Riding the Rails with Paul Theroux
Three quintessential works from the legendary Paul Theroux are collected here for the first time.
Let the master take you by train through Asia in 1975's The Great Railway Bazaar, then cross the Americas in 1979's The Old Patagonian Express, and round out your journey through Eastern Europe in 2008's Ghost Train to the Eastern Star.
The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia
The Great Railway Bazaar, Theroux's strange, unique, and hugely entertaining railway odyssey has become a modern classic of travel literature. Here he recounts his early adventures on an unusual grand 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 Express. Brimming with Theroux's signature humor and wry observations, this engrossing chronicle is essential reading for both the ardent adventurer and the armchair traveler.
The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas
Starting with a rush-hour subway ride to South Station in Boston to catch the Lake Shore Limited to Chicago, Theroux winds up on the poky Old Patagonian Express steam engine ("a kind of demented samovar on wheels"), which comes to a halt among cracked hills and thorn bushes in the southern reaches of Argentina.
But with Theroux the souls he meets along the way matter most, like the monologuing Mr. Thornberry in Costa Rica, the bogus priest of Cali, and the blind Jorge Luis Borges, who delights in having Theroux read Robert Louis Stevenson to him.
Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar
Half a lifetime ago, Paul Theroux virtually invented the modern travel narrative by recounting his grand tour by train through Asia. In the decades since, the world he recorded in that book has undergone phenomenal change. The Soviet Union has collapsed and China has risen; India booms while Burma smothers under dictatorship; Vietnam flourishes in the aftermath of the havoc America was unleashing on it the last time Theroux passed through. And no one is better able to capture the texture, sights, smells, and sounds of that changing landscape than Theroux.
His odyssey takes him from eastern Europe, still hung-over from communism, through tense but thriving Turkey into the Caucasus, where Georgia limps back toward feudalism while its neighbor Azerbaijan revels in oil-fueled capitalism. Theroux travels as the locals do—by stifling train, rattletrap bus, illicit taxi, and mud-caked foot—encountering adventures only he could have: from the literary (sparring with the incisive Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk) to the dissolute (surviving a week-long bender on the Trans-Siberian Railroad). And wherever he goes, his omnivorous curiosity and unerring eye for detail never fail to inspire, enlighten, and entertain.
- HMH Books
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
- Publication Date:
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