
Paperback, 230 pages
Published October 1st 2009 by Hesperus Press (first published 1903)
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Kathleen Fowler
Dec 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a remarkable classic, deserving of a place on the shelf right next to Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London. In fact, The People of the Abyss likely inspired Orwell to write his book, according to a biography I read.

If the reader can put aside the fact of London’s strange ambivalence in matters of race, he is an impassioned and articulate spokesman for the underclasses. His account of an extended foray into what he refers to as “Darkest England,” that is, London’s East End, is rivet
...more
Oldroses
Apr 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
What Jacob Riis did for New York City with his photos of tenements, Jack London did for London with his book, The People of the Abyss. The abyss that he referred to was the squalid East End of London, where the poorest of the poor lived and died.

All of the horrors are there, described not by a dispassionate historian keeping a professional distance in his reporting, but in eyewitness accounts of and interviews with people living in appalling conditions.

What I found most horrifying about this bo
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Mark Goodwin
A very intense book. The way the author describes the horrid conditions of East London (around 1900) will make you really grateful for your present situation in life (no matter what it might be). It is amazing and very difficult to believe that so many (as in thousands upon thousands) of people lived in such desperate and despicable conditions yet this was the case. Jack London voluntarily put himself in this situation to learn what life was like for the wretched. Luckily for him, he had a refug ...more
Nastaran
کتاب تاثیرگذاری بود.
Dagio_maya
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Dice un proverbio cinese che, se c'è un uomo che vive nell'ozio, vuol dire che ce n'è un altro che muore di fame"

Nel 1902 Jack London smette gli abiti dello scrittore di successo e si cala fra la marmaglia del malfamato East End londinese.
Confondendosi tra disperati e vagabondi osserva una realtà quotidiana straziante soprattutto perchè dominata dall'arrendevolezza con cui i poveri accettano un destino fatto di nulla.
Nessuna coscienza di classe, nessuna ribellione ma un adattamento alla sele
...more
Isil
Dec 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: litterature, xxe, usa, document
1902. Victoria vient de mourir et l'Angleterre prépare le couronnement de son successeur. London, jeune journaliste américain se fait passer pour un marin en rupture de ban pour pouvoir s’immerger totalement dans les bas-fonds de l’est londonien et vit comme ses habitants. Le Royaume-Uni est alors un grand Empire et une réussite économique incontestable. Pourtant un adulte sur quatre à Londres meurt dans un hospice ou à l’asile. Selon Jack London, 939 habitants sur 1000 finissaient indigents en ...more
Judy
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book while visiting East London near the Mile End Road, described by Jack London as a terrible slum in the early years of the 20th century. Fortunately, it has now changed beyond recognition. This is a shocking vision of the desperate poverty suffered by huge numbers of people living in the "abyss" of dirt, illness and constant hunger.

Jack London showed the way forward to George Orwell in Down and Out in Paris and London by spending time living as a tramp. This gave him a feeling of
...more
LeeAnn Heringer
I read this as a companion piece to "Wolf", the recent biography of Jack London. He was a lifelong socialist and this was a subject he was passionate about. This was the dark underbelly of the gilted age. And because of unions and the socialist party, we have minimum wage, social security, and welfare to provide a safety net for the kind of problems Jack London explores in this book.

But I am a poor revolutionary (and I think Jack London was too). 100 years later, people are still being chewed up
...more
Elliot Ratzman
Aug 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Elliot by: Mark Engler
Before Jack London was the world famous adventure story writer—in his 20s and 30s—he had lived a dozen lives: child laborer, thief, sailor, failed Klondike prospector and hobo. A committed socialist, and hard-charging risk-taker, he turned to writing in his early 20s after nearly dying in an Arctic winter, and this 1903 book was his second major publication, just after Call of the Wild. London disguises himself as a homeless American sailor trapped in England. He explores (the city of) London’s ...more
Matt

If civilization has increased the producing power of the average man, why has it not bettered the lot of the average man? There can be one answer only — MISMANAGEMENT.

Jack London's first-hand account of the People of the Abyss is not fictional. It is direly real. In the summer of 1902 London (the author) went to London (the city) to witness the "life" of the people in London's East End, the infamous Whitechapel District, or, what the author called the under-world of London. I have to put the wor
...more
Ella Belakovska
Dec 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very few people seem to have heard of Jack London these days, and I was only vaguely aware of him, which is a real shame because he stands right up there with the likes of George Orwell - who I've only just discovered was inspired by this very work to write his own 'Down and Out in Paris and London'.

