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De zuilen van Hercules
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De zuilen van Hercules

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  3,378 Ratings  ·  148 Reviews
Paul Theroux has developed one of travel writing's most identifiable styles: always the foreigner, always a bit apart, slightly irascible, but perfectly observant. At last he has ventured to one of the most traveled places on earth, and returned with his most exhilarating, revealing, and eloquent travel book. In this modern version of the Grand Tour, Theroux sets off from ...more
Published (first published 1995)
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May 01, 2012 Buck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Paul Theroux is not a nice man. It isn’t nice to say that Albanians look “retarded”. It isn’t nice to point out that Greece is a welfare case sponging off the EU and milking a cultural legacy it has dishonored with its parochialism. And it certainly isn’t nice—it is, in fact, downright impolitic and a bit sinister—to take such obvious pleasure in despising Israelis.

But nice people, as a rule, don’t write great travel books. They write "heartwarming tales" full of spiritual uplift and multicultur
Feb 05, 2008 Oceana2602 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: travelers
Theroux amuses me.

I know that not everyone likes his sarcasm and that he is seemingly never content with where he is (but then, which great traveler is ever contempt with where he is? Isn't that why we travel?). I find him intelligent and entertaining, and because I don't always agree with him, he makes me look at the world in a new and interesting ways. That he managed to do that when he wrote about Europe, my home, shows even more what a great writer he is.

The Pillars of Hercules is everythin
Rex Fuller
Reminded myself why I swore off of Theroux’s travel books years ago. Although I finished this one, like the others, it was not so much travel as a report on the four inches between his ears while going to the ports of the Mediterranean. Hoped to get a kind of update on many of the same places I had been–especially in Turkey–and was disappointed to get Theroux’s egotistical and misanthropic attitude towards everything. My recommendation: avoid his travel books (there are vastly more palatable tra ...more
Andrew Rosner
I think a person approaching Theroux's travel literature for the first time is likely to be surprised at how curmudgeonly he can be at times. If you can get past that, you'll find he's also intelligent, articulate, and a keen observer of humanity. Most importantly, he possesses an almost fatal sense of curiosity. Who else would dare journey to (gulp) Albania??? But if you want to learn about life under the Hoxha regime and its apocalyptic aftermath, this is a good place to start. There's a lot m ...more
Jenny Brown
I'm about 1/3 the way through and yes, he is one cranky old man and annoyingly full of himself. This isn't anything new, but in the past he was also a very good travel writer. This, alas, is no longer true.

In this book he's become lazy. He goes from place to place getting on one boat or train after another and interacting only with the people he randomly encounters: the proprietor of the he hotel, others waiting for transport, the lunatics who accost strangers in public places.

It's as if he's g
Jeremy Forstadt
Jun 30, 2012 Jeremy Forstadt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In THE PILLARS OF HERCULES, Paul Theroux travels a well-trodden path, for once, and one which has perhaps been excessively romanticized in the past. In contrast to many of the other regions of the world in which he has traveled and of which he has written, the Mediterranean has a long literary history consisting of native writers and expatriates alike. In much of this book, Theroux manages to skirt the most touristed regions of Mediterranea while seeking out the landmarks and icons (some living) ...more
Jon Stout
Having enjoyed several of Paul Theroux's books, especially Sir Vidia's Shadow, I thought a tour of the Mediterranean would be great. I like Theroux's rough and ready (former Peace Corps) style of travel, except occasionally when he goes luxury class.

Starting from Gibraltar, Theroux has to zigzag in order to cover the islands and to avoid political conflict. I was surprised to remember how much violent discord there is in the Mediterranean. He zigzags in the former Yugoslavia, unable to transit M
Michelle Warwick
Dec 11, 2012 Michelle Warwick rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'll confess from the start that a travel memoir is just not my kind of thing and so I probably started reading this book rather resentfully.

I just so desperately wanted to be proved wrong. Sadly I was not.

This book delved into the dull minutiae of his trip to the extent that I was simply bored by it. The book contained sweeping generalisations about the countries, cultures and people he encountered on his travels and there were no great insights that I could glean.

