The To the Ends of the Earth

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Paul Theroux opens this volume with an introduction which puts in perspective his thoughts of what a good travel book should accomplish. He states that he has wished in his travel accounts to reveal the authenticity of a journey through speaking to the “unexpected and off-key.” Theroux has had no interest in illuminating tired old monuments to which tourists flock. In his truth-telling, Theroux has made it a point to try “everything,” offer himself “to experience” and be bold enough then to report it. He has taken his selections from six travel books which have been successful with the reading public.

THE GREAT RAILWAY BAZAAR (1975) was Theroux’s first railroad excursion into the great unknown, and selections from it open TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH. The selections find him encountering the extraordinary peoples and the varied environment of Central Europe, Turkey, India, the Soviet Union, and Vietnam. It is amazing to think of how many changes have transpired in these regions of the world since THE GREAT RAILWAY BAZAAR was published. The same can be said after reading from the other books which have selections included. THE OLD PATAGONIAN EXPRESS (1979) finds Theroux traveling by train through the Western Hemisphere and is highlighted by his encounter with the legendary writer Jorge Luis Borges.

In his travel writings, Theroux has not hesitated to put to paper the slow and tedious portions of his sojourns. He also has not been above becoming depressed or homesick; but for the most part, a Theroux travel book has always been full of vigor. He has a penchant for putting himself in difficult, if not dangerous, situations. Theroux has the ability of penetrating to the heart of wherever he journeys. TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH is a wonderful teaser for Theroux’s travel books. Hopefully, the curious readers will go to the source of whatever section has intrigued them the most and immerse themselves in the retelling of that particular journey by a top-notch travel writer.