Ensiform's Reviews > The Great Railway Bazaar

The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux
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May 16, 12

bookshelves: travel, non-fiction
Read in October, 2009

The novelist and travel writer rides by train from France to Turkey (via the now-shabby Orient Express), through Pakistan, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Siberia, and back. This is an excellent read both for train lovers (whom the exotic trains Theroux rides will captivate) as well as readers who enjoy travelogues. To be fair, this is less a travelogue than a series of vignettes covering Theroux's journeys through various Asian countries. Theroux makes no attempt to develop an understanding of the cultures he travels through but is content to describe the train itself along with a handful of anecdotes about the people he meets on each leg of his journey.

Like the enjoyable Riding the Iron Rooster, this book is more often about people than places (although his descriptions of Afghanistan’s arid plains and Russia’s bleak vastness are quite striking). He visits a brothel in Madras where, he is assured, an English prostitute is waiting (there is no such girl, of course). He is charmed and irritated by the Japanese efficiency and politeness (“refined to the point of rudeness”). He interrogates two hypocritical Indians in Malaysia about family planning. He despairs at the unlearned corruption of the working Russians. And so on. Theroux has the ability to make an anecdote seem so real as to make the reader a part of the scene. The pace of the book varies with the stop and start of each journey, but the culture and idiosyncrasies of the people always come through.
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message 1: by Lewis (new) - added it

Lewis Weinstein I enjoyed the Iron Rooster. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention.


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