Friday, June 26, 2009 at 12:16 AM
George Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair 106 years ago on June 25. He is most famous for his last book 1984- one of the most influential books of the 20th century and still blowing minds in the 21st- but rather than offer another high school essay on that grim masterpiece here on the Inside Google Books blog, we want to celebrate and re-introduce his awful but amazingly entertaining first book, Down and Out in Paris and London (among this blogger's favorite books).
Before there was Anthony Bourdain, Orwell blew the lid off the restaurant scene. Down and Out... is a fictionalized story of his life in the late 1920s as a dishwasher in Paris and a tramp in the classic sense of the word in London. As a plongeur he takes the reader into the kitchen of several prominent restaurants. The conditions he describes are not for the faint of heart, though you will read with absolute awe and not a little guilty pleasure. Orwell tartly summarizes one of his employers thus:
"...I used to wonder whether there could be a worse restaurant in the world than ours."
Many people have had a subpar meal, but few expect that their meat or fish spent the night on the floor covered by straw! The book was originally published in 1933 and really tells it like it was. (And don't ask about the over-used bathwater in a charity house in London.)