I have read literary critical essays written by George Orwell before but Down and Out in Paris and London is the first full-length work of the author I have read. His works reflect his ideologies. Down and Out in Paris and London is a first full-length novel written by George Orwell. This book is a memoir and it is divided into two parts on the theme of poverty in the two cities of Paris and London.
This novel is an interesting fictional account with touches of autobiographical elements to the work. It narrates the story of a poor English writer and his adventures in Paris and London in a surprisingly humorous way. The book is divided into two parts – The first part talks about Parisian life and the second about life in London. At first, I thought that the division into two parts may be meant a time gap or something but it is actually a completely coherent story that happens to be divided into two parts.
In the Parisian part, the writer gives unique descriptions of working in fancy restaurants all over the city. Experience of working in posh kitchens as a dishwasher is described; in short life as a casual laborer in Paris. The first part ties into the second one as he leaves the job in Paris due to its long hours. As the narration begins in London, he expects to have a job waiting but doesn’t. He lives the life of a tramp in London. Staying in different hotels, hostels, and shelters; he lives in the world of tramps.
The stories of Paris and London though are two different parts of the book; the story is a continuation of each other, and it doesn’t feel discarded at any point. The book gives a glimpse into the life of these two major cities of Paris and London in the period 1900 to 1930. Both of the stories hit home the ‘reality check’ aspect of poverty in society and its struggles. The events described in the book are terrible and depressing but it is written in such a humorous way, without an ounce of self-pity. The characters the narrator meets are colorful and quirky personalities. The main theme of Down and Out in Paris and London is heavy; the book is lighthearted enough to be read at a stretch.
The fact that Orwell experienced the situations taking place in the book at least to some extent makes it more realistic and gritty. A book that is insightful and witty, it is an interesting and different memoir.
*Get a copy by clicking on the book cover above.