Keep the Aspidistra Flying

Paperback | March 1, 1969

byGeorge Orwell

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Writing in his best satirical vein, Orwell tells the story of Gordon Comstock, a poor young man who works by day in a grubby London bookstore and spends his evenings shivering in a rented room, trying to write. He is determined to stay free of the "money world" of lucrative jobs, family responsibilities, and the kind of security symbolized for him by the homely, indestructible potted aspidistra that stands in every middle-class British window. His sweetheart, Rosemary, understands him and is patient with his pride and the pretensions of his poverty. But then, as happens with lovers, events overtake them.

Despite its poignancy and merciless wit, hope does break through in this book's upbeat ending - a tribute to the stubborn virtues of ordinary people, who keep the aspidistra flying.

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Writing in his best satirical vein, Orwell tells the story of Gordon Comstock, a poor young man who works by day in a grubby London bookstore and spends his evenings shivering in a rented room, trying to write. He is determined to stay free of the "money world" of lucrative jobs, family responsibilities, and the kind of security symbol...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:264 pages, 8.02 × 5.45 × 0.6 inPublished:March 1, 1969Publisher:Harvest/HBJ Book

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0156468999

ISBN - 13:9780156468992

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Rut of Poverty By the time I finished this novel, I said to myself that this is George Orwell’s greatest work, even better than "Nineteen Eighty-Four." Although after sufficient amount of contemplation, I don’t think that this is better than that immortal political legend; “Keep the Aspidistra Flying” is nevertheless his greatest social novel and is wrongly, egregiously ignored by the general public. Like many of Orwell’s protagonists in his various novels, this protagonist, Gordon Camstock, is a figure remarkably like the author himself. For example, he works in a small bookstore (the ramblings are similar to what Orwell alluded in his brilliant essay, “The Bookshop Memories.”). However, there are also several differences, for Gordon is short in stature, not very good-looking and is ragged. Like all the works of Orwell, this is also a political novel, not explicitly, but Orwell observations of socialism are brilliant. Gordon, an educated destitute, refuses to be label himself a “socialist,” while his supportive, compassionate and affluent friend, Ravelston is a boastful socialist and continually attempts to proselytize Gordon into the socialism by preaching its doctrine and dreaming that utopian Heaven on Earth. But as Gordon once remarked, “Give me five quid a week, and I’d be a Socialist, I dare say.” Like George Orwell’s another brilliant work, “Coming Up for Air,” this novel also shows the inescapable reality of the shattering of childhood dreams. Gordon’s parents had high hopes for Gordon and sacrificed everything to culturalize Gordon and give him good education. However, this novel is a classic work of Poverty (“P” in capital). Orwell makes you realize that good education is not a barrier to impecuniosity. Gordon works in a bookstore, lives in a pathetic little room, wants to be an illustrious poet but is unable to finish his eminent work, “London Pleasures.” As you read this novel, you feel as though you are sitting in that disgusting little, dusty apartment amidst those dusty objects, including an aspidistra. To be perfectly candid, Gordon is a character that one can never sympathize with; at least I was unable to understand his mind. He is such a character that vindicates that ridiculous old notion that poverty is fault of the poor, for Gordon declares a war on money. He hates money and will not genuflect to the Money-God. I am a University student and not affluent at all, but as I read this novel, I said to myself, do poor people really look for insults when there are none? Are they really, like Gordon, so erroneously self-pitying and masochistic? How can he be so cruel on himself and others around him? I came to realize, however, that of course he is cruel, but merely for the sake of being cruel. Instead his pathetic, largely welcomed poverty has made him unkind and defeatist. Poverty, in its mute and indescribable way, has succeeded in making him a eunuch and emasculated the every grain of his five foot, seven inches of a body. Orwell’s political scrupulousness was such that he elevated poverty from mere political class warfare to an individual pain. You feel that pain, the joy, and the places where he works and lives in. “Keep the Aspidistra Flying” is The Mater’s most brilliant and ignored work. Read it now!
Date published: 2012-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A story of a man that chooses to live in poverty “What he realised, and more clearly as time went on, was that money-worship has been elevated into a religion. Perhaps it is the only real religion–the only really felt religion–that is left to us. Money is what God used to be. Good and evil have no meaning any longer except failure and success. Hence the profoundly significant phrase, to make good.” (43) The story starts off with Gordon Comstock, a man of about 30, who observes as people come and go from the bookstore in which he works; the descriptions are quite amusing. He is a writer, who is struggling to finish a work called ‘London Pleasures.’ He wrote a book of poetry called ‘Mice’ that did not sell very many copies, and the discounted copies that remain in the store have been untouched for the past two years. But Gordon is no ordinary bookseller; he has declared war on money. Throughout the story, he thinks about his past, his poor genteel family. And of his sister, Julia, who was not given an education because all the money was put into Gordon’s education. Of his old well-paying job that he left to realise his dreams as a writer, and what he soon discovered: the world is run by money. His girlfriend won’t even sleep with him for the fear of having a child that they won’t be able to afford. See the struggles Gordon Comstock faces throughout his war against money. I enjoyed reading Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell; the story was amusing at parts. The insight of what Gordon observed was immense, of money being at the bottom of everything. The prose is magnificent, and like Orwell’s other novels (1984, Animal Farm, Down and Out in Paris and London), this is one to be read. The following are some quotes I enjoyed (may contain spoilers!): “Money writes books, money sells them. Give me not righteousness, O Lord, give me money, only money.” (9) “Money, once again; all is money. All human relationships must be purchased with money. If you have no money, men won’t care for you, women won’t love you; won’t, that is, care for you or love you the last little bit that matters. And how right they are, after all! For, moneyless, you are unlovable.” (14) “The first effect of poverty is that it kills thought. He grasped, as though it were a new discovery, that you do not escape from money merely by being moneyless. On the contrary, you are hopeless slave of money until you have enough of it to live on–a “competence,” as the beastly middle-class phrase goes.” (49-50) “That is the devilish thing about poverty, the ever-recurrent thing–loneliness. Day after day with never an intelligent person to talk to; night after night back to your godless room, always alone.” (64) 4.5/5
Date published: 2010-09-10