Down and Out in Paris and London

George Orwell

04 March 2021
256 pages


Down and Out in Paris and London was George Orwell’s first published book. It is at once a very personal account, and a vivid exposé of hard lives weighed down by poverty in France and England between the wars.

Part of the Macmillan Collector’s Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket-sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. This edition is introduced by writer Lara Feigel.

Towards the end of the 1920s, whilst living in Paris, George Orwell’s few remaining funds are stolen and he quickly falls into a life of severe poverty. Living hand to mouth, he shares squalid lodgings with Russian-born Boris and finds tedious and back-breaking work washing up in the bowels of Paris restaurant kitchens. On his return to England, he lives as a tramp, finding occasional shelter in often dangerous doss houses.

The thief who took the last of an ailing George Orwell’s money from his Paris room in 1929 did a big favour to political literature.
Little that Orwell has written, here and elsewhere, has lost the hum of relevancy, from the causes of poverty and its long-term effects – “it annihilates the future” – to its everyday toll of boredom.
Down and Out is an extraordinary and curious book: beautifully phrased, meticulous, honest and funny. George Orwell’s 1933 memoir, and a study of poverty, is a book both rooted in its era and able to transcend it.