The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia
By Paul Theroux


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.

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1999 Myriam Grest Thein