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Picks and Pans Review: The Imperial Way

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by Paul Theroux and Steve McCurry

In 1983 Theroux revisited the scene of his 1975 triumph, The Great Railway Bazaar, spending several weeks riding a variety of trains from Pakistan through India to Bangladesh. This time he took with him McCurry, a New York free-lance photographer whose National Geographic pictures, including those of this journey, earned him the 1984 Magazine Photographer of the Year award. It was a perfect match. McCurry’s intense, colorful photographs, full of fascinating faces, serve as an ideal complement to Theroux’s essay on a trip that in one stretch takes 12 hours to cover fewer than 80 miles. Both the writer and photographer reflect the dignity and patience of the people they meet, as well as the countries’ heat and the routine squalor. Theroux quotes one calmly resigned fellow passenger on a poky Indian line: “I will be in Nagpur tomorrow afternoon, or maybe evening—or perhaps night. I will eat some fruits, I will rest my body, I will read some literature.” (Houghton Mifflin, $19.95)