Down and Out in Paris and London’, fue el primer libro de Orwell y Uds deben leerlo inmediatamente

Un libro-documento asombroso, apasionante, impactante sobre la vida del pueblo en París y Londres alrededor de 1928 – 1930.

Se ha publicado en castellano creo que con el título ‘Sin blanca en París y en Londres‘ pero la traducción no la he leído.

Este libro interesa a,

A los jóvenes españoles que van desesperados a Inglaterra a aprender inglés, y para eso, como son perros muertos, se apuntan de Kitchen Porter  -de plongeur que se dice en Francés y lo fue Orwell en París, a fregar platos para aprender inglés, eso se creen ellos. Menuda sorpresa se llevan !

A los jóvenes españoles que lo hicieron, pobres ilusos y engañados, y podrán revivir esos gratos momentos, y comprobar con sorpresa que el pasado fue mucho peor.

A todos, porque así se enterarán que antes se trabajaba 17 horas por día incluso los domingos.  Sí, en 1928 y en París.

A todos, porque esto es el futuro y además bien próximo.  Con el PP habrá empleo, tal como en el libro Póngale la firma.

A los latinoamericanos particularmente a los Latinochés.  Les confirmará en sus peores prejuicios acerca de los europeos, o sea, acerca de sus abuelos, esa escoria humana escapada de los ghettos de Europa, de los conventillos de Nápoles, de los montes de Orense y de los quartiers de Paris.

A los habituales de los restaurantes más exquisitos de París.  O de cualquier restaurante español, argentino, uruguayo, etc. ¡No vomiten cuando lo lean!

A todos los mozos de bar españoles o de cualquier lado, aquí sabrán de los mozos de bar de los mejores hoteles y restaurantes del París de entreguerras.

A los dueños de estos antros, que comprobarán que pueden apretar mucho más el limón, ahora que las pepitas ya no pueden ni chillar.

¡A los zoólogos!  trae interesantes noticias sobre las chinches.

Y precisamente, con chinches es que comienza el libro, del que os voy a pegar algunos fragmentos  –en inglés, naturalmente.Y en français, en sus partes.  Bugs, quiere decir bedbugs, o sea chinches.  Entre putain y salope hay una distinción imaginaria …

————————————  I  ———————————-

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!’



My hotel was called the Hotel des Trois Moineaux. It was a dark, rickety warren of five storeys, cut up by wooden partitions into forty rooms. The rooms were small and inveterately dirty, for there was no maid, and Madame F., the PATRONNE, had no time to do any sweeping. The walls were as thin as matchwood, and to hide the cracks they had been covered with layer after layer of pink paper, which had come loose and housed innumerable bugs.

Near the ceiling long lines of bugs marched all day like columns of soldiers, and at night came down ravenously hungry, so that one had to get up every few hours and kill them in hecatombs. Sometimes when the bugs got too bad one used to burn sulphur and drive them into the next room; whereupon the lodger next door would retort by having his room sulphured, and drive the bugs back. It was a dirty place, but homelike, for Madame F. and her husband were good sorts. The rent of the rooms varied between thirty and fifty francs a week.

——————————————–   X   ——————————————-

The Hotel X was a vast, grandiose place with a classical facade, and at one side a little, dark doorway like a rat-hole, which was the service entrance. I arrived at a quarter to seven in the morning. A stream of men with greasy trousers were hurrying in and being checked by a doorkeeper who sat in a tiny office. I waited, and presently the CHEF DU PERSONNEL, a sort of assistant manager, arrived and began to question me. He was an Italian, with a round, pale face, haggard from overwork. He asked whether I was an experienced dishwasher, and I said that I was; he glanced at my hands and saw that I was lying, but on hearing that I was an Englishman he changed his tone and engaged me.

After this I set to work rather hurriedly. Except for about an hour, I was at work from seven in the morning till a quarter past nine at night; first at washing crockery, then at scrubbing the tables and floors of the employees’ dining-room, then at polishing glasses and knives, then at fetching meals, then at washing crockery again, then at fetching more meals and washing more crockery. It was easy work, and I got on well with it except when I went to the kitchen to fetch meals.

