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Ghost Train to the Eastern Star

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His encounters take on an otherworldly cast The two chapters that follow show us Turkmenistan a profoundly isolated society at the mercy of an almost comically egotistical dictator and Uzbekistan a ruthless authoritarian state From there he retraces his steps through India Mayanmar China and Japan providing his penetrating observations on the changes these countries have undergoneBrilliant caustic and totally addictive Ghost Train to the Eastern Star is Theroux at his very bes Dang there was an awesome uote toward the end of this massive travelogue where the author addresses the reader directly congratulating him or her on reading long past the point of comfort and common sense Only the truly dedicated reader writer or traveler will love this bookand if it hadn't been overdue at the library I would transcribe it hereEndurance itself is one of the innumerable topics Theroux goes on about for months and miles through evocative and lively descriptions of the people he encounters in passing through ever changing landscapesHe re creates the same journey he had taken 30 years before in the book that established his reputation The Great Railway Bazaar published in 1975 The railway is still there but the world has changed many times since then and so has the author This book allows him plenty of scope to demonstrate it in every possible wayThe only thing lacking is a bibliography The author's erudition is awesome and he demonstrates it freuently referencing other books by other travelers who have come visited the same ancient cities and byways

Free download Ù PDF, DOC, TXT or eBook ¶ Paul Theroux

National BestsellerIn Ghost Train to the Eastern Star Theroux recreates an epic journey he took thirty years ago a giant loop by train mostly through Eastern Europe Turkey the Caucasus Central Asia the Indian Subcontinent China Japan and Siberia In short he traverses all of Asia top to bottom and end to end In the three decades since he first travelled this route Asia has undergone phenomenal change The Soviet Union has collapsed China has risen India booms Burma slowly smothe Over three decades after the series of train journeys which he described in The Great Railway BazarPaul Theroux is back following his own footsteps recreating those journeysand adds some new destinations as wellI liked this book even than The Great Railway BazarThere was one disappointmenthoweverThis time he didn't venture into PakistanWhatever was happening in the country at the timeprompted him to steer clearAt the very starthe criticizes his own kindtravel writing is a license to borethe lowest form of literary self indulgence That is a statement I disagree withAt that timeGeorge WBush had started the US invasion of IraRefreshinglyTheroux castigates Bush and calls him a moronDuring his travelshe talked to hundreds of people and found only twowho had a favourable impression of BushHe sets off through the countries of Eastern EuropeHe finds Romania very cheerlessHe goes to Georgia and finds a man who has made it his life's mission to feed hungry peopleHe admires the beauty of Istanbul and likes Turkeydespite the negative views of the country in much of EuropeOne of the most interesting chapters deals with his visit to TurkmenistanIt was a closed countryunder the repressive rule of Supermurat Niyazov Turkmenbashithe father of the TurkmenHis whims were lawgiant statues of himsome in gold were everywhereHe had even renamed the months of the year and the days of the weekIt was a bizarre personality cultThere are some countries given short shrift by TherouxHe gets out of China very uicklysaying that all the Chinese wanted was to talk about moneyHis visit to Uzbekistan is also dealt with very uicklyHe doesn't describe Bokharahe skips Samarkandhe has nothing to say about Tashkent or Uzbekistan's presidentKarimovIn Vietnamhe is amazed to find that the Vietnamese do not talk all that much about America's warand are friendly towards himeven though he is an AmericanHe cannot help reflecting that Vietnam suffered millions of casualties as against America's 58000 and the US dropped millions of pounds of bombs on the countryand didn't leave even a useful buildingIn Cambodiahe talks about the horrors of the Pol Pot regime and the millions who died during that periodSingapore is another country about which he has plenty to sayFor all its prosperitystate control is all encompassingEveryone is being watched all the time and people are encouraged to spy on othersIt is a social experimentation laboratoryHe is not too impressed with Lee Kuan YewSingapore's founding fatherHe spends a fair bit of time in Indiafrom Amritsar to overcrowded MumbaiChennai and then to the tech hub of Bangalorewith its new found prosperityBut Bangalore doesn't impress him muchIn Indiahe also meets Prince Charles and his frumpy wifeCamillaHe is appalled by India's rampaging population and the number of people who live below the poverty lineIn Sri Lankahe finally gets to meet science fiction writer Arthur C Clarkethe man who never grew up and yet grew all the time Thenit's on to Japanwhere he feels alienated in TokyoIn a homogenized culture he feels like a complete outsiderBut as a compensationhe spends time with Haruki Marukamiwho talks about the devastating impact of World War II on JapanTheroux also catches up with the travel writerPico Iyer in JapanAs usualhe is interested in the adult entertainment industry in Japanand for that matterin all the countries he visitsThailand and Laos are among his destinations tooOn the final leg of his triphe is back on Russian trainswhich seem unchanged from thirty years agoHe spends a lot of time in that snowbound landscape on those dreary trainsvisiting places where forced labour camps existed under StalinHis conclusion about the new Russia is that it hasn't really changedDespite the wealth enjoyed by someRussia remains as oppressive as everIt is a grueling journey and there is a lot of mileageand that too on trainsnot necessarily the most comfortable mode of travelBut it is a very enjoyable bookand often than notI found myself in agreement with what Theroux has to say about the countries he visits and the state of the world in general

