Read The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux Online

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First published more than thirty years ago, Paul Theroux's strange, unique, and hugely entertaining railway odyssey has become a modern classic of travel literature. Here Theroux recounts his early adventures on an unusual grand continental tour. Asia's fabled trains -- the Orient Express, the Khyber Pass Local, the Frontier Mail, the Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur, the MandFirst published more than thirty years ago, Paul Theroux's strange, unique, and hugely entertaining railway odyssey has become a modern classic of travel literature. Here Theroux recounts his early adventures on an unusual grand continental tour. Asia's fabled trains -- the Orient Express, the Khyber Pass Local, the Frontier Mail, the Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur, the Mandalay Express, the Trans-Siberian Express -- are the stars of a journey that takes him on a loop eastbound from London's Victoria Station to Tokyo Central, then back from Japan on the Trans-Siberian. Brimming with Theroux's signature humor and wry observations, this engrossing chronicle is essential reading for both the ardent adventurer and the armchair traveler....

Title : The Great Railway Bazaar
Author :
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ISBN : 12384362
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 356 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Great Railway Bazaar Reviews

  • Brad
    2019-04-16 00:44

    Paul Theroux...you are a miserable bastard. On every excruciating page of this around Europe and Asia whine-fest, I wanted to shake your self-righteous little New England prick shoulders and beat some enjoyment into your crabby-bastardness.The trains are late or crowded or smelly -- waaaaah!The food is crappy or elsewhere or non-existent -- waaaaah! waaaaah!The service is poor or sarcastic or requiring bribes (sorry..."baksheesh." Boy are you ever cool and in the know) -- waaaaah! waaaaah! fucking waaaaah!Get over it, Paul. You left your family for a four month excursion on the railways of the world, a trip I would die to experience, and you're busy pissing and moaning about having to experience the very thing you were on the tracks to experience -- life. Where is your joy? Where is your excitement at hanging out with literary cats that are far more talented than you? Where's your sense of adventure? Wrapped up in the fucking books you were reading, that's where. How could you sit through Afghanistan and Russia and everywhere else with your nose in Dickens, shunning all but the most obnoxious Anglo-Saxon company? How?! (the answer probably has something to do with the fact that you're a Dickens fan, actually, but I digress).I can't believe that The Great Railway Bazaar -- this piece of excruciating chauvinistic, Cold War, holier-than-thou trash -- is one of the essential works of travel literature. But it is. And I suppose that's why you're Paul Theroux, and I'm not. Silly me for thinking that travel literature was supposed to be about the the joy of flirting with something beyond my experience, enjoying other people enjoying life, but what do I know? I haven't traveled on the rails of the world like you have. Maybe the whole world does suck, just as you say, and the only good travel literature is that which is misanthropic.If that's the case, Mr. Theroux...YOU are the master.

  • Andrew Smith
    2019-04-07 23:51

    I’ve been hearing about Theroux for years and yet had never read one of books. The idea of reading about a man journeying alone was something I couldn’t quite settle to. Would it be tedious and repetitious? Perhaps it’d be like delving into one of those dry guidebooks we’ve all taken with us to a foreign city – lots of information but very little pleasure? In the end curiosity got the better of me and I grabbed an audio copy of perhaps his best known book.Set in 1973 (but released in 1975) it tells the story of his travels to and across Asia. It’s really a collection of episodes, the focus of which is on the trains, the passengers - many of whom he engages in discourse – and the railway stations. We actually learn precious little of the cities he visits. It had been my intention to stay on the train, without bothering about arriving anywhere; sightseeing” There is a secondary purpose to the travel as he eludes to a number of lectures he delivers in various cities along the way, though no background to or coverage of these events is included.The train journeys are mostly long affairs and he has booked sleeping cars which he’s usually required to share with a mixed bag of companions. The accounts of these encounters and those with others he meets along the way are often hilarious, with Theroux recounting whole conversations (though I wonder how accurately) with a dry humour that had me laughing out loud. He paints vivid pictures of some memorable characters he met along the way.We follow his journey from London and across Europe and then through much of Asia. The section of the journey I enjoyed most was his travel through India, which takes up the central part of the book. The whole thing takes on a slight Wicker’s World feel as each place seems wilder and each character wackier than the last. There’s a bit of historical information thrown in but it’s really about the conversations he has and of him recording his instant impression of the places he visits. Of the northern city of Simla he reflects.It is the Empire with a dark complexionSomehow Theroux manages to make each stage of the journey feel fresh and different, despite the obvious self-limitations. He writes with erudition and humour and I can’t help thinking he’d be a great guy to share a meal and a few drinks with. I’ll certainly be back to sample more of his work.A quick note on the audio version I listened to. Frank Muller is superb as narrator of this book, with his pacing and phrasing seeming to draw the best out of Theroux’s words. My only niggle is the very strange Indian accent he deployed though, in truth, it didn’t impinge on my enjoyment.Finally, I owe thanks to Elyse for helping me to identify that this was a book I should read (or, in fact, listen to).

  • Kirsten
    2019-04-13 01:50

    oh dear, yes, he's observant and turns a pretty phrase on every page, makes you laugh, etc. but he's so contemptuous of everyone he comes across i lost interest. skipped all the trains between india and the soviet union. he really loses it at the end and addresses all the russians he meets on the trans siberian railway as monkeys. granted, i have now been in a similar situation, far from home in bleak surroundings at christmastime, like theroux on the trans siberian, homesick and irritated by everything and everyone, even contemptuous, but i can't imagine writing as theroux does, with no apology or introspection. the book seems a historical record of the traveling american's gaze of superiority.

