In the closing decades of the twentieth century a considerable number of novels were published in Britain, France, the USA, Australia, and elsewhere which depict Western journeys of discovery of self and others against the background of Asian megacities. Notable examples of this type of fiction are: Christopher J. Koch’s The Year of Living Dangerously (1978) and Highways to a War (1995); Dominique Lapierre’s The City of Joy (1985); Timothy Mo’s The Monkey King (1978), An Insular Possession (1986), and Brownout on Breadfruit Boulevard (1995); Paul Theroux’s Saint Jack (1973) and Kowloon Tong (1997); and James Hamilton-Patterson’s Ghosts of Manila (1994). In many of these novels, the epic journey through the semi-mythical heart of darkness landscapes which characterized the fiction of Conrad, Kipling, Maugham, and other prominent writers of the colonial era is revisited as a kind of late twentieth-century descent into urban Hades. The purpose of this study is to examine this new literature of descent and concludes that, while much of it acknowledges post-colonial realities and in some cases even attempts to stand up for third world agendas, it still recycles familiar thematic patterns and commonplaces from the Western literature of travel, adventure, and empire and, as such, constitutes yet another chapter in the ongoing history of Western Orientalist fiction.
KEYWORDS: Orientalism, literature of travel, adventure, Empire, flâneurs, cities in literature, fin de siècle