Jack London was an American writer who chose to go undercover in the East End of London (much to the outrage and fear of his friends) and journalise his research. The resulting work is a fascinating
...more
Cassandra
In the same vein as Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London, but lacking the heart and humor that I associate with Orwell's treatment. To be fair, it's an autobiographical account of slumming it in the worst of England's poverty at the turn of the century: why should it be funny or heartwarming? However, when you compare this text with Orwell's, it reads much more like something you'd find in Rolling Stone. A shock piece intended to wake people up and make them realize the horrors of poverty. ...more
Diane S ☔
For six weeks Jack London dresses and attempts to live like the poor on London's east side. He quickly realizes that no matter how hard a man or woman works, the cards are stacked against them. I'm sure this had a greater impact when read during the time it was written, when bringing the poverty and disease of these people to the public's attention would have been an impetus to change. Interesting and this was a side of London I had not previously been acquainted with.
Mimi
Apr 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this book was able to break my heart several times :( i literaly cried at the suffering of people

i don't regret reading this, for i feel it had changed my perspective towards life and people .
Daniel Villines
Mar 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My present political position in life is one that has evolved through time. I was a young Republican in my early adult life and then began to observe how our first-world society works and more importantly, read about how it used to be. Books such as The Jungle, Sister Carry, and Martin Eden defined for me the societal conditions that existed when the free market was allowed to shape society under near laissez-faire conditions. By looking at life as it is depicted in these books I was able to dev ...more
Cecilebe
J'ai bien envie de tricher et de mettre 4 étoiles à ce livre juste parce que c'est London... Mais non. Pourtant tout avait bien commencé : une préface excellente avec des remarques bien senties de London sur la politique et la société, notamment sur la nécessité, selon lui, d'éprouver le système pour qu'un autre, plus juste, puisse renaître.
Et puis j'ai bien aimé l'idée du bouquin : London, non sans ironie, qui part faire un "voyage" dans l'East End de Londres et raconte son périple à travers...
...more
Sylvester
Is it possible for a book of horror and suffering to be beautiful? This book was beautifully written, there's no question about it. The best of London that I've come across yet. (Why he, an American, decided to go to England to investigate poverty, I don't know. Was it that Jacob Riis had already done this for New York City (1890)?) The thing that sets this book apart from most other books about slum life is that London does a Nellie Bly - he buys a set of old clothes, rents a room, and tries to ...more
Tony
THE PEOPLE OF THE ABYSS. (1903). Jack London. ***.
London spent six weeks during the summer of 1902 penetrating the bowels of London’s East End – in those days, the home of the have-nots. He went is disguise, dressing in the same kinds of shabby clothes and living under the same conditions. His task was to document how the other half lived – poverty and shame being the primary characteristics. London was in his early days of Socialism, and wanted to bring the conditions of London’s poor to the a
...more
Masoud Niazi
تیره بختان جامعه -جک لندن
قسمت اول داستان بسیار بیشتر از قسمت دوم برای من جذاب بود شرح وقایق و گزارش نویسی قسمت اول رو دوست داشتم
درواقع تیره بختان جامعه شرح سفر تحقیقاتی جک لندن به منطقه فقیر نشین شرح لندن در لباس مبدل است. او برای اینکه تجربه دست اولی از زندگی فقیرانه طبقه زیردست انگلیس به دست بیاورد خود را به جای یک بی خانمان جا می زند و چند روزی را با بی خانمان ها و فقرای لندن می گذراند. گزارشی که او از این زندگی نکبت بار ارائه می دهد دادنامه ای بر علیه جامعه سرمایه سالار آن دوران است. البته
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Ahmad Sharabiani
The People of the Abyss, Jack London
عنوان: تیره بختان جامعه؛جک لندن؛ مترجم: اصغر مهدیزادگان؛ تهران، نگاه ، 1388، در 262 ص؛ شابک: 9789643515874؛
Laura
Mar 02, 2016 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Mark Goodwin
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.
Alina
Dec 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Jack London swoops from overseas to gawp at the zoo exhibits. He has a fine time at first, overjoyed at being mistaken for a local when his fancy dress costume works. What a transformation, he chortles, seeing himself in the pawnshop's mirror! People in the street call him 'mate' instead of Guv'na now. He is at one with the people, where it may be cold outside but it is warm in their collective hearts. It's not all fun and games, though. Being homeless soon reveals its ugly underbelly and off he ...more
Marie-aimée
Oct 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ceci n'est pas un roman mais une enquête sociologique menée par Jack London dans le quartier le plus pauvre de Londres. C'est un véritable effort de recherche, il va s'habiller comme ses habitants, parler comme eux, vivre dans les asiles et s'astreindre le plus possible à une vie semblable. C'est par cette expérience éprouvante qu'il livre d'une part des données économiques, sociales et culturelles, mais aussi politique comme par exemple lorsqu'il dénonce la loi qui empêche les SDF de dormir dan ...more
Pamela Wile
Mar 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book. It was a little hard to get through the early 20th century style of writing but this book made an impact on me. My great-grandfather, Charles Henry Smith, arrived in Canada in 1889 at the age of 18 and I wondered what life was like in England when he was a boy. This book was first published in 1903 so 14 years later, so I imagine circumstances were pretty much the same. The conditions that the elderly, sick, out of work adults endured were deplorable. The despair they felt a ...more
Owen
Jan 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a story about what Bulwer-Lytton famously called the "great unwashed," referring to the lower classes in English society in the 19th century. London confirms that not only are they still unwashed at the turn of the century (a bare 112 years ago), but that the situation is unbelievably tragic and applies to hundreds of thousands if not several million English men and women and their offspring. He has no hesitation in ascribing the fault to criminal mismanagement by the elites of the time ...more
Karli
Aug 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brit-lit
I'm an American. I'm middle class and in my neighborhood there are people who are not. It helps to remind me just how lucky I am. It's not always fun or safe. However, there isn't a sense that I'm not awake to what is happening to people in my country who aren't me.

