The People of the Abyss is a classic work about poverty and recounts the time the author spent in London. Born in San Francisco, he became a political activist and socialist at an early age. Written after posing as an American sailor stranded in the East End of London during 1902 – sleeping in doss houses, living with the destitute and starving – this is perhaps Jack London’s most important work.
As well as being a literary masterpiece, The People of the Abyss stands as a major sociological study. While other American writers were blindly celebrating the glories of the British Empire at its peak, Jack London was asking why such misery was to be found in the heart of a capital city of immense wealth. This is a work of reportage – London lets his observations speak for themselves.
A precursor to the writings of George Orwell, this book remains a standard-bearer critique of capitalism, as powerful today as it was then.
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