Thursday, September 25, 2014

Orwell in Paris and London

In my reading through the experiences of people who touched down in Paris, I came to Orwell, who in his "Down and out in Paris and London" really touched the base. Of life, that is.

Poor fella' was so ripped of money in 1920-ies that he, unwillingly, had a chance to experience being among the debased, paupered citizens of those two urban molochs. Investigative, as he was, he made it into a learning experience, learning not about being poor, but about his human fellows.

Often he would offer his practical insight, which undoubtedly should be branded as a leftist one, but a real humanistic, not some brainwashed aparatchik leftist mind. Go you Marxists and learn!

When in Paris he was trying to earn his money by any job which he could find, in London he was waiting for a promised job and had to go penniless for weeks. In Paris he worked down to the cellars of a hotel as a dish-washer, and learned why we should not be frequenting in fancy restaurants, and in London he tried how it is to be a regular tramp, spending nights with the poor tribesmen of the city in a "spike" or any somilar place to which a common London tramp was forced by law. Orwell is not only critical, he gives a practical advise how the things should be improved.

Orwell wrote this text in a very plain writing. I saw recently some poor soul wasting electrons to prove Orwell was not a good writer, exactly because of this style. I ould not less agree with the critic. Enough is to say that I did not care to read, or want to read, any of the blood-sweated word of that poor critic, although he seemed to be a writer of some success. But to Orwell I myself, and in fact many, many people, return quite often with even larger admiration in repeated reading. It might be true he was not an "innovative" writer of a class of Miller or Carver, but then, he never wanted to be such. Orwell was giving a true picture of the world in most of his works, and when he ventured into imaginative world, he was not far from truism about some of the places on Earth at his time. And so much more about (all too) many countries a bit later after his time. If anything, his writings stand the test of time.

It was a shocking realization that many of the effects of being poor, underfed, hopeless about obtaining a job, and hopelessly outcast from the society, seemed so much familiar to me. If anything, I do know what he means by living on 2 slices of bread and a margarine, my comment was only "wow, rich were those Paris tramps, they had a margarine!". I slept on the train station floors or benches and spent not one winter night in search for a not too exposed corner to spend night in wait for a morning train, without money for any lodging. This was only a mild, passing experience... but enough to understand all too well what Orwell was writing about here. He did a fair, very fair job.

As I opened the next book to read, it was written 20 years later, and the writer just decided to travel around US after return from Europe which just started the WWII. He is also a pennyless writer, but he was donated some money and his experience (in Pittsburgh) is thoroughly different:

"I am in a small, supposedly comfortable room of a modern hotel equipped with all the last conveniences. The bed is clean and soft, the shower functions perfectly, the toilet seat has been sterilized since the last occupancym uf I am to believe what is printed on the paper band which garlands it; soap, towels, lights, stationery, everything is provided in abundance.

I am depressed, depressed beyond words. If I were to occupy this room for any length of time I would go mad-or commit suicide."

It is like a direct inversion of sickly dirty, unsanitary world described by Orwell. But he did not mention a word "depression" one, and there was no, in fact, any time when a tramp would have time to be "depressed". What a luxury! World really fared a lot in that 20 years from the shackles of the Great war to the Dawn of the Brave New World! We today are underestimating the power of Change. It is upon us even more than it was upon those guys. Beware, the world is spinning much faster nowadays!

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