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Friday, April 24, 2009

Orwell's "Down and Out in Paris and London"

George Packer has a nice short piece on Orwell's first book (which I have yet to read).
Orwell began “tramping” and staying in shelters in 1928, when he was twenty-four years old and had just returned from five years as a colonial policeman in Burma. This period (which the critic V. S. Pritchett described as “going native in his own country”) continued—including the year and a half Orwell spent as a dishwasher and English tutor in Paris—for the better part of four years.
I was conscious of an immense weight of guilt that I had got to expiate. I suppose that sounds exaggerated; but if you do for five years a job that you thoroughly disapprove of, you will probably feel the same…I felt that I had got to escape not merely from imperialism but from every form of man’s dominion over man. I wanted to submerge myself, to get right down among the oppressed; to be one of them and on their side against their tyrants.
Sometimes the self demands penance.

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