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The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas (1979)

by Paul Theroux

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,670287,962 (3.84)47
An account of Theroux's trip by train from Boston to Bogota, Columbia.
  1. 10
    In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin (John_Vaughan)
  2. 10
    Nowhere Is a Place: Travels in Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: Bruce and Paul were friends who shared a love of train trips, travel narratives and this South American country.
  3. 00
    Booked on the Morning Train: A Journey Through America by George Scheer (John_Vaughan)
  4. 00
    More Great Railway Journeys by Benedict Allen (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: Chapt 5 for more on Patagonia - The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas, Paul Theroux
  5. 00
    The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux (brianjungwi)
    brianjungwi: Ideas for the Mosquito Coast came from his trip during The Old Patagonian Express
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» See also 47 mentions

English (25)  Italian (2)  French (1)  All languages (28)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
I don't remember why I bought this, and Paul Theroux is kind of a huge jerk, which I deal with enough in my real life, thanks. ( )
  skolastic | Feb 2, 2021 |
A brilliant book - Theroux travelled from Boston to Patagonia, mostly by train, and wrote about his experiences in this classic of the travel writing genre. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Sep 23, 2020 |
Suffers due to the nature of the railway in the Americas - incomplete, oriented east west in many nations. Works anyways, mostly because I have so little context for these areas of the world so any exposure is interesting. ( )
  sarcher | Jan 5, 2020 |
In the end, I had to rush through this book in order to finish it before I left the hotel... which probably did it a disservice.
On the one hand, it was a fairly meandering read with not so much going on, and I certainly felt the peculiar boredom of travelling somewhere new, for the first time, and not even caring to look up from your book, which Paul Theroux captured well.
On the other hand, it never got above a "sto gap" read for me, hence 3 stars... ( )
  jkdavies | Jun 14, 2016 |
I am not a great fan of Paul Theroux, and make no exception for “The Old Patagonian Express” (1979), the account of his journey, as much as possible by train, from Boston south to the Argentine Patagonia. His travel accounts are more about himself than about the places he encounters, and if he observes what happens around him at all, his comments are often somewhat condescending. You wonder why he travels at all.

The Argentinean part of the book covers the last 90 of 430 pages, and is mostly of interest because it describes the train travel from the Bolivian border to Buenos Aires, and then on to Esquel in Patagonia, in trains that have long ceased to operate – except for a small narrow gauge circuit outside Esquel, which is being run as a tourist attraction, these days.

See for more: http://theonearmedcrab.com/a-reading-list-for-argentina ( )
  theonearmedcrab | May 16, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
"The Old Patagonian Express" is the name of the last train that Theroux takes as he reaches the Patagonian desert. Written in the late seventies, many of the political realities he describes are outdated, but it is still a descriptive narrative of a most unusual journey. It is a story of how to get from here to there and everything that is entailed with it. The journey, with all its hardships, is part of the travel. In the case of the maxim, it is not the destination, but the journey that counts, this is what this book is about. It stays true to its message and clear about why it was undertaken, and in this story of how to get from here to there, Paul Theroux is a master storyteller.
added by John_Vaughan | editHelium, Jessica Kuzmier (Jul 21, 2011)
 
If this sequel- it must be called that- is not so delightful as "The Great Railway Bazaar," the fault is as much geography's as Theroux's. Europe and Asia are a richer venue for this sort of thing than Latin America, which by contrast lacks character, deep literary and historical associations, and variety. For anyone experienced with Europe, it is desperately boring. Squalor in Mexico is identical to squalor in El Salvador; the ghastly Mexican town Papaloapan is too much like the horrible Costa Rican town Limon, 600 miles farther south... In Buenos Aires Theroux is thoroughly primed to play Boswell to Borges's Johnson, and the resulting conversations constitute a delightful climax, a triumphant overflow of civility and intelligence after all the brutality and stupidity...

But except for the Borges episode, the reader gets little relief from the horrors and boredom. He misses the sheer joy of the anomalous, which surfaced frequently in "The Great Railway Bazaar." Here Theroux is exhausted. Outraged by Latin America, he picks quarrels, depicts himself winning arguments, allows his liberal moral superiority to grow strident. He seems to think we have to be told that people should not starve or live in filth. Even though he knows he's doing these things ("I was sick of lecturing people on disorder"), he can't help himself, and sometimes the unpleasant effect threatens the reader's pleasure in Theroux's sharp eye, which is capable of such shrewd perceptions: he notices that an American on the train is wearing "the sort of woolen plaid forester's shirt that graduate students in state universities especially favor"; that in Peru "the Indians have a broad-based look, like chess pieces"; that the terrain outside the train window, at one low point, looks like a "world of kitty litter"; and that in the dark, "in one field, five white cows were as luminous as laundry."
 

» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Theroux, PaulAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davids, TinkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my Shanghai Lil, and with love to Anne, Marcel, and Louis
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One of us on that sliding subway train was clearly not heading for work.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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An account of Theroux's trip by train from Boston to Bogota, Columbia.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140249796, 0141189150

 

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