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The Great Railway Bazaar

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  16,207 ratings  ·  872 reviews
First published in 1975, Paul Theroux's strange, unique, and hugely entertaining railway odyssey has become a modern classic of travel literature. Here Theroux recounts his early adventures on an unusual grand continental 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 T ...more
Paperback, 342 pages
Published June 1st 2006 by Mariner Books (first published 1975)
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Jeff I'm almost halfway, but this is got to be one of the best travel books ever written. It's not just about places, it's about a journey, people, modes o…moreI'm almost halfway, but this is got to be one of the best travel books ever written. It's not just about places, it's about a journey, people, modes of transport, and, yes, some local flavor. So far: Great.(less)

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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  16,207 ratings  ·  872 reviews


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Brad
Paul Theroux...you are a miserable bastard.

On every excruciating page of this around Europe and Asia whine-fest, I wanted to shake your self-righteous little New England prick shoulders and beat some enjoyment into your crabby-bastardness.

The trains are late or crowded or smelly -- waaaaah!

The food is crappy or elsewhere or non-existent -- waaaaah! waaaaah!

The service is poor or sarcastic or requiring bribes (sorry..."baksheesh." Boy are you ever cool and in the know) -- waaaaah! waaaaah! fucki
...more
Andrew Smith
I’ve been hearing about Theroux for years and yet had never read one of books. The idea of reading about a man journeying alone was something I couldn’t quite settle to. Would it be tedious and repetitious? Perhaps it’d be like delving into one of those dry guidebooks we’ve all taken with us to a foreign city – lots of information but very little pleasure? In the end curiosity got the better of me and I grabbed an audio copy of perhaps his best known book.

Set in 1973 (but released in 1975) it te
...more
W
Jan 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
This was my first Paul Theroux book. It was good fun,though it was a bit uneven. He has a good sense of humor. On the other hand,he also writes things which are not necessarily pleasant.

He is not the most politically correct writer,though I wasn't particularly offended by him,as many readers seem to be.

He also has a tendency to report too much on his mundane conversations with fellow travelers. There is not much exploration of the places he visits.

This travelogue is from the 1970s,and is suppos
...more
Kirsten
May 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
oh dear, yes, he's observant and turns a pretty phrase on every page, makes you laugh, etc. but he's so contemptuous of everyone he comes across i lost interest. skipped all the trains between india and the soviet union. he really loses it at the end and addresses all the russians he meets on the trans siberian railway as monkeys. granted, i have now been in a similar situation, far from home in bleak surroundings at christmastime, like theroux on the trans siberian, homesick and irritated by ev ...more
Antonomasia
It's the author's brother, encyclopaedic experimental novelist Alexander Theroux, who's revered among people I know on Goodreads. In their shadow, I've been conscious of the middlebrow-ness of aiming to read Alexander's younger sibling first - and Alexander would agree with that characterisation. But Paul Theroux is another of the authors mentioned in the 1994 Divine Comedy album track The Booklovers; since it was released, I'd intended to read at least one book by each of them, something I'm no ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I started out liking this book, but the author started to grate on my nerves. He took an amazing trip on trains from Europe to Turkey to Iran through Asia including Thailand, Japan, and Siberia. For a large portion of his journey, he is following the "hippie trail," popular in the 1960s and 1970s for people traveling from England to India. But his tone and commentary on the people he meets were not always the kindest. In fact he seemed rather uninterested in talking to anyone who wasn't already ...more
Kavita
Sep 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: travel, india
The book is an account of a journey through Europe and Asia by train. The concept is good, and the author made a great journey, and has the gift of story telling. But the author himself comes across as a stupid, rude and horrible person who abuses random people, makes snide remarks, plays practical jokes on helpful locals, and in general appears quite slap-worthy.

He mostly behaves himself in the first half of the book, but on reaching Japan, he becomes a perfect pest. Giving away gifts that wou
...more
Reid
Dec 21, 2010 rated it liked it
Whereas this appears on the surface to be the story of one man taking trains around Asia, it is more an exploration of Theroux's own internal wanderlust. It is also fascinating to today's readers since it was written in 1975 and so much has changed since then, though perhaps most insistent is the fact that so much has not.

