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The Great Railway Bazaar
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The Great Railway Bazaar [Kindle Edition]

Paul Theroux
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Product Description

First published more than thirty years ago, 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 Trans-Siberian Express -- are the stars of a journey that takes him on a loop eastbound from London's Victoria Station to Tokyo Central, then back from Japan on the Trans-Siberian. Brimming with Theroux's signature humor and wry observations, this engrossing chronicle is essential reading for both the ardent adventurer and the armchair traveler.

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2621 KB
  • Print Length: 356 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (June 1 2006)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005G03ETI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #59,443 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad at all Sept. 16 2003
This is a journal of a trip covering the major rail routes available in the 1970s across Europe and Asia. Theroux, an American, sets off from London on a tour where the journey itself was the goal. He wanted to sit back, observe, and absorb the atmosphere of the trains. In the book, he details his experiences on the trains, tells us about his fellow passengers, and describes what he was seeing out the windows while the trains wound across the tracks from Paris to Italy, Bulgaria to Turkey, Pakistan, India, Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Japan, and the Soviet Union. Occasionally, he stopped for a night or two in a hotel along the way, and he also tells us of his adventures at these stops.
It's been years since I read a book by Paul Theroux. In the past, I found his attitude a bit off-putting. There's something about deciding to write a travel book, then taking a trip for the specific purpose of having something to write about that makes the whole genre somewhat useless. But now that I have traveled a bit more myself and have visited many of the countries that Theroux describes here, I can appreciate the accuracy of his descriptions much more. In traveling through a country in a few days by train, no one would be able to make enough observations to make worthwhile analyses of the culture or the society of a country, but that's not Theroux's goal in this book. Instead, it is the journey itself that he is describing- -the focus is on the trains, and the particular subculture of train travel. Theroux provides us with images of the trains themselves and the people one meets on them as he describes his experiences of months spent living on the trains.
Theroux's best descriptions are towards the beginning of the journey.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A series of interesting vignettes. June 2 2003
I recently re-read Theroux's Great Railway Bazaar and immediately was awash in memories of innumerable train journeys across the length and breadth of my native India. 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. Fair enough, this is not after all a sociological text but a travel diary of sorts.
And it is in description that Theroux's strength lies. He 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 and I guess every reader will prefer some parts to others. Plus of course, it is a bit jarring when one reads this book today, since the tide of history has greatly changed many of the countries Theroux traversed. Still, culture is slower to change than politics and that keeps much of the book relevant even today.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting, rambling journey Dec 11 2002
"Paul Theroux is _so_ overrated!"
It was a line I would hear over and over again during the past month I spent with 'The Great Railway Bazaar' every time I fielded the inevitable "So...what are you reading now?" question so popular amongst writers and journalists.
Having finally finished the compact tome, I understand my colleagues' antipathy: Theroux makes it look so easy. Take a trip, write about it with lots of descriptive curliques and viola! money in the bank.
Theroux has a sharp eye and a neutral without being self-effacing voice that makes for the best travel writing. He is a master of detail, meticulously recreating the sense of place and space. As a writer, he is superb. And yet...I also sympathize with the criticisms that he exploits a place, visiting only for the writing, dismissing the deeper truth and more complicated understanding for the lurid, the sensational, the scene and the steam.
In 'Railway Bazaar' at least, Theroux at least makes no pretentions of being anything more than the passing observer. They are snapshots, vignettes viewed through a train window and filtered through half a bottle of gin. It is personal, and pretends to be nothing more. It also serves as a reaffirming paean to the joys of alcohol and travel.
As a book, it has its stops and gos. Slow at the start, it picks up spead through Central Asia, finds its confident footing in South and Southeast Asia, and then flounders through Japan and Russia. At its best, it captures a time and place, such as Vietnam at the end of the war or bits of India. Perhaps I found those parts more coherent because I traveled similar roads some 30 years later, and found it interesting to compare how things have changed - and how they haven't. I suspect other readers will find similar experiences: it is a book for the already seasoned traveller, not the armchair enthusiast.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Train travelling by reading. Jan. 7 2002
"Train travel animate my imagination and usually give me solitude to order and write my thoughts: I travel 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."
The words are from Paul Theroux's book The Great Railway Bazaar, where he takes us on a train journey through Asia. The book has excotic chapters, starting with The 15.30 - London to Paris, taking us via The Direct - Orient Express, The Night Mail to Meshed, The Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpus, The Trans - Siberian Express and so on. Names and places I dream of, and would like to go to - one day.
Paul Theroux has been there, and he has been there with an open mind and his pen and paper to take care of this world of memory and language.
This is fun reading. Some people call Theroux a rasist, but I don't agree. Theroux travels with an open mind and really see people and places where he goes. The way he shares his experiences with his readers is so rich and funny, you almost can feel the smell of the meal of old onions wrapped in a dirty piece of newspaper his travel companion is having, or you feel the dust in your eyes from the dry countryside you are passing.
I bought this book at an European airport when I was out travelling, and has read it as a "travel"-book, reading on planes, railways, busses, in cars and so on. And my eyes have been opened to see the people around me - not as grey everyday fellow travellers, but as all different human beings. And from Paul Theroux I have learned that strangers are not actually strangers, but people who can show me more of a mixed world when I take the time to start sharing part of my life with them.
Britt Arnhild Lindland.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as his later books
Read this after Happy Isles of Oceania, so, maybe that's why I was disappointed. This was one of his earlier books.
Published 19 months ago by Irish Rose
4.0 out of 5 stars Grumpy Travels of a Fine Writer
I recently read Ghost Train to the Eastern Star (which re-creates the trip described in The Great Railway Bazaar and comments on the earlier trip). Read more
Published on Jan. 30 2009 by Donald Mitchell
4.0 out of 5 stars Grumpy Travels of a Fine Writer
I recently read Ghost Train to the Eastern Star (which re-creates the trip described in The Great Railway Bazaar and comments on the earlier trip). Read more
Published on Jan. 30 2009 by Donald Mitchell
4.0 out of 5 stars Grumpy Travels of a Fine Writer
I recently read Ghost Train to the Eastern Star (which re-creates the trip described in The Great Railway Bazaar and comments on the earlier trip). Read more
Published on Jan. 30 2009 by Donald Mitchell
3.0 out of 5 stars Less than I expected
Despite it's previous bestseller status, I found this book to be quite slow and it didn't grab my concentration. Read more
Published on April 10 2004 by J. Jacobs
5.0 out of 5 stars It's the people that make the travelogue
One of the off-putting things about traditional travelogues is the litany of thing-descriptions (buildings, markets, clothes, hills) which just don't make for compelling brain... Read more
Published on Nov. 16 2001 by Venugapal Vasudevan
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Opportunity Wasted
A great opportunity wasted.
This is my first Theroux. I am envious for he had the opportunity to travel all around the world that too in train. Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2001 by Hariharan S.
2.0 out of 5 stars Obsolete and almost racist
This book may have been a pleasant read when it appeared in the mid 70's, but today, it is definitely unsavory. The attitude of Mr. Read more
Published on Sept. 17 2001 by Jethro Manjay
4.0 out of 5 stars A Modern Classic.
Reading this book is like taking a trip to the past. The first edition of the book was actually printed in 1974 & many countries have changed since. U.S.S. Read more
Published on June 15 2001 by Ping Lim
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