Chatwin’s Travel Writing “In a Category Of Its Own”

“Vintage’s 40th anniversary edition of In Patagonia is an invitation to look again at one of the most vivid but elusive writers of the late 20th century. Chatwin’s first book, it helped to change the idea of what travel writing could be. It appeared at a rich literary moment, when both reportage and the novel were beginning to fly high in new directions. […] In Patagonia was in a category of its own. It was clearly not a novel, but it flirted with fiction. A collage of histories, sketches, myths and memories, with short scenes glinting towards each other, without judgment, conclusion or, often, links. Chatwin said he was trying to make a cubist portrait. It is paradoxical, in content and in style. The syntax is snappy but the vocabulary is orchidaceous. It holds back from intimate revelation – ‘I don’t believe in becoming clean,’ Chatwin announced – but is fuelled by autobiography, lit up by personal obsessions.”

— Susannah Clapp, The Guardian

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2 Comments

  1. Chatwin was such an interesting writer. In Patagonia is brilliant. I also think Utz is quite good, the same mood and tone of much European writing. The “Notebooks” section (second half) of Songlines is one of the most brilliant pieces one can read.

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