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Staff Picks Category: Trains

The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux []



Have you ever considered traveling from England to Russia via Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, China, and Japan by train? Me either. Paul Theroux does just that and survives to tell about it in his 1975 travel narrative The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia. This long journey is broken up into chapters by train, starting with the 15:30 London to Paris and ending with the Trans-Siberian Express. Though Theroux embarks from London on his own, he meets a number of colorful characters and manages to have interesting interactions (usually over a drink) despite linguistic and cultural barriers.

Theroux’s writing style is at times so rich with description that you can practically smell the pungent passenger sitting across from him. In other instances, he is blunt and to the point, relaying only that he is in a particular place to catch a train.The writing style mimics the ups and downs of traveling alone in foreign country and truly makes the reader feel as if they were riding the train alongside the narrator. Though Theroux rarely spends more than a day or two off the train, he manages to convey a surprising amount about each of his destinations through descriptions of the train and characters.

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