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Beautifully written and full of wonderful descriptions and intriguing tales, In Patagonia is an account of Bruce Chatwin's travels to a remote country in search of a strange beast and his encounters with the people whose fascinating stories delay him on the road. Beautifully written and full of wonderful descriptions and intriguing tales, In Patagonia is an account of Bruce Chatwin's travels to a remote country in search of a strange beast and his encounters with the people whose fascinating stories delay him on the road.


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Beautifully written and full of wonderful descriptions and intriguing tales, In Patagonia is an account of Bruce Chatwin's travels to a remote country in search of a strange beast and his encounters with the people whose fascinating stories delay him on the road. Beautifully written and full of wonderful descriptions and intriguing tales, In Patagonia is an account of Bruce Chatwin's travels to a remote country in search of a strange beast and his encounters with the people whose fascinating stories delay him on the road.

30 review for In Patagonia (Vintage Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    It was the day before I left for my vacation to South America that I learned about this book. It was an offhand mention by a client, "Oh, have you read In Patagonia?" I picked it up on my way home and stuffed it into the already full backpack. Chatwin's writing got under my skin, and I don't necessarily mean that in a good way. At times he can turn a beautiful phrase when describing a sunset or the wind scoured landscape that seems to go forever. In other places I wanted him to move on, his prose It was the day before I left for my vacation to South America that I learned about this book. It was an offhand mention by a client, "Oh, have you read In Patagonia?" I picked it up on my way home and stuffed it into the already full backpack. Chatwin's writing got under my skin, and I don't necessarily mean that in a good way. At times he can turn a beautiful phrase when describing a sunset or the wind scoured landscape that seems to go forever. In other places I wanted him to move on, his prose making me claustrophobic in a place big enough to swallow me whole. But it was the enveloping wonder of the peripatetic experience that ultimately won me over. Chatwin's willingness to let the experience take hold and push the observer to internal places they might not want to go - once I was in Patagonia, I got it. "It", whatever that thing was and is, changed me. Chatwin mentions the stories of people that spend time, too much time, in the fierce desolation of Patagonia and don't escape with their lives. The wind talks to you, says those things back to you that are inside, that are supposed to stay down. Torres del Paine, Chile Near the end of our vacation we were in Ushuaia, Argentina in Tierra del Fuego - the bottom of Patagonia, the tip of the continent. Emboldened and inspired by Chatwin, I asked my wife if we could check to see if there were any last minute berths on a ship to Antarctica. This additional 11 days to our itinerary, and un-budgeted expense, met with solid and well defended resistance by my better half. But would we ever be here again? Somehow my persuasion worked and we took the last boat of the season out of Patagonia to a place that was unlike any other I've ever been. Beagle Channel, looking back towards Ushuaia I'll forgive Chatwin's too many references to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and colonial white-man timbre to some of his musings in exchange for reminding me the importance of walking to experience and getting me out of my comfort zone; getting me close enough to high-fin whales and watch seals display their molars.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    2.5 stars This is my first foray into Bruce Chatwin. I have always been wary of travel writing of a certain type when it drifts into literary colonialism. It is too easy for wealthy white travellers to go to foreign lands in search of the interesting and exotic. There is a good deal of myth surrounding Chatwin and even this book. The whole books starts and finishes with a fossilised piece of skin which Chatwin says he remembers from his childhood. Family myth said it was from a dinosaur, but in a 2.5 stars This is my first foray into Bruce Chatwin. I have always been wary of travel writing of a certain type when it drifts into literary colonialism. It is too easy for wealthy white travellers to go to foreign lands in search of the interesting and exotic. There is a good deal of myth surrounding Chatwin and even this book. The whole books starts and finishes with a fossilised piece of skin which Chatwin says he remembers from his childhood. Family myth said it was from a dinosaur, but in actuality it was from a Giant Sloth. It was found by a relative of Chatwin’s in Patagonia and he had always wanted to go there. The book is divided into very short chunks, 97 of them in total; Chatwin described the structure in artistic terms as cubist. It isn’t a traditional travel narrative as it is quite disconnected. Chatwin gave up his job with a newspaper to go to Patagonia and left in 1974; allegedly sending a telegram of explanation to his editor simply saying “Gone to Patagonia”. A recurring theme of Chatwin’s writing is the nomadic life and this is no exception. What Chatwin does do is spend a good deal of time recounting tales of those who have left their mark on Patagonia; mainly European types who settled there in the nineteenth century. He visits the Welsh community and remnants of communities from other European nations. Chatwin chases up those who remembered these characters, now often very old. He also has an interest for significant events like strikes and riots and those who recall them. This leaves the reader wondering about the Patagonia of the time which Chatwin appears to neglect. He does have the ability to describe the backdrop well and there are compelling accounts of the landscape. What we don’t know is whether this is meant to be fact or fiction. Many of those Chatwin spoke to complained bitterly that he had misrepresented them or even lied; Chatwin admitted that he rearranged events and conflated characters. There is a little travelogue, but there is as much myth and history. This makes the whole less easy to define. The reader discovers very little about Chatwin himself and how he relates to those he meets. There are plenty of cowboy myths (Butch Cassidy et al) and tall tales and I did wonder what was the point of travelling just to look for traces of people from Europe and the US. This is not really about the people of Patagonia and especially not about the indigenous peoples who Chatwin ridicules in numerous stories. Their oppression and persecution seemed of little moment to Chatwin. I was left wondering what the point of it all was and on reflection I much preferred Patrick Leigh Fermor.