  • Teresa Proença
    2019-04-02 06:56

    Penso (pensava) que viajar é algo para viver, não para ler ou ouvir contar; por isso nunca me interessei por literatura de viagens. Mas como tenho um fraquinho por comboios, e muitos dos livros do Paul Theroux têm comboios nas capas, decidi escolher um para experimentar: O Grande Bazar Ferroviário que foi o primeiro relato de viagens de Theroux. Partiu de Londres em Setembro de 1973 e regressou quatro meses depois. Diz, no Prefácio, que na sua ausência a mulher o trocou por outro: "«Fingi que estavas morto», disse ela." Gostei desta franqueza, que se mantém sempre ao longo do livro; diz sempre o que pensa (mal ou bem) quer dos lugares, quer das pessoas. A viagem é feita quase toda em comboio - o Expresso do Oriente, o Flecha Negra, o Transiberiano e tantos mais - passando pela Turquia, Irão, Índia, Tailândia, Japão, Vietname, União Soviética e outros países asiáticos. Não visita os locais turísticos, e quase todo o relato paisagístico é sobre o que vê das janelas do comboio e nas estações onde faz o transbordo. A grande riqueza desta viagem assenta nos diálogos que Theroux estabelece com as dezenas de pessoas com que se cruza; os habitantes dos locais e outros passageiros. Trinta anos depois, Theroux faz a mesma viagem, relatada em Comboio Fantasma para o Oriente. Não vou esperar tanto para voltar a viajar com ele...

  • Kavita
    2019-04-16 04:46

    The book is an account of a journey through Europe and Asia by train. The concept is good, and the author made a great journey, and has the gift of story telling. But the author himself comes across as a stupid, rude and horrible person who abuses random people, makes snide remarks, plays practical jokes on helpful locals, and in general appears quite slap-worthy. He mostly behaves himself in the first half of the book, but on reaching Japan, he becomes a perfect pest. Giving away gifts that would not work, calling people 'monkeys' is NOT a way to endear himself to the readers. He asks very rude questions with the aim of making the other person uncomfortable. For example, there is this account of how he ridicules a doctor who sold blood to pay for his medical school. Was that supposed to be funny?And then the racist / imperialist tendencies show quite clearly. I might overlook it in a novel of the 20s, not one of the 70s. American excuses for the Vietnam war, obvious disgust with hippies, anti-Russian sentiment, implying that Japanese politicians strive to be like Churchill but would never achieve it, are more examples of the author's stupidity. Why should a Japanese politician aspire to be like Churchill anyway?The author's ridiculous behaviour spoilt what could have been a great novel. At the very least, he could have made some effort to keep his disgusting behaviour out of the book. And we certainly don't need to know how much drunk he got every single day. I had intended to buy the sequel to this book originally, but I somehow don't think I will now.

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2019-04-09 03:37

    I started out liking this book, but the author started to grate on my nerves. He took an amazing trip on trains from Europe to Turkey to Iran through Asia including Thailand, Japan, and Siberia. For a large portion of his journey, he is following the "hippie trail," popular in the 1960s and 1970s for people traveling from England to India. But his tone and commentary on the people he meets were not always the kindest. In fact he seemed rather uninterested in talking to anyone who wasn't already like him, but only wrote about the people who weren't! He does mention why trains are perfect settings for conversations with strangers:"The conversation, like many others I had with people on trains, derived an easy candor from the shared journey, the comfort of the dining car, and the certain knowledge that neither of us would see each other again. The railway was a fictor's bazaar, in which anyone with the patience could carry away a memory to pore over in privacy."Still, it isn't as if you can board one train to see all these places, and I enjoyed reading about how the train itself changed as the country did. This is in 1973, and a lot of political upheaval has happened since then, so I'm still looking forward to reading Ghost Train to the Eastern Star where he revisits the same journey 30 years later. I'm hoping I'll find that he has matured too, but I'm not crossing my fingers.In an interview on NPR, Theroux talks about how this train trip was one of the elements in his first marriage ending. Within the book he only mentions his wife once that I can remember, and perhaps I should have suspected something from her absence. Examples of his racial stereotypes:"Money pulls the Iranian in one direction, religion drags him in another, and the result is a stupid starved creature for whom woman is only meat.""...The commissar and the monk meeting as equals on the common ground of indolent and smiling unhelpfulness. Nothing happens in Burma, but then nothing is expected to happen."

  • Trudie
    2019-04-17 06:01

    I really want to take this exact 1975 series of train journeys - I mean who wouldn't -The Orient Express , The Golden Arrow ,The Trans-Siberianbut I can't even make it out of France with this obnoxious, Eurocentric, Chablis swilling, ..... I know its a travel classic but its terribly pretentious. Abandoned for Bill Bryson.

  • Jeremy Allan
    2019-04-13 06:03

    So Paul Theroux takes a trip from Paris to Japan and back, all on the railroad (with some minor air and sea deviations), seeing the world in all its sundry chaos on the way. I couldn't have been more excited to start this book when I did, being a lover of train travel (mostly without the opportunity to express that love), and curious about all these places he had visited--Afghanistan, Siberia, Vietnam, India, Singapore, many more--that I would like to visit and still have not had the chance. So yes, I was full of happy anticipation as I sat down to read The Great Railway Bazaar, this book sure to be full of just the kinds of things I wanted to read about. Anticipation breeds disappointment, however, and I should have proceeded more warily. Theroux has all the right ingredients as a writer: the power of observation, a sense of pace, a certain grace in his prose, a sense of style. I was surprised, though, when these didn't add up to a narrative that felt in any way fair to its subject. Thirty pages in, I found myself asking, "Where are the cultures themselves? Where is the richness? What am I learning here?" What I felt missing, throughout the book, was any kind of generosity. The Theroux-Narrator crosses the frontiers of culture, observes cooly, and mostly finds fault. Nearly everything is pitifully lacking in his eyes, nearly every person encountered is in some way inferior. His most joyous moments are when he manages to get a comfortable compartment to himself, or when he finds a cozy spot to reenact his habits from home. Is there anything inherently wrong with this? Perhaps not. But what we get from it is a book that tells so terribly little about the world it is meant to traverse. Instead, we get the image of a dissatisfied and unlikeable traveler, who lives to leave, to move on, to make an account of comforts experienced, and almost always in the negative. Of course there are traces of what I had originally hoped for, a bit of discovery: his various accounts of landscapes are worth reading, for example. Also, the travails of the constant traveller are instructive, sometimes humorous, such as his never-ending search for food in a world that seems bent on making it difficult. And anyone who has travelled even a few days will accept that some criticism is to be expected, if not needed, even, for the book to be honest.However, there is a limit to how much we can live with one man's perpetual displeasure. This book ends up being much less about the railway bazaar itself and much more about the narrator. He describes himself scantily, but we come to know him all the same. He is the miserly, introverted dilettant who makes little fuss over what is grand and yet flourishes over his annoyances. Everything is bizarre to him, if not downright backward, and all he wishes is to get moving, right to the point where it makes him sick. It's the sensation of running, forever, from his own dissatisfaction, that's what we're left with: an unfair and disappointing catalogue, if a well-written one, of his extended flight. This may please some readers, but I had hoped for more. If I have to spend a few hundred pages crammed in a railway compartment with a fellow traveler, can't I expect him to be a little more pleasant? (One caveat: I clearly love a good critique. The Great Railway Bazaar is not that either.)