I suppose now is the time t
Sorin Hadârcă
Jul 30, 2014 Sorin Hadârcă rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great journey. I liked the way Mediterranean coastal towns in Spain, Croatia, Israel and Tunisia were described as being more alike than their inland neighbors. Plus Theroux is a great travel companion: he meets people. Not just celebrities like Mahfouz or Bowles but also taxi-drivers, farmers, street vendors. Puts you on a move...
Inês França
At his best, Theroux is a lovable grump, at his worst a poster person for #whitepeoplesproblems.
At a certain point, reading this book became an ordeal. Can someone edit this man, please?
And by the way the "portuguese" saying he quotes near the end? "Quando con Levante chiove, las pedras muove" isn't portuguese and rather a strange combination of spanish and italian (funny he wouldn't notice, since he keeps pointing out how fluent he is in italian), which made me doubt every single turkish senten
Ricardo Ribeiro
What I like in this book and this author: the writing and traveling style, the areas chosen for his wanders. What I don't like: everything else. I don't like his arrogant ways - it's not nice from the author to call someone judgmental when he is a great example of a judgmental person. Then we have the sheer ignorance. I have news for Paul Theroux - to mention just a couple examples from the top of my memory: Mostar is in Herzegovina, NOT in Bosnia. It was the Croats NOT the Serbs who bombed the ...more
Feb 02, 2011 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the account of Paul Theroux's travels to the countries along the shores of the Mediterranean. The contrast between the living conditions and cultures in such a small area is striking. Some of the places he visits are Italy, the Greek Islands and Athens, Albania, Croatia (in 1995 while the war is going on), Turkey, Israel, Egypt and Morocco. Some of the many things I value in his books are his visits with writers. This time, it is Naguib Mahfouz and Paul Bowles. As usual, he doesn't take ...more
Sep 26, 2011 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you like travel books, and I do, Paul Theroux is hard to beat. In this book he travels around the entire coast of the Mediterranean by bus, train, and boat, no airplanes.

He gets the difference between traveling and being a tourist. He is interested in the places he visits and the people he meets, and very critical. He doesn't suffer fools gladly and touristy places annoy him. He can be sarcastic and cutting, but he also provides many unexpected insights. For example, I have a whole new persp
Mar 05, 2015 MBJ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It has been more years than I can remember since I last read an analog book – an actual physical book that I held in my hands, turning pages and highlighting pithy passages in yellow. My husband recently came across a dog-eared copy of The Pillars of Hercules: A Grand Tour of the Mediterranean that his mother had passed down to him. I never met my mother-in-law, but heard much of her love of reading and great writers. So I made an exception to my digital-only rule and decided to take on this tra ...more
Apr 15, 2014 Raghu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this travelogue almost twenty years after it was written in 1995, I still found it not only very enjoyable but also quite educational. On the one hand, I could see how things have changed so much for the better now in countries like Croatia, Bosnia and Israel. On the other hand, countries like Syria, Greece and Egypt have slipped into bigger problems while nothing much seems to have changed in Algeria, Italy and Cyprus. This book is a classic Paul Theroux travel book. Even though he trav ...more
Jun 11, 2016 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Roaming and sailing around the Med, the back streets of Medinas into souks and carpet selling shops has always been one of my unrealized dreams. Theroux captures the essence of the erudite roamer, a traveller not a tourist. His minute descriptions of this journey, interspersed with Odyssey quotations and visits to literary giants as he boards yet another ferry are just wonderful miniature mental sculptures that will stay with me for a while. I savoured his chapters as I went along. His directnes ...more
Gretchen Salmon
Apr 28, 2009 Gretchen Salmon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my all-time favorite books! I love travel literature, and Paul Theroux is one of the best. Traveling to a place that I've always been fascinated with, and reading his account, I felt that I was almost there with him. Definitely recommended.
Feb 27, 2016 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally read when this book appeared, I picked it up again because of a planned bicycle trip in Croatia. Theroux wrote it in the early 1990s during the Serbian-Croatian war and it is a bleak description of Split and the Adriatic Coast. Even bleaker is his description of Albania, which had recently ousted the government of Enver Hoxha. You do NOT want to read this book if you're planning to travel to the region, unless you want some historical perspective.

It's the normally candid Theroux about
Devan Lipsey
Apr 12, 2014 Devan Lipsey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was another great book from Paul. I had low expectations for this book - how much more can be written about travel around the Mediterranean? Yet, I found this to be one of the better travel books from Mr. Theroux. I think the timing of his travel made this a better book than I would have expected. It is recently after the demise of the Soviet Union, the Balkan states are feuding, 9/11 has yet to enter our conscience and the Internet and cell phones are in their infancy. This makes for still ...more
Aug 23, 2013 Die rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bettbuch
Und wann schenken sich Autoren endlich die einleitende Äußerung zur Beschreibung eines Dschungels, ein Dschungel sehe nicht so aus, wie man sich das vorstellt?

