George Orwell's name is linked to his immortal work 1984, but when he was still an unknown author wrote a story emerged from his experience in the slums of London and Paris “Down and Out in Paris and London” .One of the best travel books of all time in which he narrates, in part autobiographically, the adventures of a penniless British writer among the down-and-out of two great cities. The stories of both cities tell us about sobering Orwellian thought about poverty and society.
From Chapter XXXVII
“A word about the sleeping accommodation open to a homeless person in
London. At present it is impossible to get a BED in any non-charitable
institution in London for less than sevenpence a night. If you cannot
afford seven-pence for a bed, you must put up with one of the following
1. The Embankment. Here is the account that Paddy gave me of sleeping
on the Embankment:
'De whole t'ing wid de Embankment is gettin' to sleep early. You got
to be on your bench by eight o'clock, because dere ain't too many benches
and sometimes dey're all taken. And you got to try to get to sleep at once.
'Tis too cold to sleep much after twelve o'clock, an' de police turns you
off at four in de mornin'. It ain't easy to sleep, dough, wid dem bloody
trams flyin' past your head all de time, an' dem sky-signs across de river
flickin' on an' off in your eyes. De cold's cruel. Dem as sleeps dere
generally wraps demselves up in newspaper, but it don't do much good. You'd
be bloody lucky if you got t'ree hours' sleep.'
I have slept on the Embankment and found that it corresponded to
Paddy's description. It is, however, much better than not sleeping at all,
which is the alternative if you spend the night in the streets, elsewhere
than on the Embankment. According to the law in London, you may sit down
for the night, but the police must move you on if they see you asleep; the
Embankment and one or two odd corners (there is one behind the Lyceum
Theatre) are special exceptions. This law is evidently a piece of wilful
offensive-ness. Its object, so it is said, is to prevent people from dying
of exposure; but clearly if a man has no home and is going to die of
exposure, die he will, asleep or awake. In Paris there is no such law.
There, people sleep by the score under the Seine bridges, and in doorways,
and on benches in the squares, and round the ventilating shafts of the
Metro, and even inside the Metro stations. It does no apparent harm. No one
will spend a night in the street if he can possibly help it, and if he is
going to stay out of doors he might as well be allowed to sleep, if he can.”
From Chapter XXXVIII
“My story ends here. It is a fairly trivial story, and I can only hope
that it has been interesting in the same way as a travel diary is
interesting. I can at least say, Here is the world that awaits you if you
are ever penniless. Some days I want to explore that world more thoroughly.
I should like to know people like Mario and Paddy and Bill the moocher, not
from casual encounters, but intimately; I should like to understand what
really goes on in the souls of PLONGEURS and tramps and Embankment
sleepers. At present I do not feel that I have seen more than the fringe of
The British author George Orwell, pen name for Eric Blair,(June 25, 1903 Motihari - India -January 21, 1950 London – GB) achieved prominence in the late 1940ies as the author of two brilliant satires attacking totalitarianism. Familiarity with the novels, documentaries, essays, and criticism he wrote during the 1930ies and later established him as one of the most important and influential voices of the century.