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    Suffering from emotional bumps and bruises I needed a holiday. My brother Tim sent me a voucher so that I could fly to San Francisco for free. I was grateful. It was cold and gray but I was in San Francisco. One afternoon I found myself footsore and starving. I was heading towards a BART stop when I saw a Thai restaurant on the other side of the street. I trekked up a block, crossed the street and discovered a book shop. Ducking in, I was pleased with their selection. I bought In Patagonia and w Suffering from emotional bumps and bruises I needed a holiday. My brother Tim sent me a voucher so that I could fly to San Francisco for free. I was grateful. It was cold and gray but I was in San Francisco. One afternoon I found myself footsore and starving. I was heading towards a BART stop when I saw a Thai restaurant on the other side of the street. I trekked up a block, crossed the street and discovered a book shop. Ducking in, I was pleased with their selection. I bought In Patagonia and went down the block to the Thai restauant. Ordering a half liter of house red and pad thai with tofu I opened the book. My food was cold before I put the book down. I chugged the wine and gnoshed as best I could. I hurried to catch my train. Flushed from the wine and my sprint. I opened the book again, when a man seated across asked me if Chatwin was Australian. I told him I didn't think so but he wrote abook about the Outback titled Songlines. The man smiled. His name was Michel and that he was from France and was in California on holiday. His right hand was in a cast. We shook left hands and wished each other good travels.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    I don’t regret reading this book. There is so much talk about it, I wanted to experience it for myself. In 1974 Bruce Chatwin, working for The Sunday Times Magazine since 1972, is said to have sent the editor, Francis Wyndham, a telegram. The brief message relayed only four words--“Have gone to Patagonia”, this being the sole explanation for his departure. Well actually, what did happen was that he informed the editor via a letter explaining in more detail his need to go to Patagonia. "I am doing I don’t regret reading this book. There is so much talk about it, I wanted to experience it for myself. In 1974 Bruce Chatwin, working for The Sunday Times Magazine since 1972, is said to have sent the editor, Francis Wyndham, a telegram. The brief message relayed only four words--“Have gone to Patagonia”, this being the sole explanation for his departure. Well actually, what did happen was that he informed the editor via a letter explaining in more detail his need to go to Patagonia. "I am doing a story there for myself, something I have always wanted to write up." This is stated in Nicholas Shakespeare’s authoritative biography Bruce Chatwin. So, what is my point? Much of what is said both about the book and what is in it is up for debate. Chatwin acknowledged that he rearranged events. People he spoke with have criticized him for misrepresenting what they have said. In any case, we are seeing events from one person’s point of view—Chatwin’s. On the other hand, isn’t history and fact often this way?! Artistic license is taken. If an author declares this openly and if the result is a better piece of writing, who is to say this is wrong?! The book is a mix of many different elements. As explained, there is a mix of fact and fiction. There is description of the land, the vegetation and the people. Historical facts are related. Myths too. In one sense, the book is a travelogue, but Chatwin relates little about himself and little about what he himself saw and experienced during his six-month sojourn in Patagonia begun in November 1974. Instead, he focuses upon the stories told to him by those he met. All the time one must keep in mind that what we are told may not be absolutely true. Who are the people Chatwin speaks with? Most of them are of European descent—many Welsh and Germans, as well as Italians, Swedes, a Persian and Americans. Many are the descendants of immigrants who left their homeland during the 1800s and early 1900s. Why? To find something better. Some were fleeing. Most have a nomadic strain in them. In coming to the Patagonian patch of earth, they have undeniably left their imprint upon it. Much of what we are told are stories related by the descendants of the 19th and early 20th century immigrants. It is interesting to note how often they fled one country only to copy in the new what thy had before. One sees this in how they built their homes, set up their communities, in what they ate and in how they clothed themselves. The volume is made up of ninety-seven short, short chapters. Some lead directly into the next. Many others change topic completely, the result being that what is delivered is disconnected. There is no overview. On closing the book, one has a feel for the place and its people, but the delivery is jumbled and unstructured. History-wise, there are tidbits of information about strikes, anarchist and socialist movements leading up to the Revolution of 1920, the Council of the Cave Sect, jumbled and mixed with Butch Cassidy’s escapades. The lack of overview makes absorbing this information difficult, and in the back of one ‘s mind is always the nagging thought that perhaps what we are being told is not true! Chatwin spends a lot of time talking about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Why he travels to Patagonia and then focuses upon them, well, this just seems silly to me. More significantly, why is there so little written about the indigenous people of the land? There is also a gap of information between the 1920s and his visit in 1974. Chatwin does give the reader a feel for both the land and the people living there. He draws the physical landscape in brilliant colors, but other than these few pretty lines, I am not blown over by the prose. It is too jumbled, disconnected and choppy for me. It does not flow smoothly. I do not think the departure from truth and the artistic license taken have paid off. The audiobook is very well narrated by Hugh Fraser. It is quite simply a delight to listen to. The pace is perfect. His tone is clear, but also calm and soothing which is really good given that the text itself is jumbled and disconnected. Four stars for the narration. The audiobook begins with a long and tedious introduction.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    Readable and pleasant. The author, allegedly inspired by schoolboy ponderings over the safest place in a post-nuclear war world and childhood atlas voyages, travels to Patagonia and travels around Welsh settlers, hunts for prehistoric mega beasts said to survive in the wilderness (view spoiler)[ as apparently they do her and there if you believe all the tales that are told (hide spoiler)] and generally comments on the history and cultures of the region. Complaints from people mentioned in the bo Readable and pleasant. The author, allegedly inspired by schoolboy ponderings over the safest place in a post-nuclear war world and childhood atlas voyages, travels to Patagonia and travels around Welsh settlers, hunts for prehistoric mega beasts said to survive in the wilderness (view spoiler)[ as apparently they do her and there if you believe all the tales that are told (hide spoiler)] and generally comments on the history and cultures of the region. Complaints from people mentioned in the book revealed that the literary result was fictionalised (view spoiler)[ shock and horror that a literary writer is not as it turns out a court reporter (hide spoiler)] . In adolescence I read this and The Songlines and a few other of Chatwin's books. Perhaps the true subject of his work was always himself. Reading one passes across the unseen boundary between fiction and non-fiction. I am no longer sure if the finished work is more fiction, a yarn, more Gulliver's Travels than reportage, and does it matter, Patagonia is still there if one wants to see it for yourself.