Paul Theroux ¶ 4 characters

Rs and Vietnam prospers despite the havoc unleashed upon it the last time Theroux passed through He witnesses all this and so much in a 25000 mile journey travelling as the locals do by train car bus and footHis odyssey takes him from Eastern Europe still hungover from Communism through tense but thriving Turkey into the Caucasus where Georgia limps back toward feudalism while its neighbour Azerbaijan revels in oil driven capitalism As he penetrates deeper into Asia’s heart Thirty years have passed when Paul decides to retrace the journey he made in The Great Railway Bazaar Due to circumstances he isn't able to duplicate it exactly and has to miss some bits He does manage to get into some places he was unable to visit during his first trip so that's a plusThe pleasure of this book is doubled because we get to read how the places have changed AND we get to hear Paul's thoughts as he compares the trips including insights into his personal life He visits with many interesting 'common' folks and some illustrious ones as well such as Pico Iyer and Arthur C Clarke and it's a pleasure to eavesdrop on their conversationsI very much enjoyed this book I love when the pages and the time just zips by and before I know it I've finished the book Well I don't enjoy the 'finishing the book' part as I'd like it to continue of course I like Paul's writing It flows It effortlessly pulls me along To paraphrase the song Summertime Reading Theroux and the reading is easy I don't have to stop and think What did he just say and re read bits over I can almost forget I am reading and begin to feel like I'm sitting next to him on the train Now that's what a travel book should do Paul is a voracious reader and I like picking up recommendations on books that he mentions tooNot everyone likes Paul's books but variety is the spice of life yesA Goodreads friend Chrissie sums up my view on Paul's books Theroux’s non fiction books can scarcely be classified as travel books They are not tourist guides not for those planning to travel to the countries Theroux visits The places he visits are not the places tourists visit He is there for the ride He is there to observe the people just ordinary people What he delivers are his personal thoughts on what he sees and the people he meets We peek into Theroux’s head you learn both about the author and about places You learn about the countries the mentality of the people living there and the feel of the land4 Stars Outstanding It definitely held my interest How to Travel the World on $50 a Day the havoc unleashed upon it How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter the last Where Dreams Begin time Theroux passed Killer Run through He witnesses all Into the Silent Land: Travels in Neuropsychology this and so much in a 25000 mile journey The Women Who Hate Me: Poetry, 1980-1990 travelling as Cruel Deception the locals do by Desire In His Eyes (Hamilton Sisters, train car bus and footHis odyssey L.A.byrinthe : Enquête sur les meurtres de Tupac Shakur et Notorious B.I.G, sur l'implication de Suge Knight, le patron de Death Row Records, et sur ... à avoir éclaboussé la police de Los Angeles takes him from Eastern Europe still hungover from Communism A Cowboy Christmas through One of Each tense but Unlikely Lovers thriving Turkey into Mistletoe and Mochas the Caucasus where Georgia limps back The Cancer Teacher: Practical and Spiritual Lessons For Helping a Cancer Fighter toward feudalism while its neighbour Azerbaijan revels in oil driven capitalism As he penetrates deeper into Asia’s heart Thirty years have passed when Paul decides Immediate Knowledge and Happiness (Sadhyomukti): The Vedantic Doctrine of Non-Duality to retrace Scented Lust the journey he made in The Great Railway Bazaar Due Turbulence to circumstances he isn't able The Golfer and the Millionaire: It's About Having the Drive to Succeed to duplicate it exactly and