Peter Theroux

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Peter Christopher Sebastian Theroux[1] (born 1956) is an American writer and translator. He is part of the creative Theroux family from Boston, Massachusetts. The younger brother of writers Alexander Theroux and Paul Theroux, during college Peter studied for a year at the University of Cairo. He became interested in Arabic literature and has made it his life's work. He has translated numerous works of both historic and chiefly contemporary fiction by Egyptian, Iraqi and Lebanese authors. In addition, he has written articles and published a travel book, Sandstorms (1990), about his extensive travels in the Middle East. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Alex Raksin described Sandstorms as a "stunningly candid portrait of culture and politics in the Middle East".[2]

Life and career[edit]

Theroux was born in 1956 in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Catholic parents; his mother, Anne (née Dittami), was Italian American, and his father, Albert Eugene Theroux, was French Canadian.[3][4] His mother was a grammar school teacher and his father was a salesman for the American Oak Leather company.[5][6] His two older brothers, Alexander (b. 1938) and Paul (b. 1941), both became writers. Peter also became interested in literature, travel, and writing.

In a 1978 profile of the Theroux family, James Atlas wrote that then 21-year-old Peter “had completed five (unpublished) novels by the time he started college. Bound in dignified black covers with their titles embossed on the spines, these manuscripts—some of them written when he was only 14—have been acclaimed by his brothers as the work of ‘a mature satirist.’”[7]

He studied English literature at Harvard University, and studied for a year at the American University in Cairo. He worked as a journalist in Saudi Arabia, and for a time was a stringer for The Wall Street Journal.[8] The creative extended family includes his nephew Justin Theroux, actor, scriptwriter, and director.[8]

Theroux's first published translated literary work was the first volume of Cities of Salt, the contemporary epic novel cycle by the Saudi writer Abdelrahman Munif. He translated two further novels in that cycle. His translated works include contemporary fiction by Arabic writers from Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. These works include the following:

His translations are highly regarded. Fellow translator Raymond Stock said of his work, "[T]here's none better. His translations are clear and poetic and read like they’re written in English."[8]

Theroux has also written his own books, including Sandstorms (1990), which recounted his travels in the Middle East, and Translating LA, about living in Los Angeles. He has also contributed pieces to National Geographic magazine. Theroux lives in Los Angeles, CA.


  • In 1998 Theroux won the Arkansas Arabic Translation Award for his work on Idris Ali's Dongola: A Novel of Nubia, the first work in Nubian ever translated.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Raksin, Alex (July 22, 1990). "Sandstorms: Days and Nights in Arabia by Peter Theroux". Los Angeles Times.
  3. ^ The International Who's Who 2004. Routledge. 2003. p. 1668. ISBN 1-85743-217-7.
  4. ^ Cheuse, Alan (4 June 1989). "A worldly education Paul Theroux imagines a much-traveled writer's active erotic life". Chicago Tribune.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ “The Theroux Family Arsenal,” New York Times Magazine, 30 April 1978, 24. [3]
  8. ^ a b c "Profile: Peter Theroux: Found in Translation", Washington City Paper,