Synopses & Reviews
Thirty years after the epic journey chronicled in his classic work The Great Railway Bazaar, the worlds most acclaimed travel writer re-creates his 25,000-mile journey through eastern Europe, central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, China, Japan, and Siberia.
Half a lifetime ago, Paul Theroux virtually invented the modern travel narrative by recounting his grand tour by train through Asia. In the three decades since, the world he recorded in that book has undergone phenomenal change. The Soviet Union has collapsed and China has risen; India booms while Burma smothers under dictatorship; Vietnam flourishes in the aftermath of the havoc America was unleashing on it the last time Theroux passed through. And no one is better able to capture the texture, sights, smells, and sounds of that changing landscape than Theroux.
Therouxs odyssey takes him from eastern Europe, still hung-over from communism, through tense but thriving Turkey into the Caucasus, where Georgia limps back toward feudalism while its neighbor Azerbaijan revels in oil-fueled capitalism. Theroux is firsthand witness to it all, traveling as the locals doby stifling train, rattletrap bus, illicit taxi, and mud-caked footencountering adventures only he could have: from the literary (sparring with the incisive Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk) to the dissolute (surviving a week-long bender on the Trans-Siberian Railroad). And wherever he goes, his omnivorous curiosity and unerring eye for detail never fail to inspire, enlighten, inform, and entertain.
PAUL THEROUX was born in Medford, Massachusetts, in 1941 and published his first novel, Waldo, in 1967. His fiction includes The Mosquito Coast, My Secret History, My Other Life, Kowloon Tong, Blinding Light, and most recently, The Elephanta Suite. His highly acclaimed travel books include Riding the Iron Rooster, The Great Railway Bazaar, The Old Patagonian Express, Fresh Air Fiend, and Dark Star Safari. He has been the guest editor of The Best American Travel Writing and is a frequent contributor to various magazines, including The New Yorker. He lives in Hawaii and on Cape Cod.
"Acclaimed travel writer and novelist Theroux hasn't lost his affection for trains, but his view of the scenery outside has darkened in his latest odyssey. Reprising the itinerary of his 1973 The Great Railway Bazaar (with a detour around Iran and Afghanistan into the Central Asian republics), Theroux takes a contrarian stance toward the transformation of Asia over the intervening decades. The persistence of familiar, authentic, rural decrepitude usually heartens him, while the teeming modernity of great cities the computer-and-oxcart madhouses of Mumbai and Bangalore, the neurotic orderliness of Singapore, the soullessness of Tokyo appalls. The book is often an elegy for fixity in a globalizing age when everyone is a traveler anxious to get to America and 'the world is deteriorating and shrinking to a ball of bungled desolation.' Fortunately, Theroux is too rapt an observer of his surroundings and himself to wallow long in reaction or nostalgia; readers will find his usual wonderfully evocative landscapes and piquant character sketches (and, everywhere, prostitutes soliciting him most stylishly in Hanoi, where they ride up on motorcycles crying, 'You come! Boom-boom!'). No matter where his journey takes him, Theroux always sends back dazzling post cards." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[P]laces include everything from porn shops to sex traffickers. In short, this is not light reading. Nevertheless, Theroux is an important American writer." Library Journal
"A wonderful book infused with the insights of maturity, this succeeds on many levels while also doing what the best travel writing can't help but do: make the reader want to hit the road." Booklist
"Fans of Theroux will say that he hasn't lost his touch; the more critical will say that he breaks no new ground. Either way, worth looking into." Kirkus Reviews
"I heartily recommend Paul Theroux's Ghost Train to the Eastern Star to every benighted passenger who has struggled aboard a jammed flight after hours of the delays and cancellations that are the daily staple of air travel today. In its provocative and diverting pages, you will be reminded how much you have lost besides wasted hours in dreary airports." Philadelphia Inquirer
"[T]here is still much pleasure in accompanying this writer down familiar train tracks and across still exotic landscapes." Chicago Tribune
"Mr. Theroux rarely misses a chance to complain about the roiling indigenous crowds or tartly abuse the lobster-faced European pleasure seekers and fat American missionaries who cross his path." New York Times
"Theroux's provocative new volume...will by necessity take its place on the shelf next to the most renowned travel book of his early career." rocky Mountain News
"Theroux reflects brilliantly on the jarring surreal juxtapositions of the tribal and the corporate, the primitive and the high-tech." Boston Globe
"Brightly rendered and endlessly informative, it serves up one sharp, insightful anecdote or historical tidbit after another." Seattle Times
"Theroux's quick assessments of national character might offend some, but veteran readers will find the author true to his rather dim view of human motives." Milwaukee Star Tribune
"The Great Railway Bazaar
re-invested railway travel with the interest and romance of Twain's day, replacing that age's thrill of the modern with the appeal of the neglected and quaint....Now, in Ghost Train to the Eastern Star
, he revisits the scenes of his original great railway journey thirty-three years earlier, intending then-and-now comparisons, not least between his younger and older selves." Ian Jack, the New York Review of Books
(read the entire New York Review of Books review
An unmitigated treat for the hundreds of thousands of fans of the first Bazaar.
