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Keep the Aspidistra Flying

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  16,748 ratings  ·  1,223 reviews
London, 1936. Gordon Comstock has declared war on the money god; and Gordon is losing the war. Nearly 30 and "rather moth-eaten already," a poet whose one small book of verse has fallen "flatter than any pancake," Gordon has given up a "good" job and gone to work in a bookshop at half his former salary. Always broke, but too proud to accept charity, he rarely sees his few ...more
Paperback, 277 pages
Published October 26th 2000 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published April 20th 1936)
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Peter "Vicisti" is from the Latin word meaning "to conquer". In the vernacular, Comstock is saying something like "You win, aspidistra!" and admitting that …more"Vicisti" is from the Latin word meaning "to conquer". In the vernacular, Comstock is saying something like "You win, aspidistra!" and admitting that he's beaten.(less)
Jay He's saying his aunt drank tea imported from Coromandel, India and he's using a mock-elevated homeric style.…moreHe's saying his aunt drank tea imported from Coromandel, India and he's using a mock-elevated homeric style.(less)

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Petra-X is getting covered in Soufriere ash
Essentially this is every art student's dilemma, or at least it was back in my day, to sell out and deal with the Man or be true to our art and starve in an attic. Whether to find one's place within the system or try to forge a unique life outside of it. One thing we had in common was pot plants. An aspidistra in Orwell's case, another kind of pot plant for me.

As the story works itself out Gordon discovers two more things, things we had in common - we were really rather average poets and artists
...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
Keep the Aspidistra Flying, George Orwell

Keep the Aspidistra Flying, first published in 1936, is a socially critical novel by George Orwell. It is set in 1930's London. The main theme is Gordon Comstock's romantic ambition to defy worship of the money-god and status, and the dismal life that results.

The aspidistra is a hardy, long-living plant that is used as a house plant in England, and which can grow to an impressive, even unwieldy size.

It was especially popular in the Victorian era, in larg
...more
Lori
Sep 08, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a tiresome book with a bitter, complaining main character with artistic ambitions. The snapshot capture of the time and place made it worth reading.

description
"The most difficult times were the 1800s, when many Victorian homes began to have indoor lighting powered by gas. Gas lights produced toxic fumes that induced headache and nausea, blackened ceilings, discolored curtains, corroded metals and left a layer of soot on every flat surface. Flowers and most houseplants wilted. Only two particularly har
...more
Annelies
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
What is more important in life: to hold on your principles and by this lead a dreadful life, or to leave your principles, and by that get a richer life? Actually this is the basic question in this book. To know what Gordon choses, You should read the book. It's worth it. ...more
Patricia
Jul 25, 2008 rated it liked it
Dear George Orwell,

It's not you, it's me. It had to happen, really, this bit of faultering in the crush I've had on you. Sure, I've known you for years, but as you know, I've been completely smitten with you since last summer when I read your first published novel, Down and Out in Paris and London. I grew more smitten while reading An Age Like This, 1920- 1940, your early correspondance, reviews, and essays, and I remained so while reading your 2nd published novel, Burmese Days. But now the new
...more
Ariel
Jun 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Oh, Orwell, thank you.

It's no secret that Animal Farm is one of my favourite books. Not only because it is a genius piece of the literary canon, but also because it the book that helped me crash down the wall between seeing classics as enemy and seeing their immense merit. It's been a long while since I read Animal Farm, (it was back in 2011), and while I enjoyed 1984 and some of Orwell's essays, I admit to not knowing if he'd be able to blow me away as strongly as he did with Animal Farm.

I sta
...more
MJ Nicholls
The reader’s response to Gordon Comstock’s behaviour will depend upon whether the reader has ever tried to live a “self-sufficient” life free from bourgeois respectability, or seriously pursued an artistic vocation with stubborn single-mindedness. Orwell’s novel is pretty one-track plot-wise—what happens when a person renounces money and its interminable grip?—but Comstock’s obsessive pursuit is a societal conundrum of universal proportions and makes for a frustrating and bone-deep trip to the d ...more
Barry Pierce
Feb 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
I buddy read this book with my bestie, Ariel Bissett. We spent more time on Voxer than actually reading this novel most nights but in our defense we spent most of that time gushing about Orwell.

I think this is my favorite Orwell. I knew that from the very first chapter and oh what a chapter that is. I think it may be one of the best opening chapters to a novel that I've ever read, in fact, it's one of the best chapters that I've ever read.