has Scented Holiday (Dogon-Hunters) to miss some bits He does manage A Knight and White Satin to get into some places he was unable Flushed Away (Movie Storybook) to visit during his first Winning Psychology of Defensive Traders : Powerful East-Asian Ideas and Concepts that will Improve Your Financial Habits for Trading, Investing, Business and Life trip so Don't Let Me Go that's a plusThe pleasure of Little Prisoners: A Tragic Story of Siblings Trapped in a World of Abuse and Suffering this book is doubled because we get Sari Sleepover (The Sleepover Club, to read how A Girl's Guide To Kissing Frogs the places have changed AND we get The Levelling Sea: The Story of a Cornish Haven in the Age of Sail to hear Paul's Stones thoughts as he compares A Race for Madmen: The History of the Tour de France the The Promised Land trips including insights into his personal life He visits with many interesting 'common' folks and some illustrious ones as well such as Pico Iyer and Arthur C Clarke and it's a pleasure Forgotten Child to eavesdrop on The Promised Land: Travels in Search of the Perfect E their conversationsI very much enjoyed The Promise of Happiness this book I love when The Key the pages and FIRST WEEK AT COW SCHOOL the The Fine Colour of Rust time just zips by and before I know it I've finished Love, Splat the book Well I don't enjoy Of Moths and Men: An Evolutionary Tale: The Untold Story of Science and the Peppered Moth the 'finishing The Sixth Wife the book' part as I'd like it The Question to continue of course I like Paul's writing It flows It effortlessly pulls me along To paraphrase I Heart Bedtime (Martha and the Bunny Brothers the song Summertime Reading Theroux and Good Bad Woman the reading is easy I don't have Would Like to Meet to stop and A Good Land think What did he just say and re read bits over I can almost forget I am reading and begin The Giant Within: Maximize Your Self-Esteem to feel like I'm sitting next A História de Edgar Sawtelle to him on Love Is a Four-Letter Word the Scandals train Now The Rest Is Noise Series: Zion Park: Messiaen, Ligeti, and the Avant-Garde of the Sixties that's what a The Half Truth travel book should do Paul is a voracious reader and I like picking up recommendations on books The Fifth Child that he mentions First Guide to Horse and Pony Care tooNot everyone likes Paul's books but variety is The Watcher the spice of life yesA Goodreads friend Chrissie sums up my view on Paul's books Theroux’s non fiction books can scarcely be classified as Abandoned Child travel books They are not The Suicide Factory: Abu Hamza And The Finsbury Park Mosque tourist guides not for Dynamo: Defending the Honour of Kiev those planning The Times a Year in Nature Notes to Allan Stein travel Managing Anger: Simple Steps to Dealing with Frustration and Threat to Rush to the Dead Summer the countries Theroux visits The places he visits are not Kansas in August the places Maggie tourists visit He is The Great Arc: The Dramatic Tale of How India Was Mapped and Everest Was Named there for The Peoples of Middle-earth the ride He is How to predict the weather with a cup of coffee: and other techniques for surviving the 9-5 jungle there Kandahar Cockney to observe An Angel Held My Hand the people just ordinary people What he delivers are his personal Joy thoughts on what he sees and Railway Day Trips: 150 classic train journeys from around Britain the people he meets We peek into Theroux’s head you learn both about Uprooted - A Canadian War Story the author and about places You learn about Being Good: A Short Introduction to Ethics the countries The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty the mentality of The Snake-Oil Dickens Man the people living The Stonecutter there and Snake-Oil Dickens Man the feel of The Garden in the Clouds: From Derelict Smallholding to Mountain Paradise the land4 Stars Outstanding It definitely held my interest


