To my taste, the best of Orwell is in the splendid essays on mass culture and the finely sensitive reporting of Homage to Catalonia and Down and Out.
Edmund Fuller, Saturday Review of Literature
18 February 1950, pp. 18-19
Edmund Fuller (b. 1914), American critic, biographer and historian.
It was an irony that George Orwell died just at the time his publishers were issuing three novels antedating the two best sellers upon which his reputation in this country had been built. Any such group review tends toward the ‘span-of-career’ tone and now his untimely death makes this inevitable.
The first of these reissued volumes, Down and Out in Paris and London appeared here in 1933—briefly—and all things considered, there is scant reason for it to be heard from again. This is not to say that it is without interest. For one thing, there must be in this chronicle of abject poverty autobiographical elements bearing upon the tuberculosis that cut short his career. Moreover, some of the writing is splendid and vivid, with fascinating details of the life of the plongeur in Paris (a combination of bus-boy and dishwasher) and of the British tramp. (Interesting to compare him with the American hobo. ) Bozo, the screever, is an especially notable type of his species.
The book’s thesis concerning the eccentrics of this pauper’s world is that ‘poverty frees them from ordinary standards of behavior. ’ It is graphic, at times horrific, in its depiction of the extremes of privation. We feel it is all true and that he was there. Curiously, however, in the case of the narrator, there is an effect of a compulsive psychologic drive