Talk:Paul Theroux

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Living-Person Removal[edit]

"While there [in Malawi], he helped a political opponent of Hastings Banda escape to Uganda, for which he was expelled from Malawi and thrown out of the Peace Corps after only a few months of service." I don't think this is accurate and it isn't supported by "Living on the Edge: Paul Theroux", from While he was expelled it wasn't for helping someone escape to Uganda and in fact he was nearing the end of his committment to the Peace Corps, according to the article. I would like to have a go at this but since the sentence has stood for a long time I'd welcome feedback first.Kpedsea (talk) 00:24, 3 June 2011 (UTC)

Theroux has written about this incident in several of his books, it is accurate, except for the part about it being after only few months, I think you are right that it was after quite a significant portion of his service had been done. (See interview below where Theroux says he was in Malawi from 1963-1965--Mdukas (talk) 04:28, 27 November 2011 (UTC)

Pursuant the living=yes render of {{WPBiography}}, i have just removed from the article info that has stood for over a year, for two reasons:

  1. It is info of a presumably negative nature, for which there is no verification provided and noted as specific to it, as must be if this policy is to be workable.
  2. It seems unlikely that the Peace Corps would use him for the publicity materials lk'd by the article, if the info were true as stated.

--Jerzyt 04:36, 22 August 2006 (UTC)

I'm restoring it. Theroux's expulsion from Malawi is EXTREMELY well documented -- including by Theroux himself, in Sunrise with Seamonsters.I'll check my Theroux book when I get home to be certain of the exact wording, but in the meantime, check this out:

“Two months before I was supposed to leave,” Theroux recalled in a 1971 essay published in Esquire and reprinted in Sunrise with Seamonsters, “I was charged with conspiring against the government. All I did was help several Africans: help one’s mother, help another with his car, maybe write a few mild anti-[U.S.] government articles. But I was linked to a plot to assassinate Hastings Banda. Well, people I knew were actually trying to shoot Banda. So it was more guilt by association.”
Theroux came home to be interrogated by the State Department and the Peace Corps.
Writing about this in Esquire, under the title “The Killing of Hastings Banda,” Theroux explained how he had innocently gotten mixed up with the German equivalent of the CIA. He was writing “background” pieces for what he understood was a German magazine, but what was actually their intelligence service. This, of course, was — and still is — against Peace Corps regulations.
The “background pieces” eventually went to The Christian Science Monitor and were his first published writings on Africa. These essays saved him, as he writes in the introduction to Sunrise with Seamonsters, “from dropping back into the schoolroom, or into the even more dire profession of writing applications for grants and fellowships.”
Theroux wasn’t kicked out of the Peace Corps for writing articles about Malawi, but toward the end of his second year as a Volunteer he made the mistake of helping a Malawian friend, David Rubadiri, a former headmaster of Theroux’s school and later a delegate to the United Nations. Rubadiri had recently been denounced by Hastings Banda, had left the U.N. in New York, and was living in political exile in Uganda.
Rubadiri wrote to Paul from Uganda, “asking me if I could find it in my heart to help his mother flee the country, and also would I mind driving his car to Uganda with his set of best china, a dinner service for twelve.”
Theroux, as a favor to his friend, did transport the car, the mother and the china to Kampala. On his way back to Malawi by plane, and at Rubadiri’s request, he flew via Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to deliver an envelope to Yatuuta Chisiza, a revolutionary who had organized an army that was attacking Malawi border posts in hopes of eventually overthrowing Banda.
As Theroux wrote in Esquire, “My readiness to say yes to favors may suggest a simplicity of mind, a fatal gullibility; but I was bored.” Next he carried a coded message from Yatuuta Chisiza to a “Greek fellow” in Malawi's capital, Blantyre, When Theroux delivered him the message — that on October 16 the Greek baker was to deliver his bread to Ncheu, a town thirty miles from Blantyre — the baker “trembled and went pale.”
Later, in a Chinese restaurant in Salisbury, Rhodesia, Theroux was told by Wes Leach, the Peace Corps Associate Director (Staff: Malawi 1964–66), that Banda told the American ambassador that Banda had proof Theroux was plotting to kill him. Banda demanded the Volunteer be sent home.
Theroux guessed the Greek baker had been caught, interrogated by the Malawi Criminal Investigation Department about the “bread van” and, frightened for his own life, set up the American messenger. Using Theroux’s name, government agents established correspondence with Chisiza in Dar es Salaam. Later, instead of finding “bread” waiting in a van, Chisiza found Malawi soldiers, who ambushed and killed the revolutionary gunmen from Tanzania.
For a while, Theroux thought he might also have been expelled from Malawi because of an English textbook he was writing. With no resources but some inappropriate grammar books from Kansas and a set of Sir Walter Scott’s Waverly novels donated by the English Speaking Union in London, Theroux and a Malawian linguist had begun writing a textbook that concentrated on verb patterns and sentence structure, rather than the usual grammar punctuation of subordinating conjunctions, adjectival phrases, and dependent clauses. At some point, the textbook was shown to Hastings Banda, and in a speech before Parliament he attacked certain teachers of English, and Paul’s textbook in particular, because it contained no grammar lessons. Banda was furious, calling the book a “nonsensical linguistic approach.”
Although Banda used the textbook to attack him, it was not Theroux’s sentence structure but his association with various Malawians trying to overthrow the government that finally got him kicked out of the country and the Peace Corps - "Living on the Edge: Paul Theroux", from
Also, if the link you are referring to in your second point is, then I should point out that the home page calls itself "The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers". Note also the "org" domain: the actual official Peace Corps site is at -- so point number 2 means nothing. --Calton | Talk 05:00, 22 August 2006 (UTC)