  • Matt
    2019-03-31 07:43

    Less a travel book and more a book about the physical act of travelling. Theroux has a refreshing lack of romance about the journey and the places he visits; most places are dirty, dull, unbearably hot or cold, and full of locals whose sole aim seems to be to rip him off. And although Theroux seems to enjoy very few of his stopovers, he feels compelled to travel and to sample these places. And as the book progresses, you feel the main aspect of the book change from a simple travel book to a more sophisticated portrait of a man with a weird obsession and a hankering for home.Theroux's writing is always humorous and littered with snappy insights and literary interludes. But he never strays too far from the paradox of this book; Theroux has travelled so he could write the book, and written the book so that he could travel. And the result? An aimless meander through a strange world, above all honest and always entertaining, and without any of the myopic fascination of all things 'exotic' you might see in other travel books. Theroux sees and writes as it is; ugly and depressing, beautiful and life-affirming in equal measure.A fantastic read.

  • Andrea
    2019-04-19 03:42

    In theory nothing is more romantic than a long voyage aboard a train. In reality you tend to get yourself into strange situations, meet questionable characters, occasionally starve, and be left to your own devices and demons for days at a time, while you bob gently in solitude along the endless tracks. This is a travelogue of just such a voyage. The biggest complaint from others I noticed with this book is apparent negativity and rudeness displayed by the author as he traverses through Central and East Asia to Japan, and making a return trip through Russia. I really didn't find his manner off-putting, but rather realistic. He doesn't subscribe to the romance of train travel (though confesses his unbound love for it in the very beginning), but rather looks at the world through a clear lens. While witnessing poverty and anti-sanitary conditions in India he describes them just so. While seeing a beautiful landscape in Vietnam, he makes sure to give it its due. His conversations with fellow passengers might sound snooty sometimes, but I didn't think them offensive. There was no particular distinction between his treatment of locals and his fellow countrymen. I find it curious that during his journey he got to explore sexuality in the culture of various countries: from shady pimps of India to ladyboys of Thailand, and pornographic scrolls of Japan to repressed sexual tension of Islam. Some of his stories are comical (like his endeavors to ditch a strange train companion in Russia), and some are tragic (the vignettes of futile attempts by Vietnamese government to attract tourism at the end of the war). I find Theroux a little cynical, yet sensitive to his surroundings, and more at ease with solitude than his fellow man. Great book.

  • Reid
    2019-04-11 03:33

    Whereas this appears on the surface to be the story of one man taking trains around Asia, it is more an exploration of Theroux's own internal wanderlust. It is also fascinating to today's readers since it was written in 1975 and so much has changed since then, though perhaps most insistent is the fact that so much has not.It is a source of some head-scratching that Theroux generally eschews the investigation of any of the places he travels through, no matter how fascinating they may be. He has clearly made the choice to be a "traveler through" rather than a "traveler to"; the journey is the destination for him, and the only destination. His fascination is with this movement and with the people he meets in transit. He has a wonderful eye and ear, and his somewhat acid pen serves him well in his descriptions of them. But his selectiveness is somewhat disturbing, especially in the short shrift he gives to all of the (then) Soviet Union, a 6000-mile train trip that earns a scant 40 pages in a book of nearly 350. On the other hand, Theroux makes it clear from the start that this is a very personal book and more monologue than travelogue. He will take on no obligation to guide you through the lands he visits.As I have noted before in a review of a Theroux travel book, he is a rather discontented traveler, not at all what one would call the cheerful transient. Sometimes he seems to be trying a bit too hard to be crusty and hard-bitten, with his swilling of liquor, his lusting after women, and his chomping on stogies. He is at his most interesting when he is being intrepid rather than standoffish, curious rather than insular, engaging rather than isolated. Overall, though, this was a satisfying read, and recommended for all those who like a well-written travel yarn.

  • Santhosh
    2019-04-15 07:02

    The travelogue of a drunk, imperialist, chauvinist, self-righteous, elitist travelling in first class, flaunting rules and baksheesh in equal measure, and generally getting on everybody's nerves and goodwill. With that as the base, the rest of the book is engaging enough, especially the conversations with fellow passengers. Set in 1973, the colonial hangover comes along as an undertone for the entire journey, though his connections do open doors, leading to some not-so-easily-accessible sights and experiences. As a travel freak myself, this book was much anticipated, given that it's near the top on many a list for travel books. While I wouldn't say I was let down badly, the book could have been awesome with some sensible and sensitive guidance from the editor. I'm not too taken with Theroux the person, if this book is anything to go by, though Theroux the writer is still good enough for me to chance some of his later works (by when he's hopefully become a little more world-wise).

  • Melissa
    2019-03-21 04:53

    This book portrays how I feel about travel better than I can articulate. It shows all the effort, the trouble, the fear, the discomfort, the cost, the worry - all the unpleasantness about travel - but at the same time shows why people want to travel despite it all. Not that I would travel like Paul Theroux traveled to write this book. I don't think he would recommend it, either. I don't think he embarked on it for enjoyment and leisure as much as to see if he could do it - the equivalent of slogging through Ulysses or War and Peace: you look forward to starting it, you enjoy parts along the way, but you're glad it's done by the end. It's not even what you would think of as a travel book, since most of the time he sees very little of the countries he travels through. There are moments when I wonder if his assessment of a place was too damning based on the corner of the city he happened to see or the people he happened to meet on the train. But even negative descriptions of places intrigued me and caused me to pull up a map and flip through my big book of countries.Always in the back of my mind as I read was the fact that this book was written in the early '70s, and many of the places he wrote about have changed, particularly Vietnam and Russia. It's hard not to immediately pick up the companion book, written a couple years ago, in which Theroux takes the same trip 30 years later. I think if I tried to read it now I wouldn't read it cover to cover - I'd just flip though the chapters looking for differences!

