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Publisher's Summary

Orwell's own experiences inspire this semi-autobiographical novel about a man living in Paris in the early 1930s without a penny. The narrator's poverty brings him into contact with strange incidents and characters, which he manages to chronicle with great sensitivity and graphic power. The latter half of the book takes the English narrator to his home city, London, where the world of poverty is different in externals only.

A socialist who believed that the lower classes were the wellspring of world reform, Orwell actually went to live among them in England and on the continent. His novel draws on his experiences of this world, from the bottom of the echelon in the kitchens of posh French restaurants to the free lodging houses, tramps, and street people of London. In the tales of both cities, we learn some sobering truths about poverty and society.

©1962 S. M. Pitt-Rivers (P)1993 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the critics say

"Genuine, unexaggerated, and intelligent." - ( New Republic)
"The most lucid portrait of poverty in the English language...combines good narrative with wit, humor, and honest realism." ( The Nation)
"Excellent...a model of the realistic approach." ( New York Times Book Review)

What listeners say about Down and Out in Paris and London

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more than 1984

Orwell is so well appreciated for 1984 that his other works don't really get the credit they deserve. Down and Out in Paris and London is fantastic. I'm eager to start Homage to Catalonia and Road to Weigan Pier next based off this listen.

Superb narration.

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Fantastic

Really enjoyed this work. Listened right after listening to The Great Courses series of lectures on George Orwell, and it provided great context. He really did go live amongst these men. Timeless. Great narration.

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Down and Out in Paris and London

On the surface, this book is about the poor and how they survived in Paris and London, but but it is really it is about politics, the rich, how governments supposed support places strive to keep the poor, poor.

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A Theatrical Delivery

The narrator's style is a little hard to follow at first given the British accent, but he certainly puts his whole heart into impersonating every single member of the mottled crew he is tasked to represent. Being a bilingual english/french speaker helps follow the feel of the text, and you can tell from the quality of his impersations that the narrator understands and amplifies every aspect of his speeches.
He thus manages to express and emphasize a richness to the text that even I, a bilingual speaker, would have struggled to perceive on a first read.
This is one of those circumstances where hearing is better than reading, and so I'm glad I made this purchase, at a fraction of one month's credit.

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  • Darwin8u
  • 2012-05-21

The King of Boldness, Clearness, and Audacity

George Orwell is one of those writers who you THINK you know when you read his couple, well known, books in your adolescence. Later, when older, you discover that 9/10 of his writing was submerged and hidden from your younger, more innocent self. The more of Orwell's nonfiction I read, the more I love his boldness, clearness, and audacity. Orwell's confidence in his writing is apparent even in his earlier works. Down and Out doesn't make me want to tramp, but it did teach me a couple tricks just incase.

23 people found this helpful

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  • GK
  • 2012-08-30

Colorful and desperate. Humouros and tragic.

Would you listen to Down and Out in Paris and London again? Why?

Yes. I have read the book a few times and I like the first part read in a french accent from french characters. It really brings the characters to life.

What did you like best about this story?

The characters in the Hotels and the French Quarter the protagonist lives and works among. Madame F the landlord, Boris's optimism and friendship to the protagonist, Charlie's drunken speeches, Rocolle the cat eating miser, the snobby waiters that enjoy spending their customer's money on their food and drink by proxy, the lazy Siberian waiter that insults his boss in order to get fired half way thru the day at every job because they have to pay him him for the entire day (he has so much cheek), Mario (George's boss) that is more like a machine at work than a man, but fair minded. The height of meal rushes everyone is "swearing oaths" to one another, floors covered with garbage, employees stealing food and liquor--so well described how a hotel restaurant is ran. England: The Spike where the spinster in blue is giving the homeless men tea and a bun and she asks one man when was the last time he talked to his Lord Jesus. The man was over come with shame. A red nosed man jumped up and cried out the Lords name to draw attention away from the embarrassed man. The red nosed man had this act down, likely from prison. The spinster won't let the men leave until hymns are sung. The red nose man passes out the hymn books like from a deck of cards and spouts off the names of lucky hands only the men can hear as they each get a book--bringing something bearable to this contempt every christian charity makes these men go thru to get a few pieces of bread and a cup of tea. Reminds me of the old saying "sing for your supper." The filthy and crowded lodges that make the insect infested hotel rooms in Paris seem like luxury.

What about Frederick Davidson’s performance did you like?

He was a bit stuffy as the protagonist. However, he did the correct accents very well.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The unemployed clerk kneeling in a salvation army, praying to God with such desperation for a job. The first Spike making all of the men undress and stand in a line, exposed, in shame, malnourished, sickly, some elderly wearing trusses, while a med student inspected them indifferently for infectious diseases like small pox and nothing being done to care for their ailments.

Any additional comments?