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    This book was a special treat to me as a unique form a travel writing. In its exploration of people encountered on his trip to Patagonia in the early 70’s, Chatwin makes magic as he uses his series of little quests and the actual places of his travels to make a doorway to imagination. The excellent introduction by someone named Shakespeare highlights the special qualities of the book: Just as Patagonia is not a place with an exact border, so Chatwin’s “particularly dotty book”, as he called it, This book was a special treat to me as a unique form a travel writing. In its exploration of people encountered on his trip to Patagonia in the early 70’s, Chatwin makes magic as he uses his series of little quests and the actual places of his travels to make a doorway to imagination. The excellent introduction by someone named Shakespeare highlights the special qualities of the book: Just as Patagonia is not a place with an exact border, so Chatwin’s “particularly dotty book”, as he called it, would not fall into an easy category. Was it travel writing? Was it historical fiction? Was it reportage? And was it true—and, if not, did it matter? …Patagonia is the farthest place to which man walked from his place of origins. It is therefore a symbol of his restlessness. From its discovery it had the effect on the imagination something like the moon, but in my opinion more powerful. I know little about Patagonia, having only encountered it in occasional National Geographic pieces and in books as a remote place of passage by naval explorers and in tales of the 19th century Royal British Navy. I have some images of it as a place of high plains and semi-desert, but in fact its 1,000 mile stretch includes diverse ecologies between the lush pampas of Argentina and trailing ridge of the Andes to the cold and windy site of icebergs and penguins of Tierra del Fuego. My conception of it as entirely rural had to be revised by a Wiki piece with the fact that Chile’s Punta Arenas on the Strait of Magellan has over 100,000 residents. I get no coherent picture of the place and its peoples from Chatwin, but instead a delightful set of snapshots and vignettes of the motley crew of cultures and characters, present and past, who were drawn to live there. We encounter surprising communities of Welsh, Scots, and Boers, and odd stories of individual Russians, Germans, and Greeks. Chatwin makes diversions into the history of early explorers, missionaries, and pirates, tales of revolutionaries and anarchists, and generational memories of mining splurges, the growth of sheep farming and ranching enterprises, the sagas of notable naturalists and fossil hunters. Chatwin has a personal family interest in the discovery of the remains of recently extinct giant sloths. Another diversion delves into the story of how the outlaws known as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid tried to retire as ranchers there in a ménage a trois with the mysterious Etta Place, but ended up reverting to bank robbery. Chatwin plays detective in exploring how their tragic fate may be myth and hoax. In further diversions, as summarized in the introduction, Chatwin tries to account for the Patagonian origin of Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, Darwin’s theory of evolution, Shakespeare’s Caliban, Conan Doyle’s Lost World, Swift’s Brobdignagians, Poe’s Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.. Chatwin’s intention, according to the introductory piece, was to create a “meditation on the restlessness and exile”: A theater for his own restlessness, Patagonia, he would covertly argue, was the source of everyone else’s restlessness too. In Chatwin’s Patagonia, the uniqueness of the landscape hardly comes into view. His book is largely about interiors that are elsewheres. You won’t come across many Patagonian Patagonians in its pages; nor will you discover much about the author, who remains teasingly absent. The latter aspect contrasts with Paul Theroux’s approach to travel writing, in which you are immersed in his direct experiences, though the use of such experiences as a stepping-stone into revery bears some similarity. The revery doesn’t become an end in itself as it does in Peter Matthiessen’s wonderful account of a Himalayan journey, “The Snow Leopard”. There is more lightness and playfulness in Chatwin. The people come alive, whether or not the portrayals are accurate. This reminds me of how the same issue pertains to Steinbeck’s collection of vignettes of people and place in “Travels with Charley” To help readers get a sense of his artful method of delivery and thereby help with the decision to pursue reading the book I share two brief passages: I stayed at the Estacion de Biologia Marina with a party of scientists who dug enthusiastically for sandworms and squabbled about the Latin names for seaweed. The resident ornithologist, a severe young man, was studying the migration of the Jackass Penguin. We talked late into the night, arguing whether or not we, too, have journeys mapped out in our central nervous systems; it seemed the only way to account for our insane restlessness. … We watched them waddle awkwardly to the shore and wallop into the water. In the seventeenth century, the explorer Sir John Narborough stood on the same spot and described them ‘standing upright like little children in white aprons in company together’. Albatrosses and penguins are the last birds I’d want to murder. A straight-backed gentleman in his eighties peered through spectacles and grinned. His face was shiny pink and he wore khaki shorts. …Archie Tuffnell loved Patagonia and called her ‘Old Pat.’ He loved the solitude, the birds, the space and the dry healthy climate. He had managed a sheep-farm for a big English land company for forty years. When he had to retire he couldn’t face the coop of England, and he had bought his own camp, taking with him 2,500 sheep and ‘my man Gomez.’ …His domestic arrangements were a lesson in asceticism: a shower, a narrow bed, a desk, and two camp stools and no chairs. ‘I don’t want to get sunk down in an armchair. Not at my age. I might never get up.’ …His standards were Edwardian but he knew how the world changed; how to keep one step ahead of change, so as to not change himself. His rules were simple: Keep liquid. Never wait for higher prices. Never use money to show off to your workers. Punta Arenas, Chile, on the Strait of Magellan