  • Luís Miguel
    2019-04-13 07:01

    Aqui está um pequeno mundo dentro de um livro. Um mundo em movimento e parado ao mesmo tempo, como uma viagem de combóio. É um sonho viajar e esta aparenta, a mim pelo menos, ser uma viagem de sonho, mas concretiza-nos ao ponto de nos sentirmos como parte da bagagem. Foi uma experiência rica ler tanta cultura, daquela cultura que se sente nos pormenores.Este não é um livro sobre países nem paisagens, antes um livro sobre pessoas, sobre o modo como vivem e o modo como são escritas e descritas. O comboio (ou barco e autocarro) é uma sala de estar universal ou uma casa, onde estaremos sempre prontos a receber visitas, por vezes, alheando-nos de nós próprios.A escrita dá preferencia ao diálogo e introspecção, em vez da avalanche descritiva que se espera de um livro de viagens. O autor viajante assume muitas vezes trejeitos de outras obras (como Ulisses ou contos de tchekov) preparando e envolvendo o leitor na mescla cultural, que em seguida expõe.Sem dúvida, uma referência obrigatória da literatura moderna, bem como uma lembrança interessante da Ásia dos anos 70 (particularmente do Vietname pós-guerra). Alimenta a alma e sobretudo o desejo de ler sobre a mesma viagem que fez 30 anos depois e está escrita sob "combóio-fantasma para o Oriente".

  • Tom
    2019-04-09 07:00

    I love Paul Theroux and this, one his first is the one which set me off. I wanted to re-read it before reading his new book about taking the same trip across Europe and Asia some thirty years later.In the early 70s which he writes about in this book there were no railways in Afghanistan and I'm pretty sure railways aren't a priority to this day but I'm looking forward to seeing how he crosses the country in the middle of the first decade of the 2000s.Theroux is an author one either loves or hates. My attraction to him is based on a similarity in our ages and his skills of perception of those he meets on his travels and his endearing (and enduring) crankiness.Fortunately, although I've read several of his books, I still have several left to savor.

  • Quo
    2019-04-14 01:57

    This is the book that began a sub-genre of travel writing, or so it seems. While there are many varieties of travel narratives, Paul Theroux in The Great Railway Bazaar takes the reader in a somewhat different direction, for this author's travel books are in many ways more self-reflective than they are descriptive of the places he is passing through. And with Theroux, there is always much more detail about the process of travel & about the passage through a country by train than about arrival or specific destinations. It seems that it began something like this:I thought it would be unlucky to lie: a whiff of paranoia had made me superstitious. I told the man where I had been, naming countries; I said that I had been taking notes & that when I got back to England, I would write a book about the trip and call it The Great Railway Bazaar. And I went further, saying that as soon as he was out of sight, I would write down what he said, and that the people are real nice & the weather was real bad & I would describe his moustache. Having ridden on quite a few of the same trains as Theroux & traveled by rail within many countries on six continents, I never seem to meet people who are anything but pleasant & interesting while en route, while Theroux seems so very often to be at odds with his fellow travelers. This tendency to seem misanthropic to the casual reader is indeed unfortunate but the author is a gifted commentator, at least for those who have the ability not to be distracted. It may be that Theroux's hesitation to be more inclusive reflects some insecurity on his part but most of us who read his travel stories are not licensed to offer therapy. Instead, it is important that we merely attempt to envision the passing landscapes & the world within the dining cars & sleeping compartments as the author records them, not to pass judgment on the narrator. The fact is that there are many reasons why these very personal travel works have sold so well over 40 years. For one thing, the names of the trains in this & other books are so evocative, including "The Frontier Mail", "The Mandalay Express", "The Khyber Pass Local", "The Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur" "The Hikari Super Express to Kyoto", names as suggestive of exotic destinations as the tags from steamships and grand hotels that once were placed on steamer trunks & heavy-duty luggage to be handled by liveried porters. And speaking of tags, one of the more memorable characters in any of Theroux's travel books is R. Duffill, with a listed address at the Splendid Palas Hotel, Istanbul, someone whose surname becomes a verb when he is left behind at a station en route during one of the rail links within The Great Railway Bazaar. In some ways, Theroux is not a classic rail buff, someone who would journey half way around the globe to view & hopefully to ride a train headed by an old Garratt's steam engine. Rather, his vantage point is always that the journey is the goal, not the destination, not the specific conveyance (other than by train of course) & not necessarily the intersections with memorable folks met along the way, unless of course they are famous authors or people who just happen to be reading one of his books. What I seem to enjoy most is the author's compilation of impressions that come with just being slowly transported from place to place, including the occasional frustrations, privations & miscues that occur when traveling in a 3rd world country. Travel memories often involve a compression of experiences, with the wondrous & the unfortunate moments usually remaining far more clearly in focus than any of the routine happenings experienced. The very idea of leaving Victoria Station in London and engaging every possible connecting train to form a travel chain by rail across countless countries seems a worthwhile pursuit for least a few of us. How many flights do we take that hold special memories long after we disembark, perhaps because being lost in the clouds does not provide a similar sense of passage from place to place as does a journey by train. Here is just a hint of Theroux's rationale:I was glad to be moving. It was the feeling that I had on the "Frontier Mail" & the "Direct Orient Express": the size, the great length of the train was a comfort. The longer the journey, the happier I was. The progress of the train did not interest me very much, as I preferred reading, eating in the dining car, sleeping after lunch & bringing my journal up to date in early evening & deciding where we were on the map. Train travel animated my imagination & usually gave me the solitude to order & write my thoughts: I traveled easily in 2 directions, along the level rails while Asia flashed changes at the window and at the interior rim of a private world of memory & language. I cannot imagine a luckier combination.If nothing else, Theroux takes us on board vicariously and the mention of books he is reading on various journeys, the names of some of the classic express trains & even the grungy locals stimulate us to follow in his path, even if we ultimately have very different experiences while en route and even if we never leave the comfort of our favorite lounge chair.