This novel tells us the story of Gordon Comstock, a man
...more
Luís
Feb 22, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The novel is like "1984", a thesis novel. The author sets out to portray to us in great detail the monotony and smallness of Gordon's life and shows us page after page to what extent money governs every moment of the life of his "hero", despite his desperate attempt to extricate himself from the system. Suppose a form of boredom sometimes accompanies reading. In that case, it is insidious anguish that seizes the reader when he realizes how poverty eats away at Gordon from within, at the risk of ...more
Jan-Maat
A novel of London life and the search for integrity in the 1930s. It conjures up the oppressive atmosphere resulting from self inflicted poverty and features the shabbier side of life to the extent that the one brief excursion that the hero and his girlfriend make out of London feels like the explosive escape from a crushing environment.

The story follows a young man who gives up a comfortable job in advertising to work on a not very good poem about how rubbish and tawdry modern life and its amus
...more
Paul
Dec 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars rounded up
One of Orwell’s earlier novels and one he didn’t really like, as he declined to have it reprinted in his lifetime. There are elements of Orwell’s life in this, rather than his personality. This is a biting satire written and set in the mid-1930s. The satire covers what might be called the “rat-race” and the god of money. It is a bitter demolition of lower middle class values as Orwell perceived them. The prose is great, but it is difficult to read, mainly because of the main
...more
E. G.
Oct 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A Note on the Text

--Keep the Aspidistra Flying
Mark
Oct 11, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you have seen the updates you may already realize that I was not overly-keen on Gordon Comstock. Nevertheless the liking or disliking of the hero or heroine of a novel evidently does not in itself negate the quality of the writing and it is certainly true that this novel is a really powerful description of the blanching effect of poverty on the colour of life, of the crippling struggle that the poor underwent between the wars and the pitiful descriptions of scrimping and saving and the sinkin ...more
Pink
Mar 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
I bloody love Orwell. He's not a perfect author and couldn't keep politics or social commentary out of his fiction, but that's part of his appeal. Yes, he banged on constantly about poverty, or war and far too often revealed his lecharous side. I forgive it all. Orwell had something he wanted to say and he found a way to say it. I don't agree with everything, I'm not blown away by his writing, but I am sad that I've now read all of his stories. ...more
Steven Godin

Apparently Orwell himself didn't think much of this, and kept Keep the Aspidistra Flying from being reprinted in his lifetime. The mixed reviews come as no surprise then. While it isn't a bad novel, the plot does feel a bit puny, and the message he is trying to send out is delivered without any real drive and potency. Even the metaphors don't really stand up. It's something - unlike 1984 or my fave Down and Out in Paris and London - that's not going to hang around in my head for too long. Also,
...more
Renée Paule
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The mistake you make, don't you see, is in thinking one can live in a corrupt society without being corrupt oneself. After all, what do you achieve by refusing to make money? You're trying to behave as though one could stand right outside our economic system. But one can't. One's got to change the system, or one changes nothing."

I thoroughly enjoyed this little book. If you like Orwell you will love Keep the Aspidistra Flying.
...more
Sarah (Presto agitato)
Feb 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: orwell
Girl problems, money problems, houseplant problems. Things are not going Gordon’s way. Money has become Gordon Comstock’s all-consuming idée fixe (followed closely by aspidistras). Gordon, who comes from “one of those depressing families, so common among the middle-middle classes, in which nothing ever happens,” refuses to be a slave to the “money-god.” He gives up a relatively well paying but soulless job at an advertising agency, a job that furthers the evils of the capitalism that he deplores ...more
Rowena
Feb 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Probably no one
Wow, what a tiresome book! The reason I even gave it three stars is because it's an Orwell book and, as such, he doesn't disappoint us with his wit, satire and irony. However, the story itself was lacking.Orwell must have been in a very misanthropic mood when he wrote this.

The main character, Gordon, is so depressing and unlikeable; he ties everything to money (for example, it took him an hour to shave one morning because he didn't have enough money). I just got so sick and tired of hearing abo
...more
Kells Next Read
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Slowly but surely working my way to Orwell's work and I'm have a mighty splendid time doing so. This book had me LOL several times. I can't wait to continue my author exploration of this genius works. ...more
Kim
Dec 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook

According to Gordon Bowker, this is one of the novels Orwell wanted his literary executor to suppress after his death. That’s a clear indication of how Orwell felt about the novel and it’s fair to say that it’s not his strongest work. However, it still has a lot going for it, in particular black humour, sharp satire and a window into Orwell’s own life.

Having recently read Bowker’s biography of Orwell, I particularly appreciated the autobiographical elements of the novel, which otherwise would h
...more
Chris_P
Our civilization is founded on greed and fear, but in the lives of common men the greed and fear are mysteriously transmuted into something nobler.