10 thoughts on “Ghost Train to the Eastern Star

  1. says:

    Over three decades after the series of train journeys which he described in The Great Railway BazarPaul Theroux is back following his own footsteps recreating those journeysand adds some new destinations as wellI liked this book even than The Great Railway BazarThere was one disappointmenthoweverThis time he didn't venture into PakistanWhatever was happening in the country at the timeprompted him to steer clearAt the very starthe criticizes his own kindtravel writing is a license to borethe lowest form of literary self indulgence That is a statement I disagree withAt that timeGeorge WBush had started the US invasion of IraRefreshinglyTheroux castigates Bush and calls him a moronDuring his travelshe talked to hundreds of people and found only twowho had a favourable impression of BushHe sets off through the countries of Eastern EuropeHe finds Romania very cheerlessHe goes to Georgia and finds a man who has made it his life's mission to feed hungry peopleHe admires the beauty of Istanbul and likes Turkeydespite the negative views of the country in much of EuropeOne of the most interesting chapters deals with his visit to TurkmenistanIt was a closed countryunder the repressive rule of Supermurat Niyazov Turkmenbashithe father of the TurkmenHis whims were lawgiant statues of himsome in gold were everywhereHe had even renamed the months of the year and the days of the weekIt was a bizarre personality cultThere are some countries given short shrift by TherouxHe gets out of China very uicklysaying that all the Chinese wanted was to talk about moneyHis visit to Uzbekistan is also dealt with very uicklyHe doesn't describe Bokharahe skips Samarkandhe has nothing to say about Tashkent or Uzbekistan's presidentKarimovIn Vietnamhe is amazed to find that the Vietnamese do not talk all that much about America's warand are friendly towards himeven though he is an AmericanHe cannot help reflecting that Vietnam suffered millions of casualties as against America's 58000 and the US dropped millions of pounds of bombs on the countryand didn't leave even a useful buildingIn Cambodiahe talks about the horrors of the Pol Pot regime and the millions who died during that periodSingapore is another country about which he has plenty to sayFor all its prosperitystate control is all encompassingEveryone is being watched all the time and people are encouraged to spy on othersIt is a social experimentation laboratoryHe is not too impressed with Lee Kuan YewSingapore's founding fatherHe spends a fair bit of time in Indiafrom Amritsar to overcrowded MumbaiChennai and then to the tech hub of Bangalorewith its new found prosperityBut Bangalore doesn't impress him muchIn Indiahe also meets Prince Charles and his frumpy wifeCamillaHe is appalled by India's rampaging population and the number of people who live below the poverty lineIn Sri Lankahe finally gets to meet science fiction writer Arthur C Clarkethe man who never grew up and yet grew all the time Thenit's on to Japanwhere he feels alienated in TokyoIn a homogenized culture he feels like a complete outsiderBut as a compensationhe spends time with Haruki Marukamiwho talks about the devastating impact of World War II on JapanTheroux also catches up with the travel writerPico Iyer in JapanAs usualhe is interested in the adult entertainment industry in Japanand for that matterin all the countries he visitsThailand and Laos are among his destinations tooOn the final leg of his triphe is back on Russian trainswhich seem unchanged from thirty years agoHe spends a lot of time in that snowbound landscape on those dreary trainsvisiting places where forced labour camps existed under StalinHis conclusion about the new Russia is that it hasn't really changedDespite the wealth enjoyed by someRussia remains as oppressive as everIt is a grueling journey and there is a lot of mileageand that too on trainsnot necessarily the most comfortable mode of travelBut it is a very enjoyable bookand often than notI found myself in agreement with what Theroux has to say about the countries he visits and the state of the world in general