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kavita

    I picked up In Patagonia hoping to learn more about Argentina and Argentinians. After all, that's the country where this book is set and travel memoirs are usually great for an outsider's view of a place. Silly me! After reading this book, no one would fault the reader for thinking that Argentina was located somewhere in Europe. Chatwin deals exclusively with the European immigrants of various nationalities and some Americans in his travels around Patagonia. There are a however, a couple of smal I picked up In Patagonia hoping to learn more about Argentina and Argentinians. After all, that's the country where this book is set and travel memoirs are usually great for an outsider's view of a place. Silly me! After reading this book, no one would fault the reader for thinking that Argentina was located somewhere in Europe. Chatwin deals exclusively with the European immigrants of various nationalities and some Americans in his travels around Patagonia. There are a however, a couple of small chapters about the local Yaghan tribals as well as some passing references to the "peons" (seriously?) hired by the ubiquitous Europeans. How lucky could I get? /sarcasm. A worse crime is that Chatwin is boring. Though a couple of his subjects like the adventures of the Wild Bunch gang from the US were interesting, most of the subjects chosen were boring. Some were eccentric enough to allow me to continue reading, but I almost quit when Chatwin went on and on about some British sailor chap called Charley for what appeared at the time to be millions of pages. The trip to Patagonia comes about when Chatwin sets out to find a piece of the mylodon skin. As a child, his grandmother had a piece of this skin, sent as a souvenir by an eccentric brother of hers. Chatwin grew up thinking it was from a Brontosaurus, but it turned out to be from a mylodon, and he plans a trip to see if he too could unearth something similar. This premise promised to be interesting but the mylodon story thread completely disappears until the very last chapter when Chatwin succeeds in his mission. The author appears to have chosen his subjects at random. There is no flow to the narrative, and all the random people he meets are just ships that pass through in the night. We never get to know much about most of these characters. They disappear as soon as they appear, and never come back again. The book is arranged in a row of random snippets that would be better suited to weekly publishing in a magazine or on a blog. I don't know why this stream of consciousness travel memoir is considered such a classic and a must-read on Argentina. I did not learn a single thing about the country, its nature, its politics, its people, or its culture. All I learned was that Chatwin can't write a travelogue for nuts!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    The truly fine-grained books are always impossible to review or describe. Even dragged-out praise leaves most of the best things unnoted. Certainly this is true in the case of In Patagonia, one of those unclassifiable mandarin anatomies whose summarized “action” but barely suggests the innumerable felicities of perception that make the book. A copy of In Our Time packed in his rucksack, Chatwin busses from Buenos Aires into Patagonia, tramps around, meets people and collects their stories--much The truly fine-grained books are always impossible to review or describe. Even dragged-out praise leaves most of the best things unnoted. Certainly this is true in the case of In Patagonia, one of those unclassifiable mandarin anatomies whose summarized “action” but barely suggests the innumerable felicities of perception that make the book. A copy of In Our Time packed in his rucksack, Chatwin busses from Buenos Aires into Patagonia, tramps around, meets people and collects their stories--much as Ishmael “goes whaling” or Bloom “runs some errands and thinks about stuff.” Updike, in his reviewer-guise of the Common Reader, on the occasion of Brodsky’s Venetian capriccio Watermark marvels at those writers “beyond academic conventions, beyond commercial hopes” who depart from, dispense with or otherwise transcend plot (or the story hooks of “travel writing”) to regale us with their “rare sensibility and curious fund of information; we are flattered to be in his or her company” (readers who complain that cetological lore trammels their breeze through Moby Dick miss the point: the prose of that long chapter is splendid). A truly picaresque narrative sensibility (rare enough) and a curio-cabinet of odd learning Chatwin indeed has, plus an enriching assimilation of those masters of unsettling concision, Mandelstam and Borges. Who knew a desert at land’s end would offer such a mad dream of the world? Chatwin has the magic eye.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    This was published in 1977, and as I read it, I couldn't help but think of Edward Said's Orientalism, published a year later. I admit to fantasizing about Said clobbering Chatwin over the head with a large rock. But not before Said had given him some choice words that could not be reduced to faux-Hemingway dialogue. As in the Songlines, you have a traveler who is more obsessed with traveling than the places he travels to, or the people he meets. There are so many vignettes in this, some with fab This was published in 1977, and as I read it, I couldn't help but think of Edward Said's Orientalism, published a year later. I admit to fantasizing about Said clobbering Chatwin over the head with a large rock. But not before Said had given him some choice words that could not be reduced to faux-Hemingway dialogue. As in the Songlines, you have a traveler who is more obsessed with traveling than the places he travels to, or the people he meets. There are so many vignettes in this, some with fabulous characters, but none of these are developed as the narrative lurches about like a penguin on acid. So alright, I get it, the narrative is kind of like travel itself - you're never fully oriented. But that's what a writer is for. Orient me. And speaking of the Orient....