One can't go wrong with anything written by Orwell. A heavy french accent speaking english and speaking french either adds to this book for some, or takes away for some. I suggest reading the book first, before listening to this audio book to get the most enjoyment.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Patrick J. Kane
  • 2019-10-10

Excellent but this is a censored audiobook

First the book is great. It’s terrifying really how applicable this still is today almost a 100 years later, both from a social-political point of view but also from a human nature perspective. There’s definitely some racism in this but I’m not sure if the book is racist. I can’t help but think it’s a tool to explore the nature of society by examining it at its base. This may be wishful thinking but in truth I’m not making that call either way until I revisit this with some distance.

Only complaint is the profanity has been replaced withe reader simply saying the word “blank”. It’s funny at first but there comes a chapter that you can’t even decipher because of it.

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  • Perrin
  • 2020-12-26

Unable to get past the narrator’s “performance”

I've never bailed on a book before but I was unable to warm up to the over the top, chewing the scenery “performance” of Frederick Davidson. Orwell never disappoints so I will read the book instead of the audio.

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  • j s
  • 2020-07-02

Great

I wish they didn't censor the swears. It would also be nice if there is some translation of the Frenc, Otherwise a very nice reading. Hunter s Thompson was the catalyst for me delving into some Orwell

2 people found this helpful

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  • Thomas Mailloux
  • 2011-12-05

Little known Orwell title is worth the listen.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

interesting sociological study of life amoong the poor in France and England.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Orwell. author and hero.

Which character ??? as performed by Frederick Davidson ??? was your favorite?

Orwell.

If you could take any character from Down and Out in Paris and London out to dinner, who would it be and why?

Orwell. He is cultured and erudite, even in poverty.

Any additional comments?

I highly reccomend this book. It is dated, I am sure, as even poverty does not stand still. Even so, it is a remarkable first-hand study of life among the poor in France and England in the 1930s.

Orwell describes his struggles in Paris, as his money runs out and pawn shops are his only resource. Later, he has jobs in restaurants, both posh and less so, and tells of his empployers abuse, disdain and, in some cases, outright robbery. He tells of drunken nights among the working poor, who have no other source of entertainment.

The story moves to London, where an expected job is delayed a month. Orwell spends that month mostly as a tramp, among tramps, and discovers dignity, honor (I should say

5 people found this helpful

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  • richard
  • 2020-01-15

Excellent read

Great book! Not sure if I prefer this or 1984 better! And 1984 is one of my all time favorites. This book is less dark, a lighter humorous tone but still on serious humanist subject matter. Homelessness and poverty. Made interesting and funny. There is voyeristic aspect to it though. Enjoyed the narrator very much too!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Sara J
  • 2018-06-18

Great book, not a fan of the narrator

I decided to read this after learning that Anthony Bourdain had enjoyed reading this book, and I too enjoyed it. Orwell offers some thoughtful and practical insights on restaurant work and city poverty in the early 1930s. Wish we had read this instead of Animal Farm back in my school days. Performance rated lower because I do not like this particular narrator's voice, but it was tolerable enough to get through the whole story.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Ted
  • 2022-03-17

A reader so bad he sabotages Orwell

If I hadn’t been a fan of Orwell’s writing and seriously interested in this, his first published book, I would never have continued to listen. It’s an entertaining, colorful, richly detailed account – often disgusting, sometimes hilariously so – of the youthful author’s encounters while living in filthy quarters in Paris and working as an ill-paid dishwasher in restaurants there, followed by an account of his days as an itinerant tramp outside London. It is slightly fictionalized, I gather, or at least events have been selectively rearranged. As in his later “Road to Wigan Pier,” Orwell – a left-leaning journalist who, in search of material, sometimes played poorer than he was in order to experience life among the lower classes firsthand – clearly relishes describing squalid bug-ridden bedrooms, the smell of bad drainage, unwashed lowlife companions, and various forms of petty crime.

The problem with this book, as with a number of Orwell titles, is that the reader is the late Frederick Davidson, an English-born American who worked under several different names. Even if you tried, it would be hard to find a worse choice as reader. Davidson sounds like a snooty, effeminate head waiter with an exaggerated, almost caricatured upper-class accent, his voice dripping with condescension. It’s the sort of accent Orwell himself despised (and in fact wrote about in his novel “Keep the Aspidistra Flying”). The fact that Davidson was somehow hired to narrate so many of Orwell’s books – this one apparently in the early ’90s – seems almost a deliberate act of sabotage.

Worse than his accent, his narration also falls into a monotonous, almost unvarying pattern. He speaks mechanically, sentence after sentence virtually the same, with no regard for meaning; it’s clear he barely knows what he’s reading. Again and again his voice goes up at the end of phrases when it ought to go down; again and again he emphasizes precisely the wrong word, or raises or lowers his voice in precisely the opposite way the sentence demands. His reading, therefore, works against our comprehension of the text.

To be fair, Davidson does at least get the French and other foreign accents right in the first part of the book, and the various working-class, Cockney, and Midland accents right in the second. Still, Orwell deserves better.

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  • R. S. Rehmel
  • 2022-03-17

Poverty 1930s style

interesting look at poverty when there were no handouts from the government. 2 things came to mind. freedom us having nothing left to lose. the other was a comment from my grandfather about the Depression. wasn't bad, if you had a job.