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Ghost Train to the Eastern Star

Paul Theroux

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#1 OFFLINE   tagesmann

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 08:10 AM

Thirty three years after his round the world journey by train, described in The Great Railway Bazaar; Paul Theroux attempts to retrace his steps.

He can't visit all of the countries from his earlier journey. Iran and Afghanistan are impossible to visit and he feels that Pakistan is a little to dangerous for him. But this allows the opportunity to travel to India via the former Soviet republics of the Caucas's and some of the "stans". He also takes the opportunity to travel via some of the former Eastern Bloc countries.

The book is described by the author as a retracing of his steps and quite a bit of time is spent discussing his feelings during that journey and the year he spent writing the book. However you don't have to have read that book to enjoy this one.

This is a fascinating travelogue. Once again it is supposed to be more about the journey than the locations. But the descriptions of the locations are brilliant.

I listended to the audiobook brilliantly read by John McDonough whoThe Great Railway Bazaar who even though he sounds a bit older than someone in his 60s manages to convey the expressions and intonations of an older traveller.

#2 OFFLINE   waawo

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 09:42 AM

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24th February 2012, 03:20 PM
Grammath

Paul Theroux undertook the journey he chronicles in his 1975 book The Great Railway Bazaar at the age of 33. Upon reaching 66, he decides to retrace his steps and undertake the journey by train from London to Tokyo and back again.

Inevitably, in the intervening years the political landscape has changed, meaning he is denied a visa to travel through Iran. Instead, he visits Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and the quite bonkers Turkmenistan, dominated by the despotic Turkmen Bashi, who insists on putting gold statues of himself up everywhere while his people starve.

Some of the places he does travel to again have changed quite radically. India and China are booming, although Theroux barely disguises his disgust at the exploitation of low Indian wages by western companies. Others are exactly the same: Singapore is still oppressively censored and Japan is portrayed as bland and arid except in its most rural areas, as it was in his earlier book.

Technology makes it easier to stay in touch with home (Theroux returned home after The Great Railway Bazaar to discover his wife at the time had been having an affair in his absence) although in more remote places his Blackberry functions as little more than a torch lighting his way to the bathroom at night on darkened trains.

Also like his other travel books, Theroux hooks up with other writers to help give him insight into some of the places he visits: he dines with Orhan Pamuk in Istanbul and the reclusive Haruki Murakami shows him Tokyo. It feels like namedropping to a degree, as in other places more modest folks in other places prove just as able as guides.

Theroux’s nose for teasing out points of interest in supposedly dull places and his sometimes undisguised grumpiness give the book a realistic feel: there’s no suggestion that, unlike some other travel writers, Theroux might be embellishing some of his traveller’s tales for literary effect.

I also listened to this book and John McDonough’s excellent narration which really enhanced my enjoyment of it. Ghost Train to the Eastern Star is an excellent example of a master travel writer at work.
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