The Great Railway Bazaar is Paul Theroux's classic and much-loved homage to train travel. The Orient Express; The Khyber Pass Local; the Delhi Mail from Jaipur; the Golden Arrow of Kuala; the Trans-Siberian Express; these are just some of the trains steaming through Paul Theroux's epic rail journey from London across Europe through India and Asia. ...
The Great Railway Bazaar is Paul Theroux's classic and much-loved homage to train travel. The Orient Express; The Khyber Pass Local; the Delhi Mail from Jaipur; the Golden Arrow of Kuala; the Trans-Siberian Express; these are just some of the trains steaming through Paul Theroux's epic rail journey from London across Europe through India and Asia. This was a trip of discovery made in the mid-seventies, a time before the West had embraced the places, peoples, food, faiths and cultures of the East. For us now, as much as for Theroux then, to visit the lands of The Great Railway Bazaar is an encounter with all that is truly foreign and exotic - and with what we have since lost. Praise for Paul Theroux: "Theroux's work remains the standard by which other travel writing must be judged". (Observer). "One needs energy to keep up with the extraordinary, productive restlessness of Paul Theroux ...[He is] the most gifted, most prodigal writer of his generation". (Jonathan Raban). "Always a terrific teller of tales and conjurer of exotic locales, he writes lean prose that lopes along at a compelling pace". (Sunday Times). Paul Theroux's books include Dark Star Safari, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Riding the Iron Rooster, The Great Railway Bazaar, The Elephanta Suite, A Dead Hand, The Tao of Travel and The Lower River. The Mosquito Coast and Dr Slaughter have both been made into successful films. Paul Theroux divides his time between Cape Cod and the Hawaiian islands.
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In 1973 , Paul Theroux, the author of this book, went on a four-and-a-half-month rail trip from London to Asia and back to London starting with the 15:30 train from London Victoria to Paris. Among the trains he took on his epic trip, many bore exotic names, for example, the Orient-Express; the Teheran Express; the Khyber Mail; the Frontier Mail; the Grand Trunk Express; the Howrah Mail; the Mandalay Express; the Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur; the North Star Night Express to Singapore; and the Trans-Siberian Express. This is an account of his train journeys and of what he saw and did on the way. It is still one of the best accounts of travelling by rail in Asia in the 1970s and the narrative of his travels and the people he meets is entertaining at all times, written with a delightful sense of humour, hilarious on occasion, and devoid of bombastic vocabulary.
The book should appeal to those who prefer this mode of travel as well as to armchair travellers and especially to those who, like Theroux, identify themselves as travellers not tourists. As one who has travelled by train, often on very long journeys, in many parts of the world, I can relate to his encounters and discussions with people he meets on trains. They are often far more interesting than the train journey itself. The longer the journey. the more there is to talk about, though it can be quite trying at times. I would have liked to know what happened in later life to many of the characters he meets on his long journeys. Theroux is in his element when he is writing about his fellow passengers and the train journey becomes incidental for a while.
Although Theroux has written a number of books about his other train journeys, I think this may well be the rail travel book for which he will be most remembered in years to come. Indeed, thirty-three years after this trip, he returned to that part of the world and published the sequel to this book entitled "Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the tracks of The Great Railway Bazaar." However, I did not find it as interesting or entertaining as this one.
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