It is a source of some head-scratching that Theroux generally eschews the investigation of any of the places he travels through, no matter how fascinating they may be. He has c
...more
Jeremy Allan
May 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
So Paul Theroux takes a trip from Paris to Japan and back, all on the railroad (with some minor air and sea deviations), seeing the world in all its sundry chaos on the way. I couldn't have been more excited to start this book when I did, being a lover of train travel (mostly without the opportunity to express that love), and curious about all these places he had visited--Afghanistan, Siberia, Vietnam, India, Singapore, many more--that I would like to visit and still have not had the chance. So ...more
Trudie
Nov 13, 2017 marked it as abandoned-on-hold  ·  review of another edition
I really want to take this exact 1975 series of train journeys - I mean who wouldn't - The Orient Express , The Golden Arrow , The Trans-Siberian but I can't even make it out of France with this obnoxious, Eurocentric, Chablis swilling, ..... I know its a travel classic but its terribly pretentious.
Abandoned for Bill Bryson.
Andrea
description

In theory nothing is more romantic than a long voyage aboard a train. In reality you tend to get yourself into strange situations, meet questionable characters, occasionally starve, and be left to your own devices and demons for days at a time, while you bob gently in solitude along the endless tracks. This is a travelogue of just such a voyage.

The biggest complaint from others I noticed with this book is apparent negativity and rudeness displayed by the author as he traverses through Central a
...more
Ilana
In this 1975 bestseller, Paul Theroux, an American author, recounts his four-month journey by train in 1973 from London through Europe, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, ending in the Soviet Union. He mentions taking detailed notes in his journal, but there are so many vivid details about all the sights and sounds and especially the people he sees and talks to along the way that he must have enjoyed indulging in some fiction writing practices based on longstanding travel ...more
Kathleen
Aug 11, 2019 rated it liked it
“Train travel animated my imagination and usually gave me the solitude to order and write my thoughts: I traveled easily in two directions, along the level rails while Asia flashed changes at the window, and at the interior rim of a private world of memory and language. I cannot imagine a luckier combination.”

I adore traveling by train, and thought this would turn into an instant favorite, but that was not to be. It did bring back many memories of train journeys, like when you find yourself stuc
...more
Matt
Jul 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Less a travel book and more a book about the physical act of travelling. Theroux has a refreshing lack of romance about the journey and the places he visits; most places are dirty, dull, unbearably hot or cold, and full of locals whose sole aim seems to be to rip him off. And although Theroux seems to enjoy very few of his stopovers, he feels compelled to travel and to sample these places. And as the book progresses, you feel the main aspect of the book change from a simple travel book to a more ...more
Santhosh
Aug 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The travelogue of a drunk, imperialist, chauvinist, self-righteous, elitist travelling in first class, flaunting rules and baksheesh in equal measure, and generally getting on everybody's nerves and goodwill. With that as the base, the rest of the book is engaging enough, especially the conversations with fellow passengers. Set in 1973, the colonial hangover comes along as an undertone for the entire journey, though his connections do open doors, leading to some not-so-easily-accessible sights a ...more
David Sarkies
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
To Asia by Train – and Back Again
9 January 2019

Theroux opens this book by suggesting that when he grew up in Maine trains would regularly go by, and when they did he would always dream about being on them. Well, by the end of this book, after spending four months travelling to, around, and back from Asia by train (including a two week long trek across Siberia) the suggestion was that there probably wasn’t any train in the world that he didn’t want to get off as fast as possible. Mind you, this
...more
Lizp
Apr 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
I have read this book a few times over the years. I really enjoyed it.

The book is set in the early ‘70s. It is the story of Theroux’s lone journey from London, across Europe and through Asia, by trains. I love train travel so this story really appealed to me. It focuses on the trains, the passengers, and the unusual people he encounters at different stations. It’s a very engaging story.

Theroux is giving talks in a number of cities that he visits during his travels, which is alluded to. He has b
...more
Gangambika
May 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
Theroux, Trains and white male shitfuckery

I’ve never read Paul Theroux before. I’ve heard of him. Everyone has heard of him. He is one of the most famous authors of his time, and my dushen’ka is also quite fond of him. I didn’t know that though. I picked this book up because it was a story of a person who had traveled across several countries on trains. I love trains. I’ve spent my whole life on trains, and am often heard bragging about how I’ve traveled in every single coach of an Indian trai
...more
Radiantflux
Aug 13, 2019 rated it liked it
99th book for 2019.