In The New Railway Bazaar, Theroux recreates an epic journey he took thirty years ago, a giant loop by train (mostly) through Eastern Europe, Turkey, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, China, Japan, and Siberia. In short, he traverses all of Asia top to bottom, and end to end. In the three decades since he first travelled this route, Asia has undergone phenomenal change. The Soviet Union has collapsed, China has risen, India booms, Burma slowly smothers, and Vietnam prospers despite the havoc unleashed upon it the last time Theroux passed through. He witnesses all this and more in a 25,000 mile journey, travelling as the locals do, by train, car, bus, and foot.
His odyssey takes him from Eastern Europe, still hungover from Communism, through tense but thriving Turkey, into the Caucasus, where Georgia limps back toward feudalism while its neighbour Azerbaijan revels in oil-driven capitalism. As he penetrates deeper into Asia's heart, his encounters take on an otherworldly cast. The two chapters that follow show us Turkmenistan, a profoundly isolated society at the mercy of an almost comically egotistical dictator, and Uzbekistan, a ruthless authoritarian state. From there, he retraces his steps through India, Mayanmar, China, and Japan, providing his penetrating observations on the changes these countries have undergone.
Brilliant, caustic, and totally addictive, The New Railway Bazaar is Theroux at his very best.
Paul Theroux returns to the transcontinental expedition that made Great Railway Bazaar a classic of travel literature and realizes—in rich, anecdotal detail—how much the world has changed.
Half a lifetime ago, Paul Theroux virtually invented the modern travel narrative by recounting his grand tour by train through Asia. In the three decades since, the world he recorded in that book has undergone phenomenal change. The Soviet Union has collapsed and China has risen; India booms while Burma smothers under dictatorship; Vietnam flourishes in the aftermath of the havoc America was unleashing on it the last time he passed through. In Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Theroux re-creates that earlier journey. His odyssey takes him from eastern Europe, still hung-over from communism, through tense but thriving Turkey into the Caucasus, where Georgia limps back toward feudalism while its neighbor Azerbaijan revels in oil-fueled capitalism. Theroux is firsthand witness to it all, encountering adventures only he could have: from the literary (sparring with the incisive Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk) to the dissolute (surviving a week-long bender on the Trans-Siberian Railroad). Wherever he goes, his omnivorous curiosity and unerring eye for detail never fail to inspire, enlighten, inform, and entertain.
About the Author
Paul Theroux's highly acclaimed books include Dark Star Safari, Riding the Iron Rooster, The Old Patagonian Express, The Elephanta Suite, and, of course, The Great Railway Bazaar. Two of his books, The Mosquito Coast and Dr. Slaughter have been made into successful films. He is a frequent contributor to magazines, including the New Yorker, Smithsonian and Men's Journal. He divides his time between Cape Cod and Hawaii where he is a professional beekeeper.
Table of Contents
Contents 1. The Eurostar 1 2. The Other Orient Express 14 3. The Ferry to Besiktas 40 4. Night Train to Ankara 59 5. Night Train to Tbilisi 68 6. Night Train to Baku: The Trans-Caucasian 88 7. Night Train from Ashgabat to Mary 103 8. Night Train to Tashkent 136 9. The Shan-e-Punjab Express to Delhi 146 10. Night Train to Jodhpur: The Mandore Express 164 11. Night Train to Jaipur 182 12. Night Train to Mumbai: The Superfast” Express 193 13. Night Train to Bangalore: The Udyan Express 210 14. The Shatabdi Express to Chennai 225 15. The Coastal Line to Galle and Hambantota 237 16. The Slow Train to Kandy 258 17. Ghost Train to Mandalay 265 18. The Train to Pyin-Oo-Lwin 283 19. Night Train to Nong Khai 295 20. Night Train to Hat Yai Junction: Special Express 309 21. Night Train to Singapore: The Lankawi Express 316 22. The Slow Train to the Eastern Star 341 23. The Boat Sontepheap to Phnom Penh 351 24. The Mekong Express 367 25. Night Train to Hue 376 26. The Day Train to Hanoi 387 27. Tokyo Andaguraundo 400 28. Night Train to Hokkaido: Hayate Super Express 422 29. The Limited Express: Sarobetsu to Wakkanai 428 30. Night Train to Kyoto: The Twilight Express 440 31. The Trans-Siberian Express 460 32. Night Train to Berlin and Beyond 493