sometimes witty book reviews
Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) is a semi-biographical account of George Orwell’s life in Paris and London during the early twentieth century. Part one should be read by any and every hospitality worker. If not for the lessons that could learnt, then for the hilarious observations of kitchen and wait staff life in Paris’ ‘Hôtel X.’ Conditions are grungy, hot and unfair. It seems incongruous that the French staff not protest, given their nationality, but as Orwell notes: ‘they don’t think because they don’t have the leisure for it.’
Part two is an account of Orwell’s strange investigative journey into the tramp world of London City and surrounding areas. The shocking details of paupers’ lodgings and work houses of the time would be unbearable but for Orwell’s succinct and conversational writing style.
From pauper houses, to fine Parisian hotels and conversing with chalk-drawing screevers to recounting the squalor of upstairs lodgings of the Latin Quarter, there are descriptions of cabbages leaves, drinking sessions and dirty old boots that will stay with me for a very long time.
An excellent during-Contiki-Europe-tour read.