Book review: Down and Out in Paris and London


Photo by: Alejandro Hernandez

Alejandro Hernandez

“Down and Out in Paris and London” is a memoir written by British author George Orwell, published in 1933. The book details accounts of poverty in Paris and London during the late 1920s. The first half of the book takes place in Paris, where Orwell tells his story of working menial jobs while undergoing poverty. The second half is dedicated to Orwell’s experiences living as a tramp (long-term unhoused person) in London.

In Paris, Orwell first works in a restaurant at “Hôtel X,” and later at the “Auberge [inn] de Jehan Cottard.” He works as a dishwasher, which he refers to by its French name “plongeur.” Surrounded by abject poverty, Orwell is trapped in a vicious cycle between wage and survival, without social mobility.

In London, Orwell is jobless and lives in and out of homeless shelters. He finds the same cycle as Paris, except between commodities and survival. London proves to be more hostile, as even idling on the street is illegal.

Orwell’s writing may be sometimes difficult to understand, but it becomes simple after an adjustment to interwar British lexicon. It is a great book that provides a look into lower-class life during the interwar period.