Wir Nichtdschungelerkunder wissen es alle! Schon längst!
Vikas Datta
May 27, 2015 Vikas Datta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Phenomenal romp around this ancient sea and among the varied lands and cultures that encircle it... Vintage Theroux
Sep 14, 2014 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
A wonderful Tavel book, framed by a great premise/goal, to circle the Mediterranean, from Gibraltar to Morocco. As someone tired of traditional tourism, Theroux supplies a refreshingly skeptical view that ends up feeling more honest than single note raves of overseas transcendence.

The author is on literary pilgrimage as well, and visits the homes of authors living and dead in each nation, as well as the settings for novels.

Not many readers will have the 18 months free or the resources to take a
May 03, 2007 peter rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Theroux is a cranky old man. I can't say that I would like to travel with him.
Michael Bond
May 26, 2015 Michael Bond rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first travel book I have read, and I was basically pleased. It is far from being a description from a travel guide, but provides one person's accounting of what people are doing and thinking in these places. I felt that he was fair enough to give praise, or at least remain neutral, where he deemed it warranted. Usually he did not find it warranted. There is an apparent kinship between authors, since he spent plenty of time seeking them out, something I would not think to do. I certai ...more
Joe Mossa

i cant decide whether paul is very brave or very careless. he travels into some very dangerous places, takes rides with scary characters and manages to stay safe to continue is traveling and fascinating story telling. i wished he would have spent more time in italy but i appreciated his descriptions of venice. he said, although it does smell as rumored, it is a fascinating and beautiful place. his tales of israel and the constant war between arabs and jews were frightening. i will read more of
Jul 17, 2016 Snicketts rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was looking forward to this book. A famous travel writer on a trip around the Mediterranean- what joy! I wasn't looking for romanticism or an idealised view of the area; I know parts of it well enough to realise that it's not sun, sea and smiling faces. I was hoping for open-minded commentary, truth and a narrative on the people, places and process of completing such an epic journey. I was hugely disappointed.

The author spends a lot of time being clever at the expense of the people he encounte
Jeroen Vogel
Traveling the entire coastline of the Mediterranean Sea off the beaten path is only possible outside the tourist season, when towns normally full of foreign visitors are empty and returned to their permanent inhabitants. Paul Theroux had decided to travel from Gibraltar to Morocco, without losing sight of the sea unless there was no other choice.

Starting out, he finds himself traveling through Spain, where he commits to watching bullfights in order to get a feel for its misplaced popularity, and
Nandasiri Wanninayaka
I just finished reading The Pillars of Hercules by Paul Theroux. Honestly, I started reading the book for the simple reason that I had nothing else to read. But after the first few pages, I was glued to the book and finished the book within two weeks. It is that interesting.

The Pillars of Hercules is the third travel book I have read, the first two being Lassana Lankawa by ………………. and Seeing Ceylon by R. L. Brohier. Paul Theroux travels in all the countries around except Libya and writes about h
Jun 10, 2014 Meg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Last year I gave a talk about my trip to Morocco where I told a story about how I accidentally bought a carpet. A couple came up to me afterwards and told about how the same thing happened to Paul Theroux in this book. Well, I said, then I'm in good company. If an experienced traveler as Theroux can be suckered, then I'm in good company! Theroux tells his carpet story near the end of the book. He wasn't, in fact, sucked in. With 30 years of travel experience at the time of the writing of this bo ...more
Sep 13, 2010 Mira rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: part-read
Read this a bit more and its making me want to travel back to albania. I was glad to be seen as not completely one of the vampish overly made up women that you are expected to be in the man hunting years of your life. It allowed me to be removed from any potential set up. My young relatives constantly kept urging me to wear eye and lip liner like some kind of chola. Happy they then thought I was some kind of retarded dag when I didnt give in. Lots of laughs on my sister's end of things too consi ...more
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Travel Author Paul Theroux 3 24 Nov 02, 2013 05:12AM  
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Paul Edward Theroux is an American travel writer and novelist, whose best known work is The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), a travelogue about a trip he made by train from Great Britain through Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, through South Asia, then South-East Asia, up through East Asia, as far east as Japan, and then back across Russia to his point of origin. Although perhaps best know ...more
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“We all know that a vast proportion of travel is accumulated nuisance; but if boredom or awfulness is handled with skill and concrete detail, it is funnier and truer than the sunniest prose.” 1 likes
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