In 1973, a thirty-three-year-old Paul Theroux took a series of trains—and ships and planes—from London to Tokyo and back again.

Theroux comes across as a thoroughly unlikable person, not once in the book does he actually speak well of anyone he meets. He always seems superior, even though his knowledge of all the places he travels through is limited at best. He talks like a 19th C Englishman visiting the colonies, an impression strengthened when he quotes Mark Twain and Rudyar
...more
Quo
Apr 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, travel
This is the book that began a sub-genre of travel writing, or so it seems. While there are many varieties of travel narratives, Paul Theroux in The Great Railway Bazaar takes the reader in a somewhat different direction, for this author's travel books are in many ways more self-reflective than they are descriptive of the places he is passing through. And with Theroux, there is always much more detail about the process of travel & about the passage through a country by train than about arrival or ...more
Lit Bug
This is perhaps the dullest travelogue that I've ever read. Imagine cruising from London through Paris, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Thailand, Japan, Siberia and back to London on nothing but trains for commute - long journeys punctuated with local food, local people, local culture and local weather - only to be bored to death while Theroux keeps on heaping loads of details without any insight save some common (sometimes aptly true) stereotypes.

Terse, dry and disinterested in tone
...more
Caleb
Apr 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Just so we're clear from the beginning, Paul Theroux is a dick. Or a misanthrope or whatever else you want to call him. Now that we've got that behind us, this is one of the best books (and especially best travelogues) I have read. Written in 1975, Theroux traveled for four months by train from London across Europe, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia to Japan, and then back to London along the 6000 mile Trans Siberian Railway. Theroux managed by luck to be in Iran just before the Shah fall, ...more
A Man Called Ove
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: travelogue
Show Dont Tell. There are descriptions instead of conversations, there is scorn (and racism maybe) instead of understanding, acidic snobbery instead of empathy and a lot of whining.
Even Naipaul was harsh in his criticism, but here the criticism extends to making fun of people's appearance too. Surprisingly, the author undertook the same journey around 35 years later and I have read that book Ghost Train to the Eastern Star and liked it very much. Maybe he improved later but then "The Great Railw
...more
Tara
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really a quite interesting book--I'm undecided if its deserving of 4 or 5 stars. The author, Paul Theroux, traveled by train from London all the way to Moscow in the early 1970s, stopping in many unique and exciting places, such as Singapore, Afghanistan, and India. Most fascinating of all was his stop in Vietnam, where fighting was still occurring in pockets, and many cities were rubble. He met a lot of interesting characters along the way, which is an experience that seems to be enhanced by th ...more
Melissa
Jan 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Melissa by: Chris Whitley
This book portrays how I feel about travel better than I can articulate. It shows all the effort, the trouble, the fear, the discomfort, the cost, the worry - all the unpleasantness about travel - but at the same time shows why people want to travel despite it all. Not that I would travel like Paul Theroux traveled to write this book. I don't think he would recommend it, either. I don't think he embarked on it for enjoyment and leisure as much as to see if he could do it - the equivalent of slog ...more
Tom
Dec 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I love Paul Theroux and this, one his first is the one which set me off. I wanted to re-read it before reading his new book about taking the same trip across Europe and Asia some thirty years later.
In the early 70s which he writes about in this book there were no railways in Afghanistan and I'm pretty sure railways aren't a priority to this day but I'm looking forward to seeing how he crosses the country in the middle of the first decade of the 2000s.
Theroux is an author one either loves or hate
...more
Jacob Overmark
Nov 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Not seldom have I read a book that made me want to go new places.
But, Theroux impersonates the saying that "the journey is the destination" in a way that almost urges me to catch the first train to wherever.
He is taking you on a train-acid-trip that is hard to topple, harshly distilling the stops between London and Japan via Sri Lanka to anecdotes and observations.



Daren
Not your usual travel-love-in. As his journey goes on Theroux becomes more cynical and prepared to mock his fellow travellers. Contains stereotypes, racial profiling, hippie mocking etc, making it all the more readable. No discussion on visas, border crossings or what to pack!
Yigal Zur
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
great tale
Neil Clarke
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Superb. Cannot praise it enough. Go read it!
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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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