Good. I agree that your additional documentation looks like the sort of thing whose lack made it fail my cursory inspection. BTW, it was drawn to my attention by the bio on Yatuta Chisiza, which comments on the live Theroux as well as the dead Chisiza; i did a similar removal there of non-identical material. Perhaps it deserves similar documentation.
--Jerzyt 06:11, 22 August 2006 (UTC)


+ When did Paul Theroux leave Uganda? The article refers to life under Idi Amin who came to power overthrowing Milton Obote in 1971. If his younger son Louis was born in Singapore in 1970 then I think it must have been Milton Obote that Theroux and Anne Castle fled from.Ribbleton 13:54, 28 March 2007 (UTC)

If you look it says they moved again to Singapore fleeing Idi Amin indicating they had already lived in Singapore. Forbear 22:48, 28 March 2007 (UTC)

+ I took the phrase to move again to Singapore to mean he moved once more to another country having done it twice before, USA to Malawi, Malawi to Uganda.Ribbleton 12:24, 29 March 2007 (UTC)

From interview given to Powells world of books on May 18th 2000 it suggests he left in 1969

Dave: When you went to Africa, originally, what was your mission?

Theroux: It was to teach school, to be an English teacher. From sixty-three to sixty-five, I was running a school, basically, in Malawi, in the bush. Later I went to Uganda, where I was an English teacher. I did that for four years. Then I went to Singapore where I was in the English department, again. All the posts were English-related.


Theroux was involved in a failed coup d'etat of the Malawi president-dictator and was thrown out of the Peace Corps. Yet, Theroux had obviously fallen in love with Africa. He returned to teach English at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Here he met not only his future wife, Anne Castle, a schoolteacher from London, but also V. S. Naipaul, (2001 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature). This writer was to become his mentor. His first son, Marcel, was born in Uganda in 1968.

Waldo, Theroux's first novel, sold about 4000 copies. Theroux went on to write Fong and The Indians, published in 1968, Murder in Mount Holly and then Girls at Play, a novel about "the futility of African politics and the disintegration of tribal life." When an angry mob at a demonstration threatened to overturn the car in which his pregnant wife was riding, Theroux made the decision to leave Africa. Theroux was next hired on at the University of Singapore, where he wrote his fifth novel, Jungle Lovers. His second son Louis was born in Singapore in 1969. It was in Singapore that Theroux realized that he had enough of the monotony of teaching and decided to become a professional writer. His wife got a job in London and he taught one last course at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in 1972.

Sounds like he left in early 1969 with Anne pregnant, carrying the unborn Louis. However wikipedia for Louis Theroux states he was born in June 1970 in Singapore. Ribbleton 12:36, 29 March 2007 (UTC)

Living-Person Removal[edit]

Deleted "...decided to give [his children] French names intentionally". For reasons which are fairly obvious - not even the flakiest encyclopedia visitor is likely to think they gave them French names by accident. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:42, 21 March 2008 (UTC)

It may be unimportant or it may be significant, but perhaps the Theroux couple had a philosophical intent in giving their sons French names as opposed to traditionally English ones. The reason for this deletion is not clear (as was the intent behind choosing the names). Naaman Brown (talk) 17:28, 13 November 2009 (UTC)


A box referring to Louis appears at the bottom of this article. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:05, 20 May 2011 (UTC)

Who he?[edit]

I cut out the sentence on grounds of WP:undue as John Ryle is not notable and the review in question does not seem to be balanced and probably shouldn't be in under WP:BLP. (talk) 04:33, 28 April 2012 (UTC)

John Ryle is a book reviewer for a major newspaper, the The Guardian. Paul Theroux is a writer. Book reviewers critique what writers write, and in that respect, what reviewers say is notable. Whether you've ever heard of John Ryle is irrelevant. What he had to say is a legitimate critique, and a valid addition to this article. BartlebytheScrivener (talk) 17:50, 26 June 2012 (UTC)
I think there is a legitimate question of due weight. Ryle's criticism may be notable, but should we include so much of it here? I suggest that the paragraph be edited down, perhaps including the Peace Corps info from the paragraph after it -- doesn't that sort of counter some of Ryle's argument that Theroux doesn't know much about the aid work? El duderino (abides) 09:08, 21 December 2012 (UTC)
As three weeks have passed with no further comment, I've gone ahead with a condensed version of the paragraph in question. What I've left may still be too much, and I'm wondering if it's better suited to the specific article on the book which Ryle is reviewing, Dark Star Safari which is more of a stub at the moment so it would have to be fleshed out first. El duderino (abides) 15:37, 13 January 2013 (UTC)

Obviously, anyone who might bring discord into this article of Theroux-worship must be cut out. After all, the whole point of Wikipedia is to be a fan-mag for very white fans of Theroux's fiction, and to support the fantasy that his fiction is fact-based travel writing. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:05, 27 November 2015 (UTC)

A source for later[edit]

Noting that the first paragraphs here are a good source for more detail on his involvement with the Malawi rebels. Feel free to add it yourself, or I'll get around to it at some point. Ijon (talk) 02:56, 18 January 2017 (UTC)