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Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Ghost Train To The Eastern Star by Paul Theroux

by Suzan Abrams

It's the kind of dreamy title intent on conjuring up old romantic worlds, vague memories of the Orient Express or the sound of poetry recited to perfection.

Here now, spells a brand-new Theroux that would make the ideal Christmas gift - it's classy and elegant in the way of books - or even as a picture-pretty armchair display for the fireplace hearth and rug in the long winter months, or otherwise, nothwithstanding the immediate future. Think a dismal rainy weekend.

No doubt as befits any travel epilogue, lush ambiences could be created to the word rainy. Of course, you may recall Paul Theroux not just as the accomplished traveller and writer but also an alleged famous foe to British novelist and Nobel Prize of Literature winner, V.S. Naipaul.

In Sir Vidia's Shadow, Theroux described a literary friendship set amongst the more congenial atmosphere of exotic landscapes in a controlled teeth-grinding manner that was seen to pose a shocking stab in the back for his old friend, Naipaul. Dark, fascinating truths that formed an uneasy betrayal were disclosed and that is putting things mildly.

Reuters reports that in writing Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Theroux relieved his early travelling days by retracing his steps from the 1975 bestseller called The Great Railway Bazaar. He travelled once more to 18 countries that included the little known Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Sri Lanka, Burma and Cambodia. "It's the literature of revisiting," enthusesTheroux.

The science of revisiting would take place in the mud-driven tracks designed to bolster new opinion and change perceptions. For instance, Theroux was stunned by Vietnam's transformation from the war-torn 70's period. He discovers that Delhi station is still full of squatters. Apparently, Theroux is unapologetic for his many self-indulgent expressions although a recent New York Times review labelled his book conceited seeing his one-liner descriptions as smug.

He explains to Reuters that this travel epilogue is meant to be a kind of memoir...filled to the brim with hearty, personal opinions. It is not a geography book, he stresses.

At 67, Theroux has indulged in fiction and travel writing for almost 43 years.

Paul Theroux's Website.

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