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The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas Paperback – November 7, 1989
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Top Customer Reviews
When Paul Theroux writes a travel book, he is not a journalist writing simply to produce a faithful depiction of the places he visits. He is not a social crusader writing in order educate the reader about the lives of the poor or to stimulate the reader to see the richness of life outside of North American. He certainly is not an egotist like Thomas Friedman who writes in order to put himself in a positive light. He is simply an intelligent man who has enough humility to try to write down what he has experienced without drawing too many clumsy conclusions or false symmetries. When he writes that he didn't like a certain person sleeping in his train compartment, he doesn't expect the reader to sympathize with either him or the unpleasant companion. I don't think he means to argue that his dislike has any special significance beyond the fact that it was part of the travel story that he is telling. I like the fact that when Theroux narrates an encounter with someone in his travels he doesn't smooth out the details to make the encounter unambiguously positive or negative. For example, when he describes meeting Jorge Borges, the Argentine writer, he clearly admires Borges' memory and sensitivity and yet he doesn't avoid commenting on Borges' stuttering and his clowning smile.Read more ›
In Texas he is astonished at the contrasts between Laredo on the Texas side of the Rio Grande and Nuevo Laredo across the border in Mexico, commenting on society and governments. Traveling through Mexico and Guatemala, he observes the poverty of the Indians and their lack of opportunities. In El Salvador he attends a soccer game and gets caught up in the melee and riots which follow it. In Costa Rica, the cleanest country he has visited, he finds himself stuck on the train with Mr. Thornberry, a New Hampshire tourist so boring that Theroux cannot wait to escape him--only to have Mr. Thornberry "save his life" by offering him a place to stay upon his arrival in Limon. In Panama he meets the "Zonians," from the Canal Zone, and in Cali, Colombia, he meets a married "priest" who cannot tell his devout mother in Belfast that he has "left" the church to marry and have children.
Throughout his trip, Theroux reads classics, particularly enjoying Boswell's Life of Dr. Johnson and Edgar Allen Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, both of which provide ironic reference points for his own journey. For literature lovers, the most fascinating section occurs in Buenos Aires, where Theroux spends many days visiting blind writer Jorge Luis Borges, who persuades Theroux to read to him.Read more ›
Theroux seeks "adventure" and he finds a fair amount of it in his train travels through the Americas. Although he speaks against the novelistic approach to travel writing, his own character consistently inserts itself into the story which in my opinion reads much like a novel in a positive way. Politically, the book is dated and we must expect that much has changed in Central and South America over the last 20 years. However, THE OLD PATAGONIAN EXPRESS remains a highly entertaining read and I recommend it heartily.
Jeremy W. Forstadt
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The cranky Paul Theroux may be an acquired taste, but my mom and I both shared a love of travel and the writings of Theroux. Read morePublished 18 days ago by Joanna D.
Paul Theroux' travel books are spot on, right down to his description of regional accents. For travelling alone in South America, The Old Patagonian Express was a wonderful... Read morePublished 1 month ago by brudee
Even though his trip is now decades ago, Paul Theroux's account of traveling the Americas (mostly) by train still paints a vivid picture. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Bruce Bradberry
Great book, well written, it was a pleasure to read, enjoyed it immensely. Paul Theroux is an excellent travel writer.Published 2 months ago by Roy E. Scherff
Having read Therouxs' "The Great Railway Bazaar" I was looking forward to this book but I was greatly disappointed. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Heraldo
I read and enjoyed a few other of Paul Theroux's books but not this one. I gifted it to my son who lives and works in Chile and he loved it.Published 8 months ago by sinclair
If you want something to put you off travelling to Latin America, just read this book. And then there are the comments such as: ' The arguments that 5 star hotels benefit a country... Read morePublished 9 months ago by cristian
Even though the events in this book are somewhat dated, I enjoyed reading it for the second time, motivated by my recent personal travels through Patagonia. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Carolyn V. Hamilton
Theroux writes travel books like no other. Taking a train from Boston to the southern tip of South America, with only once having to take alternate transportation. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Kent Ellis