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Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the…

Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar (2008)

by Paul Theroux

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it feels you ate on the train with him. you smell the sweat of fellow travellers, you hear languages you dont understand, you eta food you dont know, you feel the swaying of the trian, you hear the clonking of the metal. for sure a good start to read this author. will for sure read more by him. ( )
  kakadoo202 | Oct 31, 2013 |
I have never read the Great Railway Bazaar, and after reading this book I don't feel I need to. Mr Theroux retraces his tracks, as much as possible, varying his route to avoid war and disaster (the book was written during the Iraq War in 2007-8). So this time he skips Afghanistan and Pakistan, but manages to enter Cambodia which was closed to him in the 1970s. He is older this time, an experienced traveller and this shows in his writing. For a start, he always has money enough to choose his hotels and his carriages. He chats to famous people who have met him or read his novels. He barely notes any discomforts of travel (though he does incur some) and delights in the general smoothness of train travel through Asia. He finds himself attracted to pleasant, homely open spaces and not crowded and boastful cities. He passes through countries run by dictatorships and finds them depressing and ridiculous. He seems strangely drawn to differing customs of the sex trade, though apparently he never partakes. He has a lot to say about Burma, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Japan; not so much about Malaysia or China. His books appear several times: he encounters people reading them or selling them and he makes himself known to them with sometimes amusing results. In one case in Burma, his book from the first time through had a direct and positive effect on the prosperity of a whole family. Overall I found 'Ghost Train' a thoughtful book, with the author musing about getting older as well as observing the people of the countries he passes through. ( )
  questbird | Oct 30, 2013 |
If you love to travel you will love Theroux's book. He retraces his path of 30 years ago by train again. Visiting places he couldn't in the 70s and revisiting places he did back then. A real pleasure if you love train travel. ( )
  landlocked54 | May 11, 2013 |
The travels of Paul Theroux, a writer and traveler, or maybe a traveler and writer. This is the book from his travel of the great railway bazaar when he was 20 years younger and of a different mind. This time he is more observant, but also more of a cynic. The last half of the book is far better than the travels through the "stans" where poverty and dictatorship seemed the norm to the crowding of India. When he got to Sri Lanka and he began interactions with other writers and travelers the story gained more depth. Four stars ( )
  oldman | Sep 20, 2012 |
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 listened to this on audiobook 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. ( )
  Grammath | Mar 1, 2012 |
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It’s the kind of project that only a man secure in his own self-esteem could undertake: an auto-pilgrimage, a grand ­homme’s homage to, well, himself. But then Theroux has never been overburdened by modesty. Although he has claimed that a prerequisite of traveling responsibly is avoiding arrogance, his previous travelogues have all been pungent with self-regard. “Ghost Train” is no different.
He also keeps up a running argument with the books he reads along the way, to say nothing of his contemporaries (Chatwin never traveled alone, he harrumphs, and neither does bête noire Naipaul). 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.
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That feeling about trains, for instance. Of course he had long outgrown the boyish glamour of the steam engine. yet there was something that had an appeal for him in trains, especially in night trains, which always put queer, vaguely improper notions into his head.

George Simeon

The Man Who Watched the Trains Go By
"I'd much rather go by train."

D.H. Lawrence

Lady Chatterley's Lover
To Sheila, with love
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You think of travellers as bold, but our guilty secret is that travel is one of the laziest ways on earth of passing the time.
I think most serious and omnivorous readers are alike - intense in their dedication to the word, quiet-minded, but relieved and eagerly talkative when they meet other readers and kindred spirits. If you have gotten this far in this book, you are just such a singular person.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0618418873, Hardcover)

Amazon Best of the Month, August 2008: Way back in the dark pre-Internet, limited-air-travel world of 1975, the way to get from Europe to Asia was by train. A young and ambitious writer named Paul Theroux made his literary mark by taking the 28,000-mile intercontinental journey via rail from London to Tokyo and back home again. His book, The Great Railway Bazaar, became a travel-lit classic. Thirty years later, an older, wiser, and even less sanguine Theroux decided to retrace his steps. The result is Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, a fascinating account of the places you vaguely knew existed (Tbilisi), probably won't ever go to (Bangalore), but definitely should know something about (Mandalay). Get on board Theroux's fast-moving travelogue, which features some of the most astute commentary on our distorted notions of time, space, and each other in the age of jet speed, broadband connections, and cultural extinction. --Lauren Nemroff

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:05 -0400)

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In Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, 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, providing his penetrating observations on the changes these countries have undergone.--From publisher description.… (more)

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