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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
1,858329,150 (3.87)49
An account of Theroux's trip by train from Boston to Bogota, Columbia.
  1. 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.
  2. 10
    In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin (John_Vaughan)
  3. 00
    The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux (brianjungwi)
    brianjungwi: Ideas for the Mosquito Coast came from his trip during The Old Patagonian Express
  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
    Booked on the Morning Train: A Journey Through America by George Scheer (John_Vaughan)

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» See also 49 mentions

English (29)  Italian (2)  French (1)  All languages (32)
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
Always enjoy a good travelogue from Paul Theroux. This one is enhanced by his evident fluency in Spanish and --sadly-- the dire conditions in Central America. The soccer game in El Salvador alone is worth reading. ( )
  mjspear | Jul 12, 2023 |
I enjoyed this thoroughly. I'd been warned in advance and was overall fine with the author's presence, taking the pieces of misanthropy and wryness that I liked and ignoring some other bits. Interesting to get a view of places a few decades before I saw them or know them, and some insight into politics of the time. More than that I think I enjoyed the story of train travel, the traveler's mind, or one traveler's, lords know there are a lot of types and all are misanthropic at some point, usually at a key level of discomfort. Overall amusing and thoughtful. ( )
  Kiramke | Jun 27, 2023 |
The first of Theroux's travelogues that I read, and memorable. ( )
  sfj2 | Jun 14, 2023 |
Perfect in its imperfection the book contained all three facets of travel writing, personal insight and experience, during the trip, cultural and historic descriptions of the areas passed through, and descriptions of the places and people he met. PT writes well and showed a good sense of place. He did get pissy and woe is me at times but that is travel. I enjoyed his meeting w Borges and his descriptions of New England.
Look forward to the next one. ( )
  JBreedlove | Apr 21, 2023 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (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
Paul Therouxprimary authorall editionscalculated
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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