Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

In this memoir, which one gathers is at least semi-non-fictional, Orwell takes a voluntary excursion into poverty to see how the other half lives. He accepts most of the miseries of dire poverty with literary good humor, but all of this in the end is grist for his socialist mill. He seems genuinely indignant that poverty should exist in the modern world, arguing that there is no inherent difference between the well off and the dirt poor that justifies this arrangement, but like most socialists he is better at identifying the problems than proposing a workable remedy. But despite the subdued note of social protest this is quite an interesting memoir, full of memorable stories and characters inhabiting the underworlds of Paris and London, rendered with Orwell’s inimitable English irony. That Orwell’s poverty was voluntary and not forced is testified to by the book itself; most people who fall into the pit of poverty never emerge to tell the tale. A good story by a good sort of bloke.

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