  • Caleb
    2019-04-11 05:39

    Just so we're clear from the beginning, Paul Theroux is a dick. Or a misanthrope or whatever else you want to call him. Now that we've got that behind us, this is one of the best books (and especially best travelogues) I have read. Written in 1975, Theroux traveled for four months by train from London across Europe, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia to Japan, and then back to London along the 6000 mile Trans Siberian Railway. Theroux managed by luck to be in Iran just before the Shah fall, in South Vietnam within months of it finally falling to the north after the US had left. He describes a world that is already ancient history in many ways, and has an incredible sense of the trip. That said, he remains a judgmental person who dismisses places and people for sometimes arbitrary reasons, but this book is an incredibly engaging read, and he captures the fatigue of traveling in the humid subcontinent and on the unending trip back across the Soviet Union.

  • Malvika
    2019-03-21 07:57

    It took me over 40 days to complete this book and I was so glad when it ended. Not because I didn't like it, it just got very exhausting by the end. Also, because I was frustrated I was taking so much time and I hadn't finished any book in 2016. I loved the India and Vietnam chapters, they were a treat to read. Overall, this travelogue was amazing and a special one because I love train journeys as well. This makes taking so much time worth it (almost). And what made this even more special was that I ended it right before I stepped off the train.

  • AC
    2019-04-17 05:35

    A great read -- no review here, but will comment when I've read (soon) Ghost Train..., which is The Great Railway Bazaar redux, 30 years later.

  • Anfri Bogart
    2019-03-21 04:00

    Anno 1973. Il giro dell'Asia in treno, senza passare dalla Cina, partendo da Londra. Da Parigi a Istanbul si va con l'Orient Express (esisteva ancora, anche se molto scalcagnato), poi Turchia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India (compresa Ceylon), Birmania, Thailandia, Malesia, Cambogia, Vietnam (erano appena scappati gli Americani, c'era ancora la guerra contro i Vietcong). Poi aereo fino al Giappone e da lì di nuovo treno, con la Transiberiana per il gran finale. Il libro è una dichiarazione d'amore per il treno, unico mezzo di trasporto che consente di conoscere luoghi e persone. Paul Theroux è molto simpatico e ironico, non ci nasconde i suoi momenti di scoramento e gli incontri anche sgraditi, le pagine scorrono piacevoli e mai noiose.Ho letto questo libro quasi tutto in treno, peccato che il mio tragitto sia molto meno poetico e molto più ripetitivo.

  • Katy Dickinson
    2019-04-05 06:40

    From my February 5, 2007 bloghttp://blogs.sun.com/katysblog/entry/...The Great Railway Bazaar (by Paul Theroux)I finished one book on the drive home and had to go to Border's for a new book to get me through dinner. I thus interrupted my current naval reading theme with the quick read of a famous and excellent travel book: The Great Railway Bazaar: by train through Asia by Paul Theroux (ISBN-10: 0618658947, originally published in 1975).My husband and I have a work trip to Bangalore later this month so the description of train travel in India was particularly of interest; however, Theroux's chapters about travelling in Viet Nam in 1973 just before America withdrew were fascinating and sadly in line with current events. Since John and I have a long drive between work and home, I read him funny or specially well written sections of The Great Railway Bazaar. John's favorite passage was: "The romance assocated with the sleeping car derives from its extreme privacy, combining the best features of a cupbord with forward movement. Whatever drama is being enacted in this moving bedroom is heightened by the landscape passing the window: a swell of hills, the surprise of mountains, the loud metal bridge, or the melancholy sight of people standing under yellow lamps. And the notion of travel as a continuous vision, a grand tour's succession of memorable images across a curved earth -- with none of the distorting emptiness of air or sea -- is possible only on a train."Theroux funded his trip with a series of lectures and seems to have carried a small and superb library along with him. The Great Railway Bazaar is full of quotes and literary references. For example, Theroux includes a long passage then writes: "There is more, and it is all good, but I think I have quoted enough to show that the best description of Calcutta is Todger's corner of London in Chapter IX of Martin Chuzzlewit."Theroux has strong opinions about people, places, and national character. Here he is writing from Hue, Viet Nam about the local railway stationmaster: "He was certain that Turkey was just over the hill, and the only difficulty he envisaged -- indeed, it seemed characteristic of the South Vietnamese grasp of political geography -- was getting Loc Ninh out of the hands of the Viet Cong and laying tracks through the swamps of Cambodia. His transcontinental railway vision, taking in eight vast countries, had a single snag: evicting the enemy from this small local border town. For the Vietnamese citizen the rest of the world is simple and peaceful; he has the egoism of a sick man, who believes he is the only unlucky sufferer in a healthy world."The author is no less critical of his own nation, America. In the chapter "The Saigon-Bien Hoa Passenger Train" in Viet Nam he writes of some houses with no drains that he could see from the tracks: "They were appropriate in a country where great roads led nowhere, where planes flew to no purpose, and the government was just another self-serving tyranny. The conventional view was that Americans had been imperialists; but this is an inaccurate jibe. The American mission was purely sententious and military; nowhere was there evidence of the usual municipal preoccupations of a colonizing power -- road-mending, drainage, or permanent buildings.... Planning and maintenance characterize even the briefest and most brutish empire; apart from the institution of a legal system there aren't many more imperial virtues. But Americans weren't pledged to maintain." Copyright 2007-2008 by Katy Dickinson

