THE A5 BOOK REVIEW
The Great Railway Bazaar is the story of Paul Theroux’s 1973 train tripfrom London to Tokyo and back. The odyssey took four months, first traveling east through Europe, then through the Middle East, into and across India and Southeast Asia, and then back to London through Russia. The trains themselves are part of the journey; the Orient Express, the Khyber Pass Local, the Frontier Mail, the Golden Arrow, the Mandalay Express finishing with the Trans-Siberian Express. Theroux used his time on trains and his natural curiosity not as much to see places but more to study people, both fellow travelers and locals, and his witty and perceptive observations on culture and humanity are brilliant. Theroux doesn’t try to hide the realities of occasional discomfort, and some may get turned off by his grumbling along the way about food and service. For us though, the authenticity of his writing is both refreshing and interesting. The Great Railway Bazaar is one of the quintessential great examples of travel writing and in our opinion, Paul Theroux's best travel book.
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Ghost Train to the Eastern Star (2008)
Thirty years after his epic trip in The Great Railway Bazaar, Theroux decided to recreate the trip to assess how much has changed. During that time the Soviet Union collapsed, China and India have exploded, but Theroux’s love for humanity and scathingly honest writing style has not. His observations as always are both entertaining and enlightening, and we recommend this book almost as much as the original. Click here to see our review on Ghost Train to the Eastern Star.
OTHER A5 RECOMMENDED TRAVEL BOOKS FROM PAUL THEROUX (click here for more)
Paul Theroux is one of the world's most prominent travel writers, and one who deserves credit for shaping and defining the genre. We at A5 Travel Books are big fans of his rich description of people and settings, his self-deprecating and sometimes wicked sense of humor, and his intelligence. He has written numerous travel essays and works of fiction, several of which were turned into movies. See more from Paul Theroux here.
GREAT QUOTES FROM THE GREAT RAILWAY BAZAAR
“So far I had been travelling alone with my handbook and my Western Railway timetable: I was happiest finding my own way and did not require a liaison man. It had been my intention to stay on the train, without bothering about arriving anywhere: sight-seeing was a way of passing the time, but, as I had concluded in Istanbul, it was an activity very largely based on imaginative invention, like rehearsing your own play in stage sets from which all the actors had fled.”
"The trains contain the essential paraphernalia of the culture: Thai trains have the shower jar with the glazed dragon on its side, Ceylonese ones the car reserved for Buddhist monks, Indian ones a vegetarian kitchen and six classes, Iranian ones prayer mats, Malaysian ones a noodle stall, Vietnamese ones bulletproof glass on the locomotive, and on every carriage of a Russian train there is a samovar. The railway bazaar with its gadgets and passengers represented the society so completely that to board it was to be challenged by the national character."