This is the story of a thirty-year-old man with issues. That's as simple a description as it gets. Simple is no good in this case though. Indeed, Orwell delivers a complex novel not so much in a literary sense, as in a psychological one. Gordon is an anti-hero whose issues revolve around money. Money is the key word here. If I had to describe him with
...more
Tosh
Aug 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Well first of all, Orwell is a fantastic prose writer. He can really make your feet feel tired by his descriptions of walking long distance in London, and the way he describes food, drinking, and the loose change in your pocket is right on the mark. What made me tired is the main character's total obsession about money. Not having money, the making of money, etc. I hated that and that is one of the main themes of this book. But then again I wanted to shoot the main character in the head and get ...more
Janelle
Oct 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
The aspidistra is a houseplant common amongst the boring middle classes and the “hero” of this book, Gordon Comstock seems obsessed with them. He’s a pathetic character, inherited money has dissipated, he abandons a soul destroying job in advertising to pursue poetry and works for low pay in a bookshop. His girlfriend Rosemary, his sister Julia and his editor Ravelston try to help him out but he continues whining about poverty. He wants to live without worrying about money, but you need money to ...more
Daren
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, uk, 4-star, uk-author
I enjoyed this one of Orwells, written in 1936, and set in 1930s London. Gordon is a character set up to be pitied and despised, but who also grudgingly earns some respect, for sticking to his philosophy - no matter how theoretical and impractical it is.

There is no doubt the novel is deep into description - and for me that was what made it, the descriptive 1930s London, the grimy and impoverished existence of Gordon Comstock, the mundanities of every-day life in a going nowhere job, a struggling
...more
Lex Javier
Dec 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Finishing the book within a day, I have a feeling that I just experienced something profoundly beautiful. Keep the Aspidistra Flying is the story of a very likable anti-hero and a very outstanding heroine. That story between the two characters is almost too sacred to give out in a book review. You have to read it yourself.

Yet there is still something to talk about: the author's message. You can't read and put down Orwell's novels without rearranging a few of your beliefs.

Only Orwell can speechif
...more
Christy
Feb 23, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have not sympathized with a protagonist quite so much in a good while.

Gordon Comstock is turning thirty, has no money, works in a bookshop, is a failing poet, and refuses to take a "good" job because of his socialist ideals and his war against the money-god, and it's chief symbol: the aspidistra that sits in the window of every British middle-class home. Kind of like a less talk-the-talk Frank Wheeler.

The hideous grimness of Gordon's soul-destroying poverty, the way he sinks into inevitable d
...more
Toby
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
Gordon Comstock is a truly insufferable bore to spend time with and this book whilst not a chore to read was pretty tame and predictable in nature. Comstock's arc from anti-capitalist to middle class conformist is essentially the same argument some douchey dudebro might make about lesbians - all they need is some good dick (see Chasing Amy for a popular example of said attitude explored by somebody half sensitive to the idea that it is the moron character who spouts it) and in this examle yes, O ...more
Tiziana
Jun 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Objectively speaking, I am not sure that this is really a five-star book. But it certainly has affected me like one, hence my 'grade'. I have read it compulsively because despite being for many aspects so far away in time and setting (the book solidly mirrors and describes the social context of the Thirties in England), to me it felt so 'true', that it was almost too real.
The thing is that the book deals with things that have started to trouble me personally now that I am settling in, that I hav
...more
Darwin8u
Oct 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
Oh, what an ode to the money-Gods and aspidistras. An amazing, emotional journey of one man's fight against aspidistras and the inevitable pull of the money-Gods. This is a novel that is warm, hard, depressing, funny, absurd and at the end virtuous and redeeming. He simultaneously threads the needles of commerce, class, art and protest and weaves his story with satire and pathos, but doesn't make caricatures of ANY of his characters. ...more
Martine
Feb 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: budding writers and closet socialists
I haven't yet read Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London, a supposedly excellent autobiographical account of a middle-class man's descent into abject poverty, but I would imagine that some of the experiences Orwell describes in that book must have served him equally well in writing Keep the Aspidistra Flying, which must rank among the bleakest novels about self-induced poverty ever written in the English language.

Keep the Aspidistra Flying centres on Gordon Comstock, a talented twenty-nine-
...more
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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
...more

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“The mistake you make, don't you see,is in thinking one can live in a corrupt society without being corrupt oneself. After all, what do you achieve by refusing to make money? You're trying to behave as though one could stand right outside our economic system. But one can't. One's got to change the system, or one changes nothing. One can't put things right in a hole-and-corner way, if you take my meaning.” 90 likes
“This life we live nowadays. It's not life, it's stagnation death-in-life. Look at all these bloody houses and the meaningless people inside them. Sometimes I think we're all corpses. Just rotting upright.” 64 likes
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