Down and Out in Paris and London

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Down and Out in Paris and London is the first full-length work by the English author George Orwell, published in 1933. It is a story in two parts on the theme of poverty in the two cities. The first part is a picaresque account of living on the breadline 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 of hostel accommodation available and some of the characters to be found living on the margins. Orwell gives it an autobiographical feel by interposing chapters presenting his personal opinions.

Contents

Background

After giving up his post as a policeman in Burma to become a writer, Orwell moved to rooms in Portobello Road, London at the end of 1927.[1] While contributing to various journals, he undertook investigative tramping expeditions in and around London, collecting material for use in "The Spike", his first published essay, and the latter half of Down and Out in Paris and London. In spring of 1928, he moved to Paris, where the comparatively low cost of living and bohemian lifestyle attracted many aspiring writers. He lived in the Rue du Pot de Fer in a bohemian quarter with a cosmopolitan flavour. American writers like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald had lived in the same area. Following the Russian Revolution there was a large Russian emigre community in Paris. Orwell's Aunt Nellie Limouzin also lived in Paris and gave him social and, when necessary, financial support. He led an active social life,[2] worked on his novels and had several articles published in avant-garde journals.

Orwell fell seriously ill in March 1929 and shortly afterwards had money stolen from the lodging house. In a later account he said the theft was the work of a young trollop that he had picked up and brought back with him.[3] Whether through necessity or just to collect material, he undertook casual work as a dishwasher in restaurants. In August 1929 he sent a copy of "The Spike" to the Adelphi magazine in London. It was accepted for publication and on the strength of the prospects Orwell returned to England in December 1929. He went straight home to his parents' house in Southwold. Later he acted as a private tutor to a handicapped child there and also undertook further tramping expeditions culminating with a stint working in the Kent hop fields in August and September 1931. After this adventure, he ended up in the Tooley Street kip, which he found so unpleasant that he wrote home for money and moved to more comfortable lodgings.[4]

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