The kitchen was like nothing I had ever seen or imagined –a stifling, low-ceilinged inferno of a cellar, red-lit from the fires, and deafening with oaths and the clanging of pots and pans. It was so hot that all the metal-work except the stoves had to be covered with cloth. In the middle were furnaces, where twelve cooks skipped to and fro, their faces dripping sweat in spite of their white caps. Round that were counters where a mob of waiters and PLONGEURS clamoured with trays. Scullions, naked to the waist, were stoking the fires and scouring huge copper saucepans with sand. Everyone seemed to be in a hurry and a rage. The head cook, a fine, scarlet man with big moustachios, stood in the middle booming continuously, ‘ÇA MARCHE DEUX OEUFS BROUILLÉS! ÇA MARCHE UN CHATEAUBRIAND AUX POMMES SAUTEES!’ except when he broke off to curse at a PLONGEUR. There were three counters, and the first time I went to the kitchen I took my tray unknowingly to the wrong one. The head cook walked up to me, twisted his moustaches, and looked me up and down. Then he beckoned to the breakfast cook and pointed at me.

‘Do you see THAT? That is the type of PLONGEUR they send us nowadays. Where do you come from, idiot? From Charenton, I suppose?’ (There is a large lunatic asylum at Charenton.)

‘From England,’ I said.

‘I might have known it. Well, MON CHER MONSIEUR L’ANGLAIS, may I inform you that you are the son of a whore? And now fous-moi le camp to the other counter, where you belong.’

———————————————   XIV —————————–

Take cleanliness, for example. The dirt in the Hotel X, as soon as one penetrated into the service quarters, was revolting. Our cafeterie had year-old filth in all the dark corners, and the bread-bin was infested with cockroaches. Once I suggested killing these beasts to Mario. ‘Why kill the poor animals?’ he said reproachfully. The others laughed when I wanted to wash my hands before touching the butter. Yet we were clean where we recognized cleanliness as part of the boulot. We scrubbed the tables and polished the brasswork regularly, because we had orders to do that; but we had no orders to be genuinely clean, and in any case we had no time for it.  We were simply carrying out our duties; and as our first duty was punctuality, we saved time by being dirty.

In the kitchen the dirt was worse. It is not a figure of speech, it is a mere statement of fact to say that a French cook will spit in the soup  –that is, if he is not going to drink it himself. He is an artist, but his art is not cleanliness. To a certain extent he is even dirty because he is an artist, for food, to look smart, needs dirty treatment. When a steak, for instance, is brought up for the head cook’s inspection, he does not handle it with a fork. He picks it up in his fingers and slaps it down, runs his thumb round the dish and licks it to taste the gravy, runs it round and licks again, then steps back and contemplates the piece of meat like an artist judging a picture, then presses it lovingly into place with his fat, pink fingers, every one of which he has licked a hundred times that morning. When he is satisfied, he takes a cloth and wipes his fingerprints from the dish, and hands it to the waiter. And the waiter, of course, dips HIS fingers into the gravy –his nasty, greasy fingers which he is for ever running through his brilliantined hair.

Whenever one pays more than, say, ten francs for a dish of meat in Paris, one may be certain that it has been fingered in this manner. In very cheap restaurants it is different; there, the same trouble is not taken over the food, and it is just forked out of the pan and flung on to a plate, without handling.
Roughly speaking, the more one pays for food, the more sweat and spittle one is obliged to eat with it.

Dirtiness is inherent in hotels and restaurants, because sound food is sacrificed to punctuality and smartness. The hotel employee is too busy getting food ready to remember that it is meant to be eaten. A meal is simply ‘UNE COMMANDE‘ to him, just as a man dying of cancer is simply ‘a case’ to the doctor. A customer orders, for example, a piece of toast. Somebody, pressed with work in a cellar deep underground, has to prepare it. How can he stop and say to himself, ‘This toast is to be eaten –I must make it eatable’? All he knows is that it must look right and must be ready in three minutes. Some large drops of sweat fall from his forehead on to the toast. Why should he worry? Presently the toast falls among the filthy sawdust on the floor. Why trouble to make a new piece? It is much quicker to wipe the sawdust off. On the way upstairs the toast falls again, butter side down. Another wipe is all it needs. And so with everything. The only food at the Hotel X which was ever prepared cleanly was the staff’s, and the PATRON’S. The maxim, repeated by everyone, was: ‘Look out for the PATRON, and as for the clients, S’EN FOUT PAS MAL!‘ Everywhere in the service quarters dirt festered –a secret vein of dirt, running through the great garish hotel like the intestines through a man’s body.

Apart from the dirt, the PATRON swindled the customers wholeheartedly.
For the most part the materials of the food were very bad, though the cooks knew how to serve it up in style. The meat was at best ordinary, and as to the vegetables, no good housekeeper would have looked at them in the market. The cream, by a standing order, was diluted with milk. The tea and coffee were of inferior sorts, and the jam was synthetic stuff out of vast, unlabelled tins. All the cheaper wines, according to Boris, were corked VIN ORDINAIRE.

