Although nowhere near as famous as Orwell’s 1984, Keep the Aspidistra Flying is nonetheless an insightful take down of how capitalism destroys the lives of those not on the top of the system.
It is the story of Gordon Comstock. A man that loathes dull, middle-class respectability and worship of money, and wants only to be able to write novels. The demands of work and society give him little peace. Eventually He gives up a ‘good job’ in advertising to work part-time in a bookshop, giving him more time to write. But he slides instead into a self-induced poverty that destroys his creativity and his spirit. His pride doesn’t allow him to accept any charity from friends, though he is only too happy to splurge on them when he has funds.
Only his girlfriend Rosemary has the strength to challenge his commitment to his chosen way of life, but can she persuade him to find a way to live within the system he so despises without him getting swallowed up by it?
As with Burmese Days by Orwell I listened to this on Audiobook. It was read by Richard E Grant, such sublime casting, I honestly don’t think there could be anybody better for this book. His cynical, self-loathing and yet understated delivery polishes this book to such a sharp satire that it’s almost impossible not to wince whilst listening to it!
In fact I was on edge the whole way through, constantly wondering if Comstock will find his way through his disaffection / depression or be swallowed by it. Through it Orwell explores his own disaffection with society and with his place within it, he was a fascinating man and it is always an valuable experience to see the world through his eyes.