A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Monday, 12 January 2009

Orwellian Openings

I've been refreshing myself with bits of Orwell these last few hours - and I'm glad to say he still doesn't disappoint...

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him. The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats...

(The opening lines of 1984.)

The rue du Coq d'Or, Paris, seven in the morning. A succession of furious, choking yells from the street. Madame Monce, who kept the little hotel opposite mine, had come out on to the pavement to address a lodger on the third floor. Her bare feet were stuck into sabots and her grey hair was streaming down.

MADAME MONCE: 'Salope! Salope! How many times have I told you not to squash bugs on the wallpaper? Do you think you've bought the hotel, eh? Why can't you throw them out of the window like everyone else? Putain! Salope!'


Thereupon a whole variegated chorus of yells, as windows were flung open on every side and half the street joined in the quarrel...

(The opening lines of Down And Out In Paris And London.)

For me it would be quite impossible not to carry on reading after such arresting openings...


Jay said...

I've never read Down and Out in Paris and London. You've intrigued me now, I shall have to get a copy!

am said...


And he says, "How?"
And you say, "What does this mean?"
And he screams back, "You're a cow . . ."

Could it be?

DOWN AND OUT IN PARIS AND LONDON was one of the books Dorothy Day most admired. I read that in THE LIFE YOU SAVE MAY BE YOUR OWN: AN AMERICAN PILGRIMAGE, by Paul Elie. Her writing was certainly influenced by Orwell.

Thanks so much for bring George Orwell's writing to my attention again, solitary walker.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for this, am. Though I'm familiar with Simone Weil and Thomas Merton, I knew hardly anything about Dorothy Day. What a remarkable person. A woman of action as well as words - like Orwell.