There was a rule that employees must pay for anything they spoiled, and in consequence damaged things were seldom thrown away. Once the waiter on the third floor dropped a roast chicken down the shaft of our service lift, where it fell into a litter of broken bread, torn paper and so forth at the bottom. We simply wiped it with a cloth and sent it up again. Upstairs there were dirty tales of once-used sheets not being washed, but simply damped, ironed and put back on the beds.

The PATRON was as mean to us as to the customers. Throughout the vast hotel there was not, for instance, such a thing as a brush and pan; one had to manage with a broom and a piece of cardboard. And the staff lavatory was worthy of Central Asia, and there was no place to wash one’s hands, except the sinks used for washing crockery.

In spite of all this the Hotel X was one of the dozen most expensive hotels in Paris, and the customers paid startling prices. The ordinary charge for a night’s lodging, not including breakfast, was two hundred francs. All wine and tobacco were sold at exactly double shop prices, though of course the PATRON bought at the wholesale price. If a customer had a title, or was reputed to be a millionaire, all his charges went up automatically. One morning on the fourth floor an American who was on diet wanted only salt and hot water for his breakfast. Valenti was furious.
‘Jesus Christ!’ he said, ‘what about my ten per cent? Ten per cent of salt and water!’ And he charged twenty-five francs for the breakfast. The customer paid without a murmur.


Esto fue para hacer boca y entusiasmaros a conseguirlo.

¿Dónde conseguirlo? Por supuesto este libro lo venden en las buenas librerías -yo tengo una edición de Penguin que compré en Oxford- pero también se consigue de segunda mano en Amazon, por un par de euros o libras.

¡Pero estáis de suerte !  Project Gutenberg Australia lo tiene, edición digital y se deja descargar gratis total.  Esta edición electrónica, que la he chequeado contra la mía, no es tan buena  –arriba tuve que agregar algunas cosas en francés que no estaban en el original, y corregir algo, porque se ve que el scaneo fue imperfecto cuando encontraba frases en francés. Pero es buena.

O sea descargará el libro texto comprimido.

NB.  Gracias al Dr A M por pasarme el dato de que el libro estaba aquí.

Por Armando

3 comentarios en «Lean ‘Down and Out’, de Orwell»
  1. Vaya me intereso mucho el libro aunque cedo al ingles y voy a tratar de conseguirlo en español. Pues tampoco han cambiado demasiado los hoteles y los restauranes de hoy en dia, en el barrio Once de Buenos Aires (ya no recuerdo la calle) habia( o hay, es que todo el tiempo cierran los locales y se abren unos nuevos que luego cierran) un restaurante de chinos que a metros de la entrada en la vereda habia una ventana que daba como a un sotano, recuerdo que se me cayeron unos papeles al suelo y al recogerlos observe la ventana, y pasaba un chino en calzones rascandose el trasero, cerca de este habia otros picando carne. Esta bien se trataba de un local muy precario, sin embargo hace 4 años – y dudo que pueda repetir esa ocasion porque no tengo blanca o pasta o como le llamen, aqui se le dice mango, guita, peso,etc – fui a cenar con unos amigos a restaurante de Puerto Madero – recuerdo que habiamos elegido ese lugar porque un amigo lo habia visto en un revista de vinos y aparte conocia a uno de los cocineros que no se apresuro en señalar- en un momento fui al baño, cuando entre habia un olor como a osamenta, era muy molesto, cuando estoy el lavabo -este refeljaba las cabinas donde estaban los excusados – sale de repente el cocinero que anteriormente me habian señalado, se dirge hacia el lavabo pero no se limpia las manos solo se acomoda el pelo y se va, no tenia el delantal pero tenia el uniforme del restarurante, entra un niño al baño y no tarde en ponerse contento con el tesoro que ha encontrado en la cabina olorosa, el desgraciado no tiro ni la cadena, y se fue a cocinar, y te matan por un plato, desgraciados. Creo que la gran diferencia que podria resultar en el futuro estaria mas relacionada con el horario (y el salario por su puesto) que con la calidad del servicio, aunque hay que ver en que condiciones estan los almacenes, si ya no hay ratoneras y carne abombada. Interesante libro. Saludos

  2. Y eso que no puse las partes peores porque me daba asco leerlas !
    Anda, que cuando veas el hogar de acogida de vagabundos en Londres, creo que las cárceles eran mejores.

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