London, 15th of October 1934

In the autumn of 1934, days before the publication of Burmese Days in New York, George Orwell penned the introduction to the French translation of the book that launched his literary career. His introductory text was slotted in between Panaït Istrati’s preface and chapter one of La Vache enragée. Orwells’ introduction translated back into English…

Orwell à Paris Book Launch

The moment has arrived: on the 25th of April, I’ll be at the Hotel Littéraire Le Swann, Paris, for the launch of my book, Orwell à Paris which will have been published 2 days earlier in France by Exils Éditions.
Tricky questions & the signing of books will be dealt with simultaneously…
See you there. 19h.

Orwell, Crowley & The Beatles…

“Crowley, Edward Alexander, 12.10.75, Leamington, Britannique, Homme de lettres.” The microfilm is an interesting historical document in itself, but in addition to the fact that Aleister Crowley and George Orwell were both in Paris in 1928-1929, they are also linked by association to one woman…

Istrati – a long spell in purgatory

Panaït Istrati, writer of the French preface to Orwell’s “Down & Out in Paris & London” (La Vache Enragée) died in 1935, a pariah, slandered by the Communists. Orwell died in 1950, also of tuberculosis and at the same age as Istrati.
Guest author Nicolas Ragonneau explores the common ground between the 2 writers & tells of Istrati’s long path to redemption…

Coquin vs Coquin legal case

Looking for Orwell in all the wrong places…

I realised straight away that the divorce proceedings I’d requested were for the wrong Madame Coquin. I’d wasted my time and followed the wrong family line. It would be another 30 minutes before the correct files would be on my desk so I opened the folder in front of me and began to read…

Prefacing Orwell – The Last Words of Panaït Istrati

In March 1935, days before he died from tuberculosis, the Romanian writer Panaït Istrati penned the preface to the French edition of George Orwell’s first book. In translation, Down and Out in Paris and London became La Vache Enragée, a title taken from the 18th-century expression that describes a level of destitution so great that the poor are forced to eat meat from diseased cows.

A Napoleonic plan for the invasion of England by French troops and navy. 1803

Over land & (under) Sea

In 1927, a year before Eric Blair travelled to Paris, the A.L.A company began a ferry service between England and France, while dreams of a Channel Tunnel, envisioned since the early 1800s, continued to be discussed in parliament and founder on the usual concerns of defence of the realm.

On becoming a writer

The Art & Literature review L’illustration carried a full-page ad in their May 1929 issue that attempted to dispel the myth of genius and the place it occupies in the creation of literary greats. In the absence of genius, they claimed that “This art, if necessary, can be taught”

The Hotel X

“Anyone coming into the basement for the first time would have thought himself in a den of maniacs. It was only later, when I understood the working of a hotel, that I saw order in all this chaos.”

Russian Paris – part 1

Before tens of thousands of Russians flooded into France following the forced migrations of WWI and the Bolshevik revolution, a Russian community of an artistic nature had already taken root in Paris. In the early 1900s, Sergei Diaghilev and his Russian ballet became a cause célèbre in the French capital…

Enter the Russian Captain

“Writing is bosh. There is only one way to make money at writing, and that is to marry a publisher’s daughter. But you would make a good waiter if you shaved that moustache off. Wait till I can bend this accursed leg, mon ami. And then, if you are ever out of a job, come to me.”

Foch’s Funeral

On the 29th of March 1929, days after discharging himself from the Hôpital Cochin, Eric Blair (the future George Orwell) attended the funeral of Maréchal Foch. The former WWI Supreme Allied Commander was honoured with a full, state-funeral carriage procession that set out from the Arc de Triomphe and ended at the gold-domed Invalides where the French Maréchal was laid to rest opposite Napoleon.

L’Hôpital Cochin – How the poor die

He signed in as Arthur Blair, once again gave his incorrect year of birth (1902), and was assigned a ward where the foreigners outnumbered the French.
“In the year 1929 I spent several weeks in the Hôpital X, in the fifteenth arrondissement of Paris. The clerks put me through the usual third-degree at the reception desk…”

A Paris Hotel

If Eric Blair had come to Paris to broaden his outlook, the Hotel at 6 Rue du Pot de Fer fitted the bill perfectly. The Hotel des Bons Amis* (renamed L’Hotel des 3 Moineaux in the book) catered for a demographic that was largely made up of immigrants and those passing through.

Found in Translation

“Well, he died young. He was very talented. He did two Orwells for us but was also known for his excellent Russian translations of Bulgakov. He was one of the best, but had…health problems. What did you want to ask him?”

The very thirsty captain

At the end of WWI, a few thousand Russian officers were stationed in the northwestern French town of Laval while the powers that be decided on their fate. They hadn’t been involved in combat operations since the spring of 1917…

Over Eric’s shoulder…

An extract from Chapter 2 of ‘Orwell in Paris – Down & Out with the Russain Captain’.
We follow over Eric Blair’s shoulder in 1928 as he discovers the streets around his hotel.

6 rue du Pot-de-Fer

A microfilm extract from the Paris police archives shows that Eric Blair registered with the Paris police on the 20th of June 1928. It appears to be in his own hand. He gives his address & (not for the last time) his incorrect date of birth. The “SP” just under his nationality stands for “Sans Papiers” meaning he had no, or at least presented no, ID papers.