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Down and Out in Paris and London

Down and Out in Paris and London is a 1933 memoir by English writer George Orwell, his first full-length publication. Born Eric Blair (1903-1950), Orwell is best remembered for his classics 1984 and Animal Farm. Before he became a writer, Orwell was a British policeman in Burma. However, he left the job in order to become a writer, and in late 1927 began exploring the lower rungs of London society.

Down and Out in Paris and London

In 1928, he moved to the Latin Quarter of Paris, which also the home to Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald at the time. The first part of the book describes his experiences in Paris, taking a job at the “Hotel X” and descending into poverty. He first forced to sell and then pawn his clothes in order to make money. Eventually he takes a job as a plongeur (dishwasher) in the “Hôtel X” and describes the caste system among the employees.

In 1929, Orwell returned to England and lived with his parents for a time. The second half of the book sees the narrator returning to London, living as a tramp and sleeping in various places alongside other vagrants. The book was published in 1933 and debate continues over how much is autobiographical and how much is fictional. Orwell later admitted that all of the events were true but that he rearranged them in order to make a better narrative. It was in advance of publication that the pen name “George Orwell” was chosen, the name under which Eric Bair then used for the rest of his career.

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