'The white-hot reaction of a sensitive, observant, compassionate young man to poverty'
George Orwell's vivid memoir of his time living among the desperately poor and destitute is a moving tour of the underworld society.
Written when Orwell was a struggling writer in his twenties, it documents his 'first contact with poverty': sleeping in bug-infested hostels and doss houses of last resort, working as a dishwasher in Paris, surviving on scraps and cigarette butts, living alongside tramps, a star-gazing pavement artist and a starving Russian ex-army captain. Exposing a shocking, previously hidden world to readers, Orwell gave a human face to the statistics of poverty for the first time. In doing so, he found his voice as a writer.
'Orwell was the great moral force of his age' Spectator
This book falls into two distinct parts, both with an underlying common theme, the revealing of poverty at close range. Not an appealing subject, you will say. But have a look at the book and catch the strange fascination of the telling. First there is Paris, not the Paris of the boulevards or the Bois, nor yet of the Latin Quarter. But Paris of the slums, the Paris of those who live a precarious existence, always on the verge of actual starvation, a hand to mouth existence, from pawn shop to pawn shop. The youth who is telling of his own experiences, and of those around him, eventually lands a job as a dishwasher behind the scenes of a smart hotel restaurant. Vivid and lurid and unappetizing, are the pictures he gives of what goes on behind the scenes, human and otherwise. The second part of the book brings him to England, and the story recalls Josiah Flint's TRAMPING WITH TRAMPS, that expose of our own hobodom. Here is the English side of the picture today, exaggerated by the unemployment situation and the aftermath of war. It is particularly timely in showing the measures in active use for dealing with the many sorts and conditions of men who have hit the trail today, and who travel in hordes from one encampment to another. One wonders, in reading this book whether there is not here another Thomas Burke in the making. (Kirkus Reviews)