  10. 4 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    I was hoping this might have had something in common with Paul Theroux's fascinating The Old Patagonian Express, but it didn't. I rarely ever read travel writing, but thought I'd give this a go as it's seen as the book that revolutionized the genre. This was a strange mix of travelogue, history and myth, of which I found both interesting and at times uninteresting, with only the parts about the Welsh migration to Patagonia, the travels through the Puelo valley route to Chile, and towards the end I was hoping this might have had something in common with Paul Theroux's fascinating The Old Patagonian Express, but it didn't. I rarely ever read travel writing, but thought I'd give this a go as it's seen as the book that revolutionized the genre. This was a strange mix of travelogue, history and myth, of which I found both interesting and at times uninteresting, with only the parts about the Welsh migration to Patagonia, the travels through the Puelo valley route to Chile, and towards the end of the book the story about a giant sloth that really stood out for me. There is some really good descriptive writing of the landscapes Chatwin encountered, and I only wish more of it was taken up by that, because for a book deemed to be a travel classic there was in fact little account of his actual travels, making the vastness of Patagonia feel more like a small county. Also, I wasn't so keen on the way he wrote in really short chapters, and overall the experimental nature did little to captivate me. Not a bad book, but just not what I expected at all. One thing that did surprise me more than anything else was when my birth town of Chippenham, Wiltshire, got mentioned. Never thought I'd come across that in a Patagonia travel book. I think I'd likely try Patrick Leigh Fermor next time, and hope his travels do more for me than what Chatwin's did here.

  11. 5 out of 5

    James Barker

    Bruce Chatwin baulked at being called a travel writer and reading this I can see why. Part-literature, part-history, the slender volume is packed full of diverse and disparate characters and episodes. Then there is the flying off of tangents- satisfying tangents that entrench you in histories of.. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (the Patagonian years), the mylodon and other prehistoric beasts, Simon Radowitzky, the search for Trapalanda (a version of Eldorado), the creation of an extraordinar Bruce Chatwin baulked at being called a travel writer and reading this I can see why. Part-literature, part-history, the slender volume is packed full of diverse and disparate characters and episodes. Then there is the flying off of tangents- satisfying tangents that entrench you in histories of.. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (the Patagonian years), the mylodon and other prehistoric beasts, Simon Radowitzky, the search for Trapalanda (a version of Eldorado), the creation of an extraordinary dictionary of native Indian language in the nineteenth century, the wooing of people's will by anarchists, Marxists, Catholics, protestants. Above all, the book is a record of immigrants from all over the world, ex-pat communities and (more often than not) ex-pat hermits, trapped in a hostile environment with the trappings of their past surrounding them, some loathing their lives, others held in a thrall, as if Patagonia has bewitched them with its end-of-the-earth brutal beauty. The author writes in his signature detached style, adding a perfect power to everything he describes. Whether being lectured to by a dying priest detailing the magic of the area, the unfound remnants of unicorn bones, or recounting the story of Jemmy Button, a young native kidnapped and taken to England to be gentrified before being returned to his tribe, he writes without judgement and with sympathy. It is a book about his own personal quest and it is wonderfully alive.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Patagonia defies definition. It sits at the very end of a continent, nudges into the tumultuous Southern ocean, covers two countries and is a place of enigmas. It was a place that Brue Chatwin had longed to visit for years after seeing a piece of 'brontosaurus' in his grandparent's curiosity cabinet. It wasn't a piece of a dinosaur, but another part of an extinct animal that had been found in Patagonia. The memory of it lived on in Chatwin's imagination and was the spark that made him give up his Patagonia defies definition. It sits at the very end of a continent, nudges into the tumultuous Southern ocean, covers two countries and is a place of enigmas. It was a place that Brue Chatwin had longed to visit for years after seeing a piece of 'brontosaurus' in his grandparent's curiosity cabinet. It wasn't a piece of a dinosaur, but another part of an extinct animal that had been found in Patagonia. The memory of it lived on in Chatwin's imagination and was the spark that made him give up his job and head out there in 1974. The six months that he spent there, become this book. It is not about the landscape or the countries, rather Chatwin spends his time there meeting people, finding out about them and then following the gossamer threads of their lives from place to place and backwards and forwards in time. To be honest, this wasn't quite what I was expecting. It is often disjointed, it has some very short chapters, people only briefly appear in the narrative, before he heads off to the next location and snapshot of another life. And yet it is a wonderful piece of writing. Even though it is not about the place per se, Patagonia fully permeates the writing, you have a sense of the barrenness of the desert, the relentless wind off Tierra del Fuego, places that have attracted people from all over the world in search of the nomadic existence. He traces the characters backwards and forwards across this land but reveals as much about himself in his writing. Will try to get to Songlines a bit sooner than this now I have found a copy.

  13. 5 out of 5

    AC

    This is not a travelogue, in any normal sense. It is rather a collection of 97 very short vignettes (almost like 'palm-in-the-hand' stories), many (as is now generally admitted) partially fictionalized, based on Chatwin's wanderings and readings and musings and imaginings about Patagonia, aka 'the end of the world' (geographically speaking), written throughout with a very odd tilt which is quite unique and which is Chatwin's own. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid play as great a role (greater, This is not a travelogue, in any normal sense. It is rather a collection of 97 very short vignettes (almost like 'palm-in-the-hand' stories), many (as is now generally admitted) partially fictionalized, based on Chatwin's wanderings and readings and musings and imaginings about Patagonia, aka 'the end of the world' (geographically speaking), written throughout with a very odd tilt which is quite unique and which is Chatwin's own. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid play as great a role (greater, in fact) as do the penguins and condors... The book is really unclassifiable (as Chatwin himself insisted), and is a very enjoyable read. The introduction to this edition, by Nicholas Shakespeare, Chatwin's biographer (and he was not at all a hagiographic biographer), is itself quite interesting and worthwhile. 4.5 stars

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    This is the third time I have read this classic by the late Bruce Chatwin. While purporting to be an episodic treatment of various past and present individuals who have been drawn into the orbit of Patagonia, it is quite as fictional as it is nonfiction. Although Chatwin has no great love for the literal truth, his transformations of people and events are fascinating. It is very much like the old joke about the patient who tells his therapist some made up stories, to which the therapist says, "Th This is the third time I have read this classic by the late Bruce Chatwin. While purporting to be an episodic treatment of various past and present individuals who have been drawn into the orbit of Patagonia, it is quite as fictional as it is nonfiction. Although Chatwin has no great love for the literal truth, his transformations of people and events are fascinating. It is very much like the old joke about the patient who tells his therapist some made up stories, to which the therapist says, "That's very interesting." When the patient admits that he has been making all his experiences up, the therapist, without skipping a beat, says, "That's even more interesting!" To present a simple example (there are more in Nicholas Shakespeare's excellent introduction to this edition), because Chatwin was fascinated with Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, he takes a person whose passion in life is actually Agatha Christie and presents her as a devotee of Mandelstam. This time, I read Chatwin's book while traveling through Patagonia myself. I can see why the book remains so popular, irrespective of its literal truthfulness.