  • Lit Bug
    2019-04-06 07:50

    This is perhaps the dullest travelogue that I've ever read. Imagine cruising from London through Paris, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Thailand, Japan, Siberia and back to London on nothing but trains for commute - long journeys punctuated with local food, local people, local culture and local weather - only to be bored to death while Theroux keeps on heaping loads of details without any insight save some common (sometimes aptly true) stereotypes.Terse, dry and disinterested in tone, the book left me absolutely cold - series of abrupt, sketchy descriptions of peoples, places, anecdotes and observations that never go beyond a stereotypical crystallization of narrow experiences blended with the common perception held across the globe.Essentially, Theroux said he wanted to travel by train, not by plane - so that he could leisurely enjoy the journey - my bad that I did not take it seriously. Clearly, he was focused on his journey - not in the people, hardly in the culture or history, maybe in some places of interest and basically, intent upon writing this travelogue. The result is the most pointless book ever written.It seems hastily written with no nuances, no depth - just a string of experiences that put you to sleep.The only place where he strikes a chord are in some cynical, sharp, bitter yet true observations that only a local can identify with - in my instance, observations such as "In India, I had decided, one could determine the sacredness of water by its degree of stagnation. The holiest was bright green."But again, they were primary inferences that can be made by anyone who looks a bit closely at his/her encounters - but the mechanism behind these phenomena hold no interest for him. Perhaps he took too seriously the adage - "It is the journey that matters - not the destination."The only lessons you get from this large book are (a)How not to travel, and (b)How not to write a travelogue.

  • Arvind
    2019-04-18 02:40

    Show Dont Tell. There are descriptions instead of conversations, there is scorn (and racism maybe) instead of understanding, acidic snobbery instead of empathy and a lot of whining.Even Naipaul was harsh in his criticism, but here the criticism extends to making fun of people's appearance too. Surprisingly, the author undertook the same journey around 35 years later and I have read that book Ghost Train to the Eastern Star and liked it very much. Maybe he improved later but then "The Great Railway Bazaar" is considered a classic ! A White Man's Classic maybe.

  • Andrew
    2019-03-24 03:41

    The vast majority of travel writing is bullshit, unreadable trash written by pretentious windbags about their supposedly "unique" experiences...But Paul Theroux pulls it off. Perhaps it's shitty of me to say this, but he does an awfully good job of vocalizing my own misanthropic perspective better than I ever could. I suppose that makes me no better than a Rush Limbaugh listener, but oh well, it's cathartic, especially when one is moping around through Thailand and Burma. It's also good to know that backpackers were just as obnoxious in the mid-70s as now.

  • Gangambika
    2019-03-25 03:52

    Theroux, Trains and white male shitfuckery I’ve never read Paul Theroux before. I’ve heard of him. Everyone has heard of him. He is one of the most famous authors of his time, and my dushen’ka is also quite fond of him. I didn’t know that though. I picked this book up because it was a story of a person who had traveled across several countries on trains. I love trains. I’ve spent my whole life on trains, and am often heard bragging about how I’ve traveled in every single coach of an Indian train, from the engine and the salon reserved for railway officers, to sitting next to the toilet in an unreserved coach while people try to stand on top of you. My current relationship is based largely, if not entirely, on our mutual love for trains. So a book on trains, I thought, was bound to bring me joy.Wrong.Let me tell you why, and instead of pointlessly grumbling about the book, as Theroux does about the trains he is in and the countries he is going to, let me try to be a little less acidic and a little more specific.Let’s start with trains.In the 265 pages that I have read so far (66%, my Kindle helpfully informs me), Theroux has taken 23 trains, starting with the Orient Express (from Paris to Istanbul) to the North Star Night Express (from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore). The trains themselves have been reasonably well-described, as has been some of the landscape that the trains traverse. From Paris through Europe, into Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Burma, Malaysia, and where I stopped, Singapore. He doesn’t stop anywhere for too long, but merely journeys on and on through changing lands. It would be a dream journey for me. A beautiful contiguous train route, from one country to another, one city to another, shifting landscapes, shifting cultures, shifting trains, shifting values. Beautiful. Romantic.But Theroux has a much more gloomy picture, and has painted all of these descriptions with his own dismal grey-tinted eyes. Of these 23 trains, he has been seemingly unhappy with every single one of them. The complaints have ranged from the lighting and cooling in the trains – it’s always either too bright or too dark; the weather outside – it’s either too sunny and hot or too rainy and cold; to the food – there’s never any food, when there is food it tastes bad, he doesn’t get alcohol in the dining cars in Muslim countries and has to eat local food (fried birds) in a tiny station in Burma; to authorities – being asked for his passport at immigration or any other questions about his travel he sees as an unnecessary invasion into his God-given right to travel wherever he pleases, as does having to pay bribes to do what are otherwise illegal things; and fellow-passengers – most of the men are generally described as obnoxious, most of the women as beautiful but brainless.Which brings me to the second point – white male shitfuckeryA year ago, I stopped reading white male authors. And I found that my reading horizons expanded monumentally. Half-way through this book, I felt my prejudice vindicated.Paul Theroux describes many people in his book. One of the most wonderful things about trains in India (and I have not traveled in trains anywhere else, so I shan’t comment, but this may be true elsewhere), is the diversity of people in them. If you walk across the length of an Indian train, you will find – vendors selling everything from paperclips and pens to tea and chaat, fisherwomen, wage labourers, college students, Indian tourists, white tourists, hippy white tourists, black tourists, foreign tourists who look like Indians, other foreign tourists, families with old people, families with babies, old Punjabi parents going to visit their unmarried children in Chennai, Young unmarried mallus going to visit their parents in Delhi, army soldiers returning to the field from vacation, army officers going home on vacation, groups of burqa-clad women with or without husbands, groups of women clad in skinny jeans and dangling earrings with or without male friends, high-ranking government officers, low-ranking government officers, sweepers, coach-attendants, and school kids on their first excursion.With such great diversity, it is not surprising that one feels like one can experience the whole country in one long-distance train. Instead, Theroux has for his co-passengers only mildly disguised racial contempt. He describes a Tamil man as black, a Burmese woman as yellow, and a beggar he calls a monster. Of all the people he describes, he has conversations with only a few. Most of these conversations do not last more than 5 sentences. Most of the people with whom his conversations last longer than 5 sentences are white. Those that aren’t, were educated in England. Every single one of them is male. Not to say that women have not been mentioned. But his mention is restricted to single characteristics – this one has a tinkling laugh, that one has a beautiful thigh, the other one has a haughty manner, a fourth one has long and beautiful hair.His imperial male gaze is extended to the countries he visits. He is so unimpressed with Afghanistan that he won’t even talk about it. Istanbul is chaotic and dirty. Delhi is chaotic and dirty. Calcutta is chaotic and dirty. And Rangoon is…wait for it…chaotic and dirty. And neither is this disdain restricted to cities. The countrysides face the same dismissive scorn. Europe is too boring. Afghanistan too dry and rocky. Burma has jungles that are too dense. The only things he appears to truly enjoy are ones that mimic Victorian England – train stations built during colonial times; mansions built in British architectural styles; English spoken by “natives” in clipped British accents; and gentle hills. To me it was highly reminiscent of reading letters of British officers posted in India in the 1890s, writing home about how wonderful it was to go to Shimla, because of how much like home it was. But these young British officers didn’t choose to be in surroundings so different from theirs. Theroux did, and so is much less easily forgiven for his derision.I was recently in Europe myself (and you’ll hear more about that in my next post), and as I went through my journey, fraught with the same woes that Therox was – disappointment at the sights and sounds of the cities I visited, distress at the weather, annoyance at my hostel-mates, loneliness of traveling alone, and the alienation and disorientation of being in places so different from mine – I was sullen and churlish in my initial responses to “How is the trip going?” And from that experience, in a world where travel is constantly described only in positive terms, self-discovery and whatnot, I genuinely appreciate Theroux’s candidness in capturing the disgruntlement with which he journeyed through Asia. And yet, there is a thin line between discomfort with cultures and spaces that are alien to you, and prejudice and contempt of them. Theroux not only crosses that line with alacrity, churning out offensive ill-formed opinions with great confidence – As Calcutta smells of death and Bombay of money, Bangkok smells of sex, but this sexual aroma is mixed with the sharper whiffs of death and money – he also seeks to disguise this prejudice in his own assumed knowledge of these places by using ‘local lingo’ like baksheesh.Would I recommend reading this book? If you are able to filter out or laugh at the casual and not-so-casual racism, sexism and elitism in the book (which is most of it), you will be able to come away with a decent picture of the train landscape of several countries in the 1970s, or at the very least, some ideas for your next train journey.Also, available at my blog - https://whiskeycatsandcottoncandy.wor...

