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The Pillars of Hercules: A Grand Tour of the Mediterranean

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The Pillars of Hercules: A Grand Tour of the Mediterranean

Current Status:
In Season
Paul Theroux

We gave it an A

Paul Theroux’s travel writing usually features a wrestling match between his curiosity and his misanthropy. The Mediterranean, which in this book he circles by boat, bus, train, car, motorcyle, foot, and dyspepsia, is his perfect subject. It has everything: history, tradition, haunting landscapes, ethnic and religious mayhem, and ugly vacation villas by the sea. Misanthropy scores a point early on, when he unfavorably compares the tourists on Gibraltar with the more dignified local apes. But curiosity bounces back in sullen Corsica, timeless Sardinia, and mysterious Sicily. Meanwhile, Croatia and Albania, where the ruins are modern, not ancient, produce melancholy and pity; Greece and Israel produce bile. In other words, this is travel writing at its eccentric best — a mix of irony, adventure, lucidity, and cross-grained crankiness. A