  15. 5 out of 5

    fourtriplezed

    I have enjoyed reading this travel classic. I have, honestly I have. All good travel/ history should have one reaching for google maps and even reading (at worst) wikipedia and I have been doing that. With that I am keen to go to all the exotic places that the author visited, those places with Spanish names that are seemingly full of not only Latins but Englishmen and Germans and Welsh and have strange natives and had the likes of North American outlaws gallivanting around the countryside. What I have enjoyed reading this travel classic. I have, honestly I have. All good travel/ history should have one reaching for google maps and even reading (at worst) wikipedia and I have been doing that. With that I am keen to go to all the exotic places that the author visited, those places with Spanish names that are seemingly full of not only Latins but Englishmen and Germans and Welsh and have strange natives and had the likes of North American outlaws gallivanting around the countryside. What more could one want from a book like this? It has set the travel juices flowing as all good travel writing should. But.....I just have the horrible feeling that I might have been better reading this back in the day. That day should have been when I was in my late teens and not my fast approaching old age. Back then this book would have seemed vital, important, an adventure fantasy, a tome to enthuse about to my book reading pals. Now? It just reads like the writings of a literate backpacker. One who wants to let his family and friends know about his great big adventure while on his travels. One who has the forethought to add a few historical tid bits to tide the adventure over during the rainy days stuck in the internet cafe. Yes! that's it. The type of prose that gets posted on a personal blog or even at worst facebook. "The book that redefined travel writing" says a quote on the back of my copy. Maybe that was the point, a personal travel writing blog long before a travel writing blog was even thought of. The appeal is the every-man prose. Yep I had to read this when I was young.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    Prior to my reading this, if you had asked me what is Patagonia?, I probably would have said, "That company that makes backpacks and outdoor crap." Within the first 30 to 40 pages, if you had asked me again, I would have said it was practically the end of the world, an exotic, magnetic, land, filled with strange characters and harsh, extreme, beautiful landscapes. Having finished the book, it feels like Chatwin somehow drained the life out of the place and obliterated its magic. He left me a monot Prior to my reading this, if you had asked me what is Patagonia?, I probably would have said, "That company that makes backpacks and outdoor crap." Within the first 30 to 40 pages, if you had asked me again, I would have said it was practically the end of the world, an exotic, magnetic, land, filled with strange characters and harsh, extreme, beautiful landscapes. Having finished the book, it feels like Chatwin somehow drained the life out of the place and obliterated its magic. He left me a monotone landscape dotted by odd dwellings spaced far apart filled almost entirely by European emigrants either formerly rich, bored, restless, or mentally declining. Infrequently, the dying embers of my hopes for this book were almost rekindled by an historical anecdote, a local myth, or a name I'd not expected (say, Darwin, or Butch Cassidy), but most felt rushed, devoid of context, or enervated. Chatwin, himself, seems like a fascinating character and yet he even renders himself a tedious player in this adventure. I forced myself through this--that's on me. But the writing--an ADHD's travelogue--that's on Chatwin.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Trelawn

    A really enjoyable read. From stories of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to tea with Welsh ex pats Bruce Chatwin keeps up an interesting narrative as he travels through Chile and Argentina in the 1970s. His fascination Patagonia stems from a piece of Sloth skin that was in his grandmothers glass cabinet, sent home by her brother Charlie Milward. Chatwin goes in search of stories of his uncle Charlie and hopes to find a piece of Sloth to replace the one his mother diaposed of when his grandmot A really enjoyable read. From stories of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to tea with Welsh ex pats Bruce Chatwin keeps up an interesting narrative as he travels through Chile and Argentina in the 1970s. His fascination Patagonia stems from a piece of Sloth skin that was in his grandmothers glass cabinet, sent home by her brother Charlie Milward. Chatwin goes in search of stories of his uncle Charlie and hopes to find a piece of Sloth to replace the one his mother diaposed of when his grandmother died. This travelogue gives a flavour of South America with snipits of history, culture and food liberally sprinkled throughout the narrative. Very enjoyable

  18. 5 out of 5

    Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

    Patagonia is that stretch of land at the southern tip of South America, the major part of which is Argentina and the rest, Chile. In the 501 Must Read Books list this is included as a travel book. I think this is a bit off. The title gives a hint. It's "In Patagonia." The preposition "in" makes a lot of difference. Bruce Chatwin did not make a lot of description of the various places he had been in Patagonia when he started travelling there in 1974. At least not as much as the people--both livin Patagonia is that stretch of land at the southern tip of South America, the major part of which is Argentina and the rest, Chile. In the 501 Must Read Books list this is included as a travel book. I think this is a bit off. The title gives a hint. It's "In Patagonia." The preposition "in" makes a lot of difference. Bruce Chatwin did not make a lot of description of the various places he had been in Patagonia when he started travelling there in 1974. At least not as much as the people--both living and dead--who, at one time or another in their lives, had been part of the place. The book is more like a collection of mini-biographies of all sorts of characters: odd, tragic, triumphant, mythical, the strange and historical. Most of the characters I have not heard about before, ever. But some did ring a bell, like the outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Charles Darwin and Ferdinand Magellan (whose fleet passed that way before crossing the Pacific Ocean then getting himself killed in Mactan Island, the Philippines). Excellently-researched, entertaining and well-written, I had to withhold two stars however because there's no food and/or sex here.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    I think the best way to represent my experience with this book would be to include all that I learned and researched as I read it. I just need to transfer them from my written notepad.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Paul Dembina

