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The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia Paperback – Print, September 1, 1995

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (September 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014024980X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140249804
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,732,052 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


One of the most entertaining books I have read in a long while ... Superb comic detail -- Angus Wilson Observer He has done our travelling for us brilliantly William Golding --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Paul Theroux was born in Medford Massachusetts, in 1941, and published his first novel, WALDO, in 1967. His subsequent novels include Picture Palace, winner of the Whitbread Prize for Fiction, The Mosquito Coast, and the hugely acclaimed, Kowloon Tong. His travel books include The Great Railway Bazaar and The Pillars of Hercules.

More About the Author

Paul Theroux's highly acclaimed novels include Blinding Light, Hotel Honolulu, My Other Life, Kowloon Tong, and The Mosquito Coast. His renowned travel books include Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Dark Star Safari, Riding the Iron Rooster, The Great Railway Bazaar, The Old Patagonian Express, and The Happy Isles of Oceania. He lives in Hawaii and on Cape Cod.

Customer Reviews

It is the first book I have read by Paul Theroux and I am hooked.
Simon Hyde
Rather than enjoying a trip of such magnitude, depth and scope, the author slips into complaining too often and has a certain contempt for anything non-western.
Hariharan S.
Theroux has a sharp eye and a neutral without being self-effacing voice that makes for the best travel writing.
Elisabeth W. Movius

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 42 people found the following review helpful By David Rasquinha on June 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
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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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful By M. Feldman VINE VOICE on July 8, 2008
Format: Paperback
This fabulous account of getting on the train in London and riding trains (including the decrepit Orient Express) through Europe, across Asia as far east as Japan, then looping back to Europe on the Trans-Siberian, is not a bit dated, even though it was first published in 1975. Theroux is sometimes cross and prickly, but he doesn't miss a thing, and he ventures into places (and eats things) that most people never would. Because he is also a novelist, he's deft at limning the appearances and characters of the people he meets, and these people, who are variously vain, odd, smelly, crazy, foolish, bigoted, or just eccentric, give this travelogue--and indeed all of Theroux's travel narratives--the quality of a Dickens novel.

I've read and enjoyed several of his other rail narratives, including "The Old Patagonian Express" (Central and South America) , "Kingdom by the Sea" (United Kingdom), and "Dark Star Safari" (Africa). I'd start with this one, though, with its wonderful section on Vietnam in the last year of the war and its melancholy voyage across Leonid Brezhnev's sclerotic Soviet Union. As with all good books, it will transport you to places you did not know existed, even in this era of Google Earth. As for those who don't care for Theroux's sometimes cranky persona, well, there are always the twittering ecstasies of Peter Mayle ("A Year in Provence," etc.) or--worse--Frances Mayes ("Under the Tuscan Sun," etc.). Theroux's sojourns will never inspire busloads of tourists or the astronomical appreciation of the local real estate. Once you've read "The Great Railway Bazaar," be sure to follow it up with "Ghost Train to the Eastern Star," his recent (2009) account of his retracing (with some new stops) of the trip he took in the seventies. It's equally compelling, and it illuminates the story of the first trip.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Venugapal Vasudevan on November 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
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 food. Theroux focusses on people, and more specifically personalities. As an Indian, I can say that he captures the essence of different ilks of Indians with an incisiveness that I have not seen in any other American writer. I wish I had gotten my red, white and blue wife to read this before we visited. Many of her questions are answered episodically. Questions such as Why are some Indians so free with information about their digestive state? Why is an ailment worn like a badge of honor by some? Why do Indian travel guides always mention how far a book store is from your hotel? Isn't it admirable that somebody of such high stature is so unassuming? The incomprehensible extremes of know-it-alls versus humility amongst those with great erudition..He makes equally astute observations about Afghans, Burmese, Ceylonese etc., but I'll leave you to read the book to enjoy these.
Some may find this book insulting, as it is fairly blunt about the people's idiosyncrasies. I for one do not expect literature to be politically correct (and vice-versa).
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ed Sherman on August 3, 2009
Format: Paperback
This was the very first travel book I ever read. My parents had early on inspired in me a love of travel. Reading this book increased that desire to explore the world. Coincidentally, I also shared a love of traveling by train, though as the author frequently mentions, this can often be somewhat difficult, and at times downright unpleasant.
While some people consider Paul Theroux to be cynical, I prefer to think of him as a realist who does not feel the need to sugar coat any of his writing.
Part of embracing travel is to deal with the good and the bad,the same as many life experiences.
I feel that the author was a pioneer in his belief that the journey is sometimes more rewarding than the destination itself.
If you've never read any of Paul Theroux's works, you got some great reads to look forward to !
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Britt Arnhild Lindland on January 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
"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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