Paul Theroux, Acclaimed Travel Writer and Novelist, Receives Top Royal Geographical Society Honors

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Royal Medal, Approved by Queen, Among Highest Honors of Its Kind; Past Winners Include Sir Edmund Hillary, Comm. Robert Scott, Adm. Richard Byrd, Dr. Thor Heyerdahl

Paul Theroux, American travel writer and novelist

Paul Theroux’s writing has made a significant contribution to people’s understanding of the world in which we live and its people and cultures, whilst also inspiring the next generation of travel writers.

Paul Theroux, one of the world’s preeminent travel writers, has been awarded the 2015 Patron’s Medal by the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) for encouraging geographical discovery through travel writing. The award, one of the highest honors of its kind, has recognized outstanding achievement in geographical research and fieldwork, teaching and public engagement since the 1830s.

The Royal Medals will be presented on 1 June 2015 in London, as part of the RGS’ annual general meeting. Her Majesty the Queen approves the annual award of the Gold Medals, which originated in 1831. In recognizing Theroux’s work, Professor Dame Judith Reese of the RGS said, “Paul Theroux’s writing has made a significant contribution to people’s understanding of the world in which we live and its people and cultures, whilst also inspiring the next generation of travel writers.”

Theroux joins a distinguished list of fellow Royal Medal recipients, including Sir Edmund Hillary, Commander Robert Scott, Admiral Richard Byrd, Henry Morton Stanley, Dr. Thor Heyerdahl, Capt. Jacques-Yves Cousteau, and Dr. L.H.S. Leakey. (For more information, please visit http://www.rgs.org/medals).

Theroux is the author of dozens of travel books and novels, including The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), Riding the Iron Rooster (1983) and The Mosquito Coast (1981). He will mark 50 years of exploration with his upcoming travel book on the American South, Deep South (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 2015). Theroux brings a global traveler’s eye, a journalist’s instincts and a deep interest in the human condition to the rural South, exploring the region’s history that resonates today throughout the everyday lives of rich and poor alike. From dusty red fields of cotton and tobacco to regional gun shows, isolated churches and private homes, Theroux finds himself drawn in by kindness and easy generosity to share in the South’s intriguing, rich stories.

The following are some of Theroux’s most memorable quotes from his five decades of travel:

  • “The wish to travel seems to me characteristically human: the desire to move, to satisfy your curiosity or ease your fears, to change the circumstances of your life, to be a stranger, to make a friend, to experience an exotic landscape, to risk the unknown."
  • “I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished that I was on it.”
  • “Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.”
  • “I’m not pessimistic about Africa. The cities just seem big and hopeless. But there’s still a great green heart where there’s possibility. There’s hope in the wilderness.”
  • “Anything is possible on a train: a great meal, a binge, a visit from card players, an intrigue, a good night’s sleep, and strangers’ monologues framed like Russian short stories.”

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Sheila Donnelly Theroux