Sunday, August 17, 2014

Down and out with Russians in Paris (and London..)

Down and Out in Paris and LondonDown and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Working in a busy hotel kitchen as a busboy/dishwasher 'plonguer'in 1930's Paris is hard work as the detailed accounts of the stress, heat and pandemonium in the Paris hotel kitchens attest; young Eric Blair describes the turbulence of the political climate in 1930's Paris with a strange youthful stoicism, especially the exiled world of down at the heels but still proud Russian Émigrés. Switching countries, the London tramp scenes don't quite have the same flair as the scenes amongst the working waiters and plongeurs in Paris and the matter of fact style will do little portray tramps as people with their own hard luck stories however this grim style is also very effective and takes you deep into the hard boiled luckless world of the petty thieves 'screevers' and 'glimmers' of London. The descriptions of tramping in and around the East End offer telling insights into the interior worlds of faceless men when one admits 'there is never anywhere to sit down for any length of time'. Before he was Orwell, Blair was a young man, trying to make it pay. The two epochs come to life in all of their dingy and grimy resolve to press on through hard times.

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