The Great Railway Bazaar

Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar is a commentary on the world passing by as seen from the window of a train, usually the first class compartment. He starts from London, goes to Paris, takes the Orient Express to Istanbul, crosses to Iran, Pakistan, India, South East Asia, Japan, Russia and then takes the Trans-Siberian Railway all the way back to Europe.

The trip was in 1973. Contemporary descriptions of the different lands Paul go through trigger much thought given the 37 years of upheaval in many of the countries like Iran, Pakistan, India, etc. His describes Teheran with the huge number of American expatriates working on contracts handed out by the Shah of Iran. There is a scene in a bar where brash rednecks take on the local Iranians in a brawl, just for fun. You just say to yourself, hey man, there’s a full revolution on its way.

It is a good read – I am currently reading it, have vicariously traveled with Paul and reached Bombay and specifically Bombay Central where he wants to simply disappear. Like his friend turned foe VS Naipaul in An Area of Darkness, Paul simply chickens out when he sees the crowds.

More about the book after I finish.