Jack London has made a dramatic call to arms in this book. It's an emotional tale and he doesn't always hold to the same standards that I would expect from a modern day journalist. Still, this book is a keen reminder of how the Britis
...more
Pat
Jan 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Way more ballsy than Barbara Ehrenreich, way less ballsy than George Orwell. He doesn't get caught up in this wishy-washy just-the-facts objectivity thing that's making the rounds. He gets mad, and that goes into the book. He's a socialist and that goes into the book. Of course, he also left himself an escape hatch which he uses constantly. His stories are basically, after decompressing, he goes back under for a visit to a spike, or a lodging house or a trip around town after dark and runs back ...more
Jan C
Aug 28, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: england, non-fiction, 2016
Obviously I put this book down and forgot to pick it back up until just recently.

This seemed to me to border on 2 1/2-3 stars and I gave it the boost.

Jack London knew what it was like to be poor. But he got lucky, had a knack for writing and this ability was fostered by an educated man. He had been an oyster pirate in his youth before becoming an enforcer. Went on the adventure to Alaska.

In this book he went to London and saw severe poverty in the East End. He got a room and left his things ther
...more
Naomi Blackburn
Fascinating book which was basically a sociological investigation of the Whitechapel area of London, while London lived there in the late 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century, and how it was possible for Jack the Ripper to commit his crimes. Totally different from anything I have read by Jack London, but worth the read.
Tuğçe Kozak
Nov 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Uçurum İnsanlarında , yazar Doğu Londrayı kılık değiştirerek gezip yoksulluğu , sefaletin her türlüsünü ve devletin umursamazlığını anlatmış. Kendisini de en etkileyen eseri olmuş bu kitap , kurgu dışı bir eser gezip gördüklerini aktarıyor ama yine de bunu çok güzel bir dil ile yapıyor. Etkileyici ve okurken insana güzel sorular sordurtuyor.
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Jack London was an American novelist, journalist, social-activist and short-story writer whose works deal romantically with elemental struggles for survival. At his peak, he was the highest paid and the most popular of all living writers. Because of early financial difficulties, he was largely self educated past grammar school.

London drew heavily on his life experiences in his writing. He spent ti
...more
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“Class supremacy can rest only on class degradation” 9 likes
“But at the best, it is a dull, animal happiness, the content of the full belly. The dominant note of their lives is materialistic. They are stupid and heavy, without imagination. The Abyss seems to exude a stupefying atmosphere of torpor, which wraps about them and deadens them. Religion passes them by. The Unseen holds for them neither terror nor delight. They are unaware of the Unseen; and the full belly and the evening pipe, with their regular “arf an’ arf,” is all they demand, or dream of demanding, from existence.” 5 likes
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