    Found myself slightly underwhelmed by this one. Probably due to overly high expectations,after the affectionate recent film profile from Werner Herzog and hearing what an influential book this was. Ah well, probably my loss

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    Blends the history of Patagonia, and the region, with the author's contemporary encounters and observations. The story focuses on eccentrics and adventurous people, suggesting that the remote and wild country attracts and breeds them. Published in 1977, and written during the US- organized fascist junta of Pinochet, Chatwin discusses that elephant in the room in a highly selective and oblique manner, through his interview with a large landowner, dispossessed of her land, during the short-lived A Blends the history of Patagonia, and the region, with the author's contemporary encounters and observations. The story focuses on eccentrics and adventurous people, suggesting that the remote and wild country attracts and breeds them. Published in 1977, and written during the US- organized fascist junta of Pinochet, Chatwin discusses that elephant in the room in a highly selective and oblique manner, through his interview with a large landowner, dispossessed of her land, during the short-lived Allende presidency. She dismantles the house, even of light switches, to render it useless to the occupiers. Through the testimony of some outraged old lady landowner gloating about what a good job the coup plotters did in rounding up the Marxists, he depicts the peons[Chatwin's word] as drunken fools who were incapable of preserving the ranch after land reforms from the Marxist Allende government. He takes the word of the dispossessed landowner without bothering to hear or more likely, to write about their version. The peons are portrayed as deeply stupid and brutal, dumping fresh milk down the drain because they prefer canned condensed milk and slaughtering the dairy cows for meat. One wonders who was working on the land all those years, that they could be so stupid as to ruin it within months after Allende's victory. Or, that poor people would waste food. The obvious implication here is that the peons need the landowner to take care of them – to survive. The story fits in with his theme of eccentrics: the landlady dismantling the house, and her disdain for the poor, along with a typical upper-class belief that they're incapable of governing themselves. He cites the case of a greedy local Communist party boss, who wants to take over one of the large manor homes for a party headquarters, but is then arrested during the fascist coup. Some friends come to his defense and the fascists ask them if they'd recognize his hand writing; they say yes, and are shown a “death list” with their names on it. They prudently decide to withdraw their protests. It's all unsubstantiated by references, therefore, pure hearsay; therefore worthless as journalism or history. As with the landlady episode, Chatwin focuses on an unsubstantiated violent aspect of the democratically-elected Marxists, in a country of thousands of verifiable deaths and tortures by the Pinochet junta. Though the parts about Allende are minor, compared with the rest of the book, they are very sinister, distorted and dishonest and are therefore central to any honest criticism. Chatwin never uses the term fascist when describing the coup, or the US-CIA backing. Not one word about the thousands of dead, the terror or the torture – unforgivable and if I may add, very slimy. You don't have to be a Marxist to empathize with murder, torture and foreign destabilization on a massive scale. I don't know how people can talk only about writing style when a writer has these kinds of omissions and distortions; it's negligent and callous at best. Chatwin could have chosen not to talk about the coup, instead, he talks about it, through a few stories that tremendously distort what happened. He did meticulous research into the region's history, in order to find stories of interest, so Chatwin can easily be accused of grave omissions and distortions regarding the contemporary history of the country. I think it essentially kills his book, as a serious work of history and journalism. Without the distortions of the Allende presidency and the fascist coup, the book is amusing and interesting. He does mention extreme violence from the past where colonizers hunted and massacred Indians and anarchists, but in light of his rendition of Pinochet and company's brutal fascist coup, I tend to think he has a lurid fascination with the Indian slaughters and views them as necessary, in order to civilize the region for Whites. Nowhere does he actually condemn the slaughters. I felt like the Indians, whose main offense seemed to be stealing sheep, were slaughtered in the same way wolves would be, to keep the flock safe. Chatwin's account of Patagonia is a work of cognitive dissonance and denial, that suggests one can stroll through a country in the midst of political horror and mass repression, and diminish that horror, to make it fit into a scheme of charming stories about eccentrics in a harsh and wild land.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brook

    Forced myself to finish this book. The book starts out with a rambling, skipping history of Argentina, dipping into popular lore to talk about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. From there, it dips into short anecdote after anecdote, divided up roughly by chapters, chronicling the narrator's trip through Argentina to find remains of a great giant sloth that made the papers around the turn of the 20th century. You've got 3 interesting possible subjects: 1. The history of outlaws fleeing to Argent Forced myself to finish this book. The book starts out with a rambling, skipping history of Argentina, dipping into popular lore to talk about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. From there, it dips into short anecdote after anecdote, divided up roughly by chapters, chronicling the narrator's trip through Argentina to find remains of a great giant sloth that made the papers around the turn of the 20th century. You've got 3 interesting possible subjects: 1. The history of outlaws fleeing to Argentina, from bank robbers to Nazis fleeing at the end of WWII. 2. The story of the giant creatures that roamed South America before the last ice age, and the hunt for their remains. 3. The story of the indigenous people there, and their relation to the European settlers who came later. While all 3 of these are mentioned in the book, none is told with any flair, none keep your interest. About a third of the way into the book, I pictured an elderly British gentleman in a dark-paneled shooting club somewhere in his home country, reading out to a crowd of Scotch-swilling cronies from his diary, paradoxically in the 1900s, which is the colonial voice this is written in. The book made a lot more sense then. The author brings up just about every stereotype a colonialist has ever come up with, and peppers his book with wonderful words like "peon" to refer to any native worker - which is actually the word they used for indentured, usually indigenous, laborers they used in South America. By the time this book was written, Britain and most western nations had given up their colonies, however the author doesn't seem to know it. Even if one takes no exception with the author's politics, the writing itself is dry, formless, and - there's no other word for it - boring. I am frankly surprised it has gotten a positive review from anyone. At no point did the author's description bring images flashing to mind. It's Argentina, man! It's not hard!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Chris Gager

