Paul Theroux “The Best Year of My Life”

In one of recent “The New Yorker”, I read a short fiction by Paul Theroux, it was called: The Best Year of My Life.

I started reading Paul Theroux when Gui introduced me to his “Riding the Iron Rooster.” Later “The Old Patagonian Express : By Train Through the Americas .” The chapter where he described his meeting with Jorge Luis Borges in Buenos Aires was one of my favorite travel story by him.

But there is something cold/angry in him that i don’t like. A friend called it his “negativity.”

Do you know who was Theroux’s mentor? V.S. Naipaul, the nastiest old man you can find in any profession.
  I read Naipaul’s “An Area of Darkness” a long time ago—before he got the Nobel and boasted of his prowess and exclusive sexual relationship with prostitutes—and the bitter aftertaste stayed with me for weeks. Indians deserve Naipaul even less than Chinese deserve 高行健.
  Although the master and the pupil have since bitterly broken up, it seems that Theroux’s takeaway from Naipaul was a shared negativity. His tinted glasses register all and only ugliness of his life and ours, and he tirelessly harass us with the 2-D cinema verite of his pen. Have you read his travel writings on his railway rides in China and India? Well, Theroux did teach thousands of young expats of the “Lonely Planet” crowd or the Peace Corps missionaries how to see, how to think, and how to feel superior.
  But what a great pen……
-by 旧精魂

Last year i finished reading Dark Star Safari while traveling inTurkey. That was by far the best travel writing i’ve seen from Theroux. He mellowed up too. Age does help, doesn’t it?

I was never into his fiction, though. Just travel writings. This short story in the New Yorker explained many things for me about him. Knowing this made me want to forgive all his coldness i’ve seen through out the pages.

Poor Paul.

2 thoughts on “Paul Theroux “The Best Year of My Life”

  1. I just read the story too. And liked it better than any other fiction of his that I’ve read — actually I can’t say I like any of his other fiction.

    He wrote a whole book about his relationship with Naipaul. “Sir Vidia’s Shadow” ( You might want to check it out — it’s quite an interesting read. 🙂

    Jean’s Reply:
    I couldn’t make it through any of his fictions. Well, i guess i only tried a couple and gave up. His fiction has the unfortunate combination of all his faults and none of the merits reflected by his travels. 🙂
    Hmmm… “interesting” is probabaly not gonna get me to pick up that book. It sounded very unpleasant. I’m not sure i care to know what axe he must grind with Naipaul. ZM actually bought the Chinese translation of Indian Trilogy by Naipaul. I wonder if they will be worth the time?

  2. ooops, I guess “interesting” was an unfortunate choice of word, which reflects more on my poor vocabulary than anything else. I mean “interesting” as in interesting, the original meaning, not “interesting” as in “I don’t really like it but I have to find an unoffensive word for it”. I recommand reading the first part of the book (the Africa part). It’s more than interesting. 🙂

    Jean’s Reply:
    Okay! I’ve placed it on my to-read list. 🙂 Aren’t I a good customer to peddle to? 🙂

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