Theroux’s New Railway Journeys

ghosttraintotheeasternstar001Whether you love or hate Paul Theroux, you can’t really argue with the fact that he’s one of the most influential travel writers over the past century. I simultaneously like and dislike him – I absolutely admire his travel writing, but am not sure I’d be friends with his personality if we ever met up. But one of his first books, The Great Railway Bazaar, had such an influence on me as a traveler that I am always keen to read anything he writes.

That’s why his new book, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, was especially exciting for me to read. He tries to retrace the journey he took in The Great Railway Bazaar, although changes in geography and politics in the more than thirty years between trips made it only possible to create a similar journey. And these travels, largely overland, form the basis for his new story.

I get the feeling that as he gets older, Theroux is softening a little, and I didn’t feel half as irritated with his personality in this book as I have before. From Eastern Europe down to through the ‘Stans to India, through much of south-east Asia then via Japan to return across Russia, Theroux’s recent travels make for a fascinating read even if you don’t like his opinions. He’s the quintessential traveler with the message that the journey is far more important than the destination.