Down and Out in Paris and London

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Orwell leads us deep into the cellars, basements, homeless shelters (“spikes”) of his Paris and London, shoving us down into his misery of hunger, near slavery as a plongeur (dishwasher and more, working 18 hour days of backbreaking work in a dim-lit dirty kitchen), rushing to catch the last Metro of the night, sleeping a few hours and getting up before dawn to do it all over again. Along the way, he gathers the stories of his fellow wanderers and tramps.

It’s great biographical writing, sparing no detail of squalid life. I suppose it’s an example of the worst possible scenario one could encounter after losing a job. Once you know the worst, it’s not so bad– it’s survivable.