  • João
    2019-03-30 05:38

    O relato de Paul Theroux de uma grande viagem de comboio que fez em 1973, com partida e chegada a Londres ("todas as viagens são circulares"). Atravessado o Canal de ferry (ainda não havia túnel), segue pelo Expresso do Oriente e depois atravessa a Turquia e o Irão. Segue-se o Paquistão (não há comboios no Afeganistão) e vários percursos na Índia, com um saltinho ao Ceilão. Sem ligação da Índia para o Sudeste Asiático e, no Sudeste Asiático, sem ligações entre países, Theroux faz vários percursos dentro de cada país, incluindo no seu roteiro a Birmânia, a Tailândia, Singapura e o Vietname em guerra. A China estava ainda interdita, pelo que o autor voa até ao Japão, onde circula de Norte a Sul em comboios que quase parecem os aviões que ele detesta, e daí para a Rússia, numa travessia agitada de barco, de onde regressou à Europa no Transsiberiano.Muitos meses sobre carris de caminho-de-ferro cansam mesmo os grandes viajantes de comboio, como Theroux, que não consegue esconder que a travessia da Rússia no Transsiberiano, que nos parece uma aventura de primeiro calibre, já lhe foi penosa. Quanto ao percurso de Moscovo a Londres, ocupa talvez menos de uma página.Curiosamente, o autor não perde tempo a falar dos locais por onde passa, está mais interessado em descrever a própria viagem: os comboios, a paisagem que corre do lado de fora das janelas e, sobretudo, as pessoas que vai encontrando no comboio. O livro está recheado de pequenos episódios, alguns muito divertidos, outros muito interessantes, passados com as pessoas que lhe entram pelo compartimento adentro ou que se sentam à sua mesa no vagão-restaurante. E é com este mosaico de histórias que Theroux consegue ir fazendo um retrato dos povos e, de alguma forma, da própria humanidade.

  • Grahame Howard
    2019-04-06 05:44

    I do not like reading travelogues and, as the author states in his introduction, nor does he. Neither did he have any intention of writing one. This story, however, is different. It is not about places, it is about the journey, the people and particularly about trains. What makes it such a pleasure to read is the beautiful prose and the staccato dialogue. Even if you don't like travel or trains (as I don't) this is an immersive read and a delightful way to spend a couple of rainy days.