    So far this is an easy 4* book. Totally engrossing if a bit weird. In a good way... Sort of like a National Geographic article on steroids with ALL the warts included. In place of photographs we get BC's pithy word pictures. What a crazy place this is! All those immigrants and wanderers and visionaries from Europe and North America, including Butch Cassidy and Sundance. He evens meets an old lady who encountered Butch(maybe) as a four-year-old. The indigenous locals seem to be permanently drunk. So far this is an easy 4* book. Totally engrossing if a bit weird. In a good way... Sort of like a National Geographic article on steroids with ALL the warts included. In place of photographs we get BC's pithy word pictures. What a crazy place this is! All those immigrants and wanderers and visionaries from Europe and North America, including Butch Cassidy and Sundance. He evens meets an old lady who encountered Butch(maybe) as a four-year-old. The indigenous locals seem to be permanently drunk. I'm keeping my National Geographic Atlas of the World(built to last) handy. - Great quote: "No one would want to drop an atom bomb on Patagonia." Moving South in a back and forth manner. Kind of the way I ride my bike up a hill! - only opposite - right? Bruce goes from the coast to the cordillera and back again and is now WAY down south Tierra del Fuego way. The writing continues to be very entertaining though, as others have noted, the author was somewhat less than a slave to the truth. Not above embellishment in other words. I have no idea what's "real" and what isn't here but I'm not quibbling. It'd be a great ride even if it were all fiction! The author makes Patagonia seem like a lost colony of oddball earthlings abandoned to their own devices in deep space on a forgotten planet. Finished a couple of nights ago with this fascinating book. The ending focused on the story of Mr. Chatwin's relative Charlie Milward and his amazing story. It's a challenge to live a life like that anymore! - Ice flow??? I think it's ice floe... - The natives succumb to European diseases just as they did in Texas at the same time(19th century). Easier way of getting rid of them than fighting!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Magic Square Challenge 2018 - #2 - Book Vipers Monthly Read A classic travel memoir that unfortunately failed to infect me with wanderlust. There were several issues that prevented In Patagonia from working out for me. Firstly, it lacked direction, or itinerary, that would give me a clear scope of Chatwin's journey. Each short chapter was disconnected from the rest, and kind of jumped from topic to topic. I feel like the author just wrote down the first thing that came to his head in the order th Magic Square Challenge 2018 - #2 - Book Vipers Monthly Read A classic travel memoir that unfortunately failed to infect me with wanderlust. There were several issues that prevented In Patagonia from working out for me. Firstly, it lacked direction, or itinerary, that would give me a clear scope of Chatwin's journey. Each short chapter was disconnected from the rest, and kind of jumped from topic to topic. I feel like the author just wrote down the first thing that came to his head in the order that it did, and was done with it. The absence of a unifying theme or a story definitely made my progress somewhat of a slog. Thankfully, like I sad, most chapters were just a page or two long. Secondly, there is an odd lack of scenery. Chatwin talks about the anecdotes that people tell him, the colourful individuals that he meets, and the historical notes relating to Patagonia, but the region itself is somehow bleak and silent. As a reader, I never felt like I was in a foreign locale, especially since a lot of locals Chatwin meets are expats who muse about the Old Country a lot. On more than one occasion I forgot completely that I was supposed to be in South America, listening to strangers going on and on about Europe's political atmosphere. Fortunately, the historical notes were rather fascinating, especially the legend of The Sect of the Brujería and prehistoric fauna, so I enjoyed those. I just wish In Patagonia had a better voice and presence, but as it is I cannot give it more than an average rating.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Yigal Zur

    a must to any traveler to patagonia

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    In this unusual piece of travel writing, Bruce Chatwin visits the remote area of Patagonia. The spur for his journey was a piece of dinosaur skin remembered from his childhood - he goes in search of the mythical beast and to find evidence of the relative who sent the skin home. He intersperses descriptions of the places he visits with anecdotes about the people he meets and about historical figures (such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) who had also found their way to this remote part of t In this unusual piece of travel writing, Bruce Chatwin visits the remote area of Patagonia. The spur for his journey was a piece of dinosaur skin remembered from his childhood - he goes in search of the mythical beast and to find evidence of the relative who sent the skin home. He intersperses descriptions of the places he visits with anecdotes about the people he meets and about historical figures (such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) who had also found their way to this remote part of the world. This is not a traditional travelogue. The narrative lurches around in a disjointed way, so that it is often hard to remember which place Chatwin has reached or why he is there. He focuses a lot on European settlers - the Welsh, Scottish, German, Italian and Russians who had built small communities there - describing their houses and their families in brief vignettes, then quickly moving on. Historically his anecdotes move from outlaws to Marxist revolutionaries to his distant relative Charley. The stories are often sad, moving, amusing or plain weird, but again they are disjointed and I often lost track of who I had read about and why. There are some lovely descriptions and Chatwin can paint a picture in vivid colours with a few well chosen words. Overall, it was an easy read and not uninteresting, but at the end I felt I still only had a very hazy impression of Patagonia.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