George Orwell, from a respectable family and Eton educated, served in the British Imperial Police. In the late 1920's he gave it up to do a sort of deep cover investigative journalism, documenting life at the bottom of the heap in Paris and London. To seem poor he had to become genuinely poor, and so this adventure turned into one of the more unusual literary autobiographies that we have.
The characters he meets are captured very vividly, genuine down-and-outs and ordinary crooks, and everything in between. The descriptions of his work as a plongeur and what really went on in the kitchens of Paris restaurants read like a horror story but are clearly the sober truth, and are worth reading on their own. He returns to London and lives the life of a hobo, doing the rounds of the night shelters and soup kitchens, taking in the rhyming slang, talking to pavement artists, and analysing the psychology of the tramp. After this his elegant slumming he goes back to his more comfortable life to write the books he became famous for.
This report prepared by Michael JR Jose