  • Joachim Stoop
    2019-03-25 06:41

    Top! Brought me back to my own long trip in Asia 8 years ago

  • Phuong Vy Le
    2019-04-09 05:46

    *Review Bản Tiếng Việt* Du Kí - Cá tính của những hành trình "Mỗi chuyến du hành, rong ruổi, thám hiểm đều là một thực thể riêng, chẳng chuyến đi nào giống chuyến đi nào. Chúng có cá tính, tính cách, sự cá biệt, sự độc đáo riêng." - John Steinbeck, "Tôi, Charley & hành trình đi tìm nước Mỹ" Tôi thích du kí, một phần vì sở thích dịch chuyển, một phần từ trải nghiệm. Tôi tin tính cách mỗi người thể hiện rất rõ qua những chuyến đi. Mỗi một hành trình, thậm chí dẫu có cùng điểm đến, đều mang cá tính riêng biệt. Tất cả du kí đều mang đến những vùng đất mới, những giá trị văn hóa khác biệt. Nhưng hơn hết, phập phồng trong từng con chữ là hơi thở của người viết, là cách họ chọn chuyến đi, chọn điểm nhìn, và câu chuyện của riêng họ.John Steinbeck từng nói về mình - "I have always lived violently, drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all, slept around the clock or missed two nights of sleeping, worked too hard and too long in glory, or slobbed for a time in utter laziness.". Đọc du kí của John ("Travel with Charley: In search of America), người ta sẽ thấy được sự sâu sắc, thân thiện và 'tới bến' của ông rất rõ. Đọc Phan Việt, lấp ló sau những cảnh, những người, những khắc họa văn hóa, người ta cảm được sâu sắc sự cô độc và cuộc kiếm tìm bản thân. Du kí của chị chỉ mượn những chuyến đi và sự thay đổi của ngoại cảnh để lột tả cuộc hành trình của nội tâm.Còn Nguyễn Phương Mai lại thể hiện sự táo bạo, dám, cá tính của một 'hòn đá lăn'. "Phương Đông lướt ngoài cửa sổ", với tôi, là một trải nghiệm đọc khó khăn, một cá tính mà tôi mất rất nhiều tâm sức để chấp nhận và đi đến trang cuối. Óc quan sát và tình yêu với thiên nhiên Paul Theroux có một đôi mắt sắc. Châu Âu là sự tương phản giữa những ngọn đèn neon sáng lóa trong nhà ga thành phố và sự thênh thang của những cánh đồng và những đoàn du mục; rìa Âu -Á pha tạp giữa sự tân thời của phố thị và những thành phố cũ kĩ, giữa cái nắng và gió của đồng cát đỏ và sự cô tịch, hoang vu của những triền núi tuyết vạn năm; rồi Ấn Độ, Sri Lanka, Sing, Lào, Việt, Nhật, Liên Xô... Như lật một cuốn sách hình của trẻ con, và không khỏi kinh ngạc bởi sự đổi thay sinh động, sự thay đổi của cảnh vật, của bối cảnh rất rõ và rất tài.Hay, như Paul ví von "chuyến tàu như một phiên chợ giả tưởng, trong đó bất cứ ai có lòng kiên nhẫn có thể mang đi một kí ức để đắm chìm trong những suy nghĩ riêng tư". "Phương Đông ngoài cửa sổ" là một phiên chợ, mà mỗi chương là một sạp hàng với những phong vị rất riêng. Sạn Khác với những du kí khác, ở 'Phương Đông lướt ngoài cửa số', tôi không bắt gặp 'sự háo hức'.Xuyên suốt là ánh nhìn chán nản, sự thất vọng và tinh thần buộc phải hòa nhập. Ấn Độ bẩn thỉu và phân cấp, Sri Lanka nghèo đói, Singapore 'sẽ không đến lần thứ hai', 'Thái Lan đẫm mùi tình dục', 'Việt Nam với những đoạn đường sắt ngắt quãng bởi bom mìn', 'Nhật Bản đắt đỏ và đầy những màn bạo dâm', 'Liên Xô với chiều dài khiến tôi giận dữ'... Và Paul, suốt chuyến đi, luôn thường trực mong mỏi 'tôi muốn có một toa ngủ của riêng mình'. Ngay cả những mẩu hội thoại trên tàu, dù trên bề mặt rất êm xuôi, nhưng trong lòng, ông chưa bao giờ tìm được sự gắn kết thực sự.Dù óc quan sát và ngòi bút miêu tả khiến cho cảnh vật sinh động, tôi vẫn thấy tác phẩm thiếu mất phần tình. Và tôi cho rằng, đôi lúc, ông trong tôi có phần 'trịch thượng' và 'cay nghiệt'. Tôi mong mình sai. Mong là bản dịch làm mất đi cái chất của tác phẩm. Để tôi có thể hi vọng mình có thể thích Paul và những chuyến đi kế tiếp.

  • Philip
    2019-04-06 00:47

    When, some thirty years later, Paul Theroux repeated the journey that he had described in The Great Railway Bazaar, he declared travel writing to be ‘the lowest form of literary self-indulgence.’ His original journey in the early 1970s was a deliberate act, a ruse upon which to hang a book. The travel featured was nothing less than an occupation, whose sole product was to be collected and recorded experience. We, the readers, must thank him for his single-minded devotion to selfishness, for The Great Railway Bazaar takes us all the way there without having to leave the armchair.The journey began and finished in London. In between Paul Theroux took the orient Express to Istanbul and then crossed Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan before doing the length of India. He even went to Sri Lanka by train. Then there was Burma and a meander through South-East Asia. His account of smoking cigarettes in Vientiane will stick in the mind. Malaysia and Singapore were taken in, the latter clearly not being to the writer’s taste. Japan was clearly a curious experience, but the Trans Siberia from near Vladivostok to Moscow seemed strangely predictable, its length being its major characteristic. Eventually, the final leg across Europe hardly counted, a mere step along a much bigger way.Any such journey can only offer mere impressions of the places en route, but such first impressions are always interesting in themselves, if not always accurate or justified. Thirty years on, some of them may even have historical significance. It would be a challenging task these days to cross the current Iran and Afghanistan by rail. And a contemporary journey would surely cross China, a route barred to the 1970s independent traveller.But it’s the people met along the way that give the book its prime characters. We never get to know these people and we encounter them largely as caricatures, but it is the experience of travel that is described, and this experience inevitably involves a multitude of these ephemeral encounters. They are always engaging. We expect to be confronted with the surprising, the unknown and the little understood. We expect the experience to be recorded, whilst the mundane is edited out of the account. And furthermore, we do try to make sense of our often confused responses to the unexpected. This is why we travel: at its base it is a challenge.Paul Theroux does litter the trip with indulgence, however. There is a fairly constant search for alcoholic beverages, for instance. Furthermore, in several places there are encounters with and deliberate attempts to seek out the local low life. Offers of girls, boys, older women, wives, transvestites and every imaginable service are received. Sometimes, the services in question require some imagination. It is easy, of course, to sensationalise experience when it is sought at the margins of what a society dares to admit. In the case of Japan, where much of this material is located, it has to be admitted that the margins are rather wide.Balancing this crudity is Paul Theroux’s constant desire to reflect upon his love of literature. Some of the material he recollects produces some wonderful insights, surprising juxtapositions and apposite comment.Travel writing might be pure self-indulgence, but this particular example of the vice transcends the purely personal. It feels like being taken along for the ride. Thus, like all good travel writing, The Great railway Bazaar is not merely an account of another’s observations, it is nothing less than a journey to be experienced.