Paul Theroux is a travel writer who has written over 40 books. Although the majority of his books are novels, he is more famous for his travelogs. The Great Railway Bazaar published in 1975 was his first commercially successful book. Theroux says that writing about travel is more than just a descriptive image of "Everything is fine, wish you were here. Traveling can be difficult, inconvenient, and miserable. While sightseeing tourists go in groups with an agenda for cramming as much in as they can, travelers may unconcern themselves with the beaten path. Theroux calls himself a traveler in this respect.
Paul Edward Theroux was born April 10, 1941 in Medford, Massachusetts. He was the son of Albert Theroux (French Canadian father) and Anna Dittami Theroux (Italian mother), the third of seven children. He grew up in a middle class Catholic family and after graduating from high school in 1959 he went to the University of Maine. He wrote anti-war editorials about Viet Nam while there. He transferred to the University of Massachusetts and earned a degree in 1963.
He then trained for the Peace Corps at Syracuse University and ended up teaching in Malawi, Africa. He was kicked out of the Peace Corps after a failed coup attempt in 1965. He loved Africa so much that he went back in 1968. He taught at a university in Uganda and it was there that he met his future wife, Anne Castle who hailed from London. He had written his first novel, Waldo, about this time. They were married and soon after their first son Marcel Theroux was born. Theroux wrote three more books while there but they moved to Singapore after their car was almost overturned during a riot.
Theroux got a job teaching at the University of Singapore. Their second son Louis Theroux was born in 1969. Theroux wrote his fifth book, another novel, and decided to write full time and quit teaching. His wife got a job in London so they packed up and moved. This was in 1971. They lived there for seventeen years until Theroux and his wife went their seperate ways.
Of course, he wasn't always in London during that time. He did a lot of traveling for the travel books that he would write. The Great Railway Bazaar was one big train ride from London to the Orient via Europe and southern Asia.The return was across the Soviet Union. For the majority of the story the reader experiences the ride on the train with Theroux. The everchanging landscape and the people he meets on the train are major topics in the story. He has traveled extensively throughout the world and is just as content traveling as he is sitting in his favorite chair at home reading.
He now spends his summers at Cape Cod, close to where he grew up. He lives the rest of the year in Hawaii where he raises honeybees. He continues to write, and to travel.
His latest book Dark Star Safari, takes the reader back to Africa. He discovers that it has changed a great deal since he first lived there. While riding on the back of a truck they are attacked by a group of armed bandits. Theroux fears for his life. He tells a soldier on the truck that he doesn't want to die. The soldier tells him, "they don't want your life, they just want your shoes."
Theroux learns something new, again. Shoes are more valuable to them than anything else he has. In this case, the bandits don't want his watch, they have the sun. They don't want his pen, they are illiterate. They don't even want his bag, they have nothing to put in it. But they walk everywhere and can really use a pair of shoes.