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The Consul's File (Spencer Monroe Savage)

3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  235 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
The Consul’s File is a journey to post-colonial Malaysia with a young American diplomat, to a “bachelor post” at the uneasy frontier where civilization meets jungle.
Mass Market Paperback, 212 pages
Published June 12th 1978 by Ballantine Books (first published 1972)
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Superb collection of short stories, set in the Malaysian town of Ayer Hitam in the rubber jungles of Johore. Back in the 70s, Paul Theroux spent a couple of years in the Far East, around the time that the American military effort in Vietnam was collapsing in shame and acrimony. Theroux was only 36 when he published this book, but on this evidence, he could have been mentioned in the same breath as Somerset Maugham and Joseph Conrad as a chronicler of the East had he been content to plough this p ...more
Sep 17, 2008 Jon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, my opinion of this book is improved. Not that it was bad before, but in the first few stories in this collection I had detected too much of a Graham Greene influence and too many of the stories or ideas for them seemed to be in self-conscious homage to Somerset Maugham's Far East stories.

By the time I got more than a couple of stories into the collection I began to appreciate the unique qualities of Theorux's writing. This is worthy of at least a paper length discussion, but Theroux's style
Robert Beveridge
Paul Theroux, The Consul's File (Ballantine, 1978)

I know of Theroux through his wonderfully minimal little horror tale The Black House; seems most people know him for travel writing. This is something of which I was previously unaware, but I became well acquinted with it while reading this book, a loose collection of stories about the life of an American consul sent to Ayer Hitam (in Malaysia) to close down the consulate there. (As a side note, Ayer Hitam is now a forest preserve maintained by t
Apr 02, 2016 Jeremy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting collection of stories narrated by a young American foreign service officer in a small Malaysian town in the 1970s. The stories varied in their quality, but there were some interesting insights and thoughts about the slow fade of colonialism. One or two of the stories were actually a little scary, with unsettling images that stuck with me for a couple days.

All told, I enjoyed the book. If you're in the mood for some light reading that may or may not provoke any thoughts,
May 20, 2010 BC rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first taste of Theroux's fiction, and it was well worth the read. I could detect some of his travel writing in the book, especially his ability to take a reader to an exotic locale and make it believable. This book benefits from being written by someone well-acquainted with the expat lifestyle.

I found myself liking the main character more as the book progressed. He is keenly aware of his outsider status among all the different groups in his small Malaysian town. He isn't a permanent
David Miller
Jul 25, 2015 David Miller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This short collection of short stories is set in Malaysia. I'll always think of Malaysia in terms of Joseph Conrad's books, especially "An Outcast of the Islands". Theroux's writing is not dissimilar to Conrad's. Each story is very interesting and some are quite touching in a strange way. The story "The Autumn Dog" is chilling. All in all a good read.
May 25, 2014 Jay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book contains some of the most memorable and creepy ghost stories I have ever read, as well as the best-written.
May 04, 2008 Brian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
i'm a sucker for fiction set in exotic locales. and this one is all about southeastern asia, a place i've never actually been, which makes me like the book even more. nothing especially great happens, plot-wise, but theroux has a knack for atmosphere and setting that makes the whole thing work.
Jul 10, 2013 Kim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having found his travel writing a bit overwrought, I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity and simplicity of these short stories by Theroux; be it ghostly thriller, murder mystery, or satiric comedy, he reveals eternal truths about the characters and conflicts of living abroad.
Mar 24, 2013 Michele rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Theroux captures the eccentricities and foolishness of Western expats as well as some locals living in a small town somewhere between Kuala Lumpur and Johore. Each chapter tells the tale of a different character, so it's an easy book to read sporadically.
Picked this up because the author was a Lonely Planet Malaysia recommend. What a truly fabulous collection. Terse and lovely these stories are very "modern" but with a strong emphasis on what it is to be a colonial power in a macro and micro sense.
Mar 22, 2012 Lena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the connected short story format. I am an enthusiastic reader of Theroux's travel books, but dislike most of his novels with the same sort of passion that I love the travelogues. However, I truly enjoyed reading this book.
Will Marshall
Jun 13, 2012 Will Marshall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book - from the characters, to the semi-autobiographical nature, to the linen-suit embassy atmosphere of old soaks punishing gin bottles. Would read it again right now, if I hadn't already loaned it out.
Christopher Culp
Aug 14, 2012 Christopher Culp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderfully location piece -- southeast Asia envelopes the novel and is the main character, and the rest is a bit incidental
Melissa Johnson
This is one of those collections I return to. Is Indonesian Gothic a fair description?
Cathy Houston
linked short stories not my cup of tea. also expats in the Orient not my particular brew.
Nov 14, 2012 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not his best work but these connected stories are entertaining.
Patrick Lueck
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Kijani Mlima rated it it was ok
Feb 09, 2016
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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
More about Paul Theroux...

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