  2. says:

    Theroux's non fiction travel is really a thing of it's own It sits adjacent to 'normal' travel writing as he is not about the visa drama the border crossing the tourist spots museums or what he had for lunch This book however is slightly different to his earlier books perhaps that is his mellowing with age or perhaps it is that he is reflective in this book where he traced the route of his previous book The Great Railway Bazaar albeit the route is slightly different belowHe is certainly a lot less cynical and negative although I love this in his writing and is able to play between his current travel and the travel of thirty three years before He does explain that in the earlier travels his domestic arrangements were collapsing a wife who had moved on and left him behind while he was months on the road so perhaps this explains some of his caustic behaviour in the earlier bookTheroux assesses some of the things that are the same and that have changed He still interacts with those who travel along side him shares some thoughts on various matters and visits some interesting personalities along the way Orhan Pamuk in Turkey Arthur C Clarke in Sri Lanka and Haruki Murakami and Pico Iyer in JapanInterestingly looking back I only gave The Great Railway Bazaar 3 stars Although it was only five years ago I think if I was to re read it now it would certainly get 4 perhaps 5 stars I think my patience with book has improved and it was the first Theroux non fiction book I read And while I can recognise a self indulgence in this book by which I mean picking his topics to suit his narrative making a less than balanced view of certain places the writing is easy the reading is easier still and I could have continued reading for another 500 pagesSo he sets out to follow the same route as thirty three years before He did intend however to travel some additional or different routes ones he wanted to travel originally but was not permitted at the time such as not having visited Cambodiap362 It gave me the creeps to read all that while I was staying in Phnom Penh Some of the worst killing had occurred while I was taking my Railway Bazaar trip and then writing it complaining that it had been impossible for me to visit Cambodia Little did I know what was happening here but not many people on the outside knew much or cared Iran and Afghanistan are also omitted this time around due to political and military situations although this time around he was able to travel to the north of VietnamTheroux mixes up his travel classes taking a first class cabin when he feels the need otherwise in a modest shared cabin same with hotels a better uality one when a better rest or recovery is needed cheaper when it is not This helps him stay in touch with the people around him and some of his nicer interactions with peopleAs for his reflective moments these were in places uite moving After being uite disturbed by the torture of Cambodians in Tuol Seng and it's parallels to the treatment of suspected terrorists in American prisons he summarises as follows P364 The traveler's conceit is that barbarism is something singular and foreign to be encountered half way around the world in some pinched and parochial backwater The traveler journeys to the remote place and it seems to be so he is offered a glimpse of the wort atrocities that can served up by a sadistic government And then to his shame he realizes that they are identical to the ones advocated and diligently applied by his own government As for the sanctimony of people who seem blind to the fact that mass murder is still an annual event look at Cambodia Rwanda Darfur Tibet Burma and elsewhere the truer shout is not Never again but Again and again As usual though there are plenty of amusing anecdotes and stories to balance the reflection and some of the grim realities of the places he travelledAnother uick amusing uote I think most serious and omnivorous readers are alike intense in their dedication to the word uiet minded but relieved and eagerly talkative when they meet other readers and kindred spirits If you have gotten this far in the book you are just such a singular person Excellent 45 stars 5 stars


  3. says:

    Travels from England to France to Germany to Austria to Hungary to Romania to Bulgaria to Turkey to Georgia to Turkmenistan to India to Sri Lanka to Burma to Thailand and China and Laos and Malaysia and Singapore and Cambodia and Vietnam and Japan and Russia via the Trans Siberian Railroad He returns to England by fast trains via Belarus then Berlin Paris and Kent The captivating parts begin from Turkey on Interesting Philosophical in tone Either great for a planned trip where you want to acuaint yourself with a country OR as armchair travel Not a travel guide I am definitely happy with this The author is well read so great as a literary guide too A smattering of both factual and personal views on the countries' history politics sociology and cultural differences On his travels Theroux speaks with ordinary people but his intensive reading and knowledge ties to famed authors historical figures politicians and people in the news Theroux's tone is at times caustic but only when such is in fact warranted There is humor tooThe narration by John McDonough is wonderful Perfect speed and his intonation is superb I t felt as though Theroux were speaking directly to me To lisen to the audiobook is a pure delight When he returns back to England he concludes with the nostalgic contemplative line Arrivals are departures Perfect ending Do yourself a favor and read or listen to this book


  4. says:

    Thirty years have passed when Paul decides to retrace the journey he made in The Great Railway Bazaar Due to circumstances he isn't able to duplicate it exactly and has to miss some bits He does manage to get into some places he was unable to visit during his first trip so that's a plusThe pleasure of this book is doubled because we get to read how the places have changed AND we get to hear Paul's thoughts as he compares the trips including insights into his personal life He visits with many interesting 'common' folks and some illustrious ones as well such as Pico Iyer and Arthur C Clarke and it's a pleasure to eavesdrop on their conversationsI very much enjoyed this book I love when the pages and the time just zips by and before I know it I've finished the book Well I don't enjoy the 'finishing the book' part as I'd like it to continue of course I like Paul's writing It flows It effortlessly pulls me along To paraphrase the song Summertime Reading Theroux and the reading is easy I don't have to stop and think What did he just say? and re read bits over I can almost forget I am reading and begin to feel like I'm sitting next to him on the train Now that's what a travel book should do Paul is a voracious reader and I like picking up recommendations on books that he mentions tooNot everyone likes Paul's books but variety is the spice of life yes?A Goodreads friend Chrissie sums up my view on Paul's books Theroux’s non fiction books can scarcely be classified as travel books They are not tourist guides not for those planning to travel to the countries Theroux visits The places he visits are not the places tourists visit He is there for the ride He is there to observe the people just ordinary people What he delivers are his personal thoughts on what he sees and the people he meets We peek into Theroux’s head you learn both about the author and about places You learn about the countries the mentality of the people living there and the feel of the land4 Stars Outstanding It definitely held my interest


  5. says:

    Three years ago I listened to an audio version of the author’s The Great Railway Bazaar The story of a journey largely by train that took Theroux from London through Eastern Europe before covering Asia pretty much top to bottom ending his journey in Siberia I found it exciting and amusing – a young man in his early thirties on this big adventure He met strange people and visited obscure places He was fearless in pursuit of – well who knows what he was in pursuit of as far as I could tell he just travelled saw what he saw and recorded itOver thirty years later he decided to repeat the trip once again capturing his thoughts and experiences for our enlightenment and entertainment How much will the places he passes through and visits have changed and would he now in his late middle age see everything through different eyes his perception having been altered by the passage of time? He’d have to make a few changes to his route – the political situation dictates that Iran and Afghanistan might have to be avoided – but otherwise he intended to keep as close to his previous route as possibleThe first thing I noticed was that the reader was different – very different in fact The voice was deeper the delivery much slower I wasn’t keen on this change I’d identified with this first Paul Theroux who was this stranger? The second thing was that the humour – always close to the surface in the first book – was mysteriously missing This was a much contemplative and downbeat Theroux Surely this journey wasn’t going to be as much fun as the first And as he travelled from London through Eastern Europe I was disappointed to have my worst fears realised – this really wasn’t much fun It was slow and heavy going I took a break from the book with a view to possibly giving up completelySome months later I decided to pick it up again only to halt once after a short while But eventually on my third attempt I managed to finally adapt to the pace and mood of it He’d reached India and from this point I adjusted my mindset to accept that this was not only a very different experience for the listener it was also a significantly different journey for Theroux he no longer wished to visit bars and drink the night away at every stop he was happy to have an early night and read a book This was a man slightly older than me reflecting on change and ageing and on his own life thus far livedHe does of course meet interesting people on this trip; from poor travellers he shares a train carriage with a rickshaw driver he grew close to and a couple of writers too science fiction legend Arthur C Clarke in Sri Lanca and – one of my personal favourites Japanese literary scribbler and marathon runner Haruki Murakami in Tokyo The text is peppered with political comment he is particularly scathing during his visits to Mayanmar and Singapore and reflections on history with his account of his visit to the killing fields in Cambodia and descriptions of the country’s grisly recent past being particularly horrifying He has a keen eye for detail too and an ability a bring his surroundings to life simply by imparting a few thoughts on the most banal of subjects such as what people are eating in his railway carriage and how those he meets react to his naturally inuisitive nature He is adept at painting pictures with words often summing up his stopping points simply and succinctly; Saigon he says was revitalised hectic not beautiful but energetic a city driven by work and money and young people a place of opportunities big and bright and loud yet strangely orderly and tidy His journey totalled some 25000 miles much of it on trains but also on buses in cars and on foot He much preferred the wilderness to the big cities and throughout spurned luxury travel and accommodation preferring to mix with the locals Only if he was unwell did he book into a nice hotel and attempt to sleep it off imbibing just water with added salt and sugar He was away from home for many months and though it's not clear exactly how long his journey took it was certainly some endeavour And yes this book doesn’t have uite the energy and the excitement of the first but it does have an appeal of it own it’s a thoughtful and reflective account that made me think deeply about the world in which we live and maybe hanker for a trip of discovery of my own I was too uick to dismiss this book and I'm so glad I returned to it I'm already looking forward to my next trip with this perceptive and engaging observer


  6. says:

    Travel is forced upon some and for others it is a decadent pursuit see recent Grazia article regarding Princess Beatrice Kate Moss Simon Cowell et al toasting themselves like smug pink seals on the beaches of St Barts And there is the other category where travel is a way of life and a part of life and Paul Theroux greatest freuently most jaded est and cynical of all modern travel writers falls into the last category Paul Theroux is the anti guide He will not tell you where the best shops are nor will he flag for you the most beautiful vantage point from which to see the famed ancient ruins of insert place name here He will not revel in the fine gastronomy of the region or regale you with tales of charming locals Instead he will lament his gout and point out how filthy the trains are or how his mouth feels like 17 kinds of sink mould when he's not had a chance to brush his teeth for five days on the Trans Siberian because all the water has frozen Ok that bit didn't happen but it could have The world is dirty and gritty and real and although there is still romance to be had in travel there is also suitty bum and pubic lice and unsavoury people with whom you will be forced to share your cramped sleeping car Re treading a path taken when he was in his early 30s and recounted to world wide acclaim in The Great Railway Bazaar Theroux once again rides the rails to see what has changed as he crosses over one sixth of the worlds land mass by train Dictators have risen fallen and risen again and different countries are now at war but he discovers that the relationships problems and dreams of the people he meets are largely the same Great winter reading which lack of glamour aside will still make you want to pack a case and head for the Euro star I like a realist love an adventurer and applaud a cynic so Theroux ticks all my boxes


  7. says:

    Dang there was an awesome uote toward the end of this massive travelogue where the author addresses the reader directly congratulating him or her on reading long past the point of comfort and common sense Only the truly dedicated reader writer or traveler will love this bookand if it hadn't been overdue at the library I would transcribe it hereEndurance itself is one of the innumerable topics Theroux goes on about for months and miles through evocative and lively descriptions of the people he encounters in passing through ever changing landscapesHe re creates the same journey he had taken 30 years before in the book that established his reputation The Great Railway Bazaar published in 1975 The railway is still there but the world has changed many times since then and so has the author This book allows him plenty of scope to demonstrate it in every possible wayThe only thing lacking is a bibliography The author's erudition is awesome and he demonstrates it freuently referencing other books by other travelers who have come visited the same ancient cities and byways


  8. says:

    27th book for 2020Paul Theroux made his fortune at thirty three as a writer with The Great Railway Bazaar describing about a series of train trips he took that brought him from London to Tokyo and back in mid 1970s Thirty three years later he decided to take try to repeat the train trip and write another bookI hated his first book I found him superficial arrogant and mean spirited; I also found the writing subpar This seuel is better written but he is still happy to offer at superficial insights and grand pronouncements—India Too many People; China Too many greedy people He meets up with various authors on this trips—one suspects this is as much to assuage his own ego as anything else—and also offers a few mini essays on random things he seesvisits on the trip a visit to Sumerian ruins; dictatorships in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan; an Indian call centre; the Cambodian killing fields; Vietnam after the bombing; a random rant about Singapore which is clearly a personal grudge; Japanese bath houses; a Soviet gulag etc He seems to have lost a lot of energy after reaching India and the writing becomes somehow shallower and less on point The whole of China gets a single pageWhat really became irritating after a while was the casual sexism in the text Every women he meets between London and Tokyo and back is described purely in terms of her attractiveness or lack thereof When he meets up with the brilliant Turkish writer Elif Shafak he simply says he can't hear her words because her beauty deafens him He seems to be constantly searching out the prostitutes on this trip talking to them and then reflexively writing that he went home alone his only thought for his wife who he was missing very much Please There is something uite beautiful about travelling long distance by train but I would hate to have Theroux as a travelling companion2 stars


  9. says:

    The reader who opens the first page of a travel book is about to embark upon a journey with the author; it helps if they are compatible people Having travelled profitably with Theroux previously I found in this book that I came progressively to dislike him and The tipping point was Singapore In earlier days as a lecturer there Theroux was apparently badly treated Now decades later he takes his calculated revenge in a long chapter portraying the Lee Kwan Yew regime as harsh and unreasonably punitive and then goes on to suggest by portraying the city's sleazy underbelly that the regime is a failure anyway Gotcha with both barrelsAnd herein lies the key to the book Ostensibly a smart notion to retrace a journey made 33 years earlier and record what has changed the author is interested in observing himself A strange person emerges One who is overly interested in the sex industry always at arm's length you understand I walked on but never failing to record an encounter Yet where gambling might also be considered a vice worth investigating Theroux never ventures inside one of the many casinos he mentions He finds croupiers less interesting than prostitutesThere are curious digressions Sport clearly does not engage him He attends a cricket match in India betrays no understanding of the gamesomeone is caught leg before wicket and leaves before the end On the subject of polo Kipling whom he uotes liberally should have led him to refer to ponies not horses Ballet too is a problem A performance of Giselle' is dismissed as waving arms and legs while The Sleeping Beauty sends him to sleepNo such patronising attitude is taken towards the author's own field There is a long chapter in which a walk in Japan through shrines and temples and ornamental gardens is merely the background to a discussion of other travel writers not all of whom are admired The name dropping is comparable to the identifying of this or that remote village seen from a train window of which there are numerous instancesPaul Theroux one fears is chielly interested in himself a subject he could have observed without getting on a trainPaul Theroux one fears is chielly interested in himself a subject he could have observed without getting on a train


  10. says:

    My first book of Paul Theroux I thoroughly enjoyed traveling along with him throughout Eastern Europe into Asia and ending in Siberia I wanted to read The Great Railway Bazaar but decided to read this one first and I think I will be glad I did as I believe his writing has mellowed a bit from the first book written thirty some years previously My favorite part of the journey was Japan I discovered many places and insights of their culture that I did not know of My least favorite part was the emphasis on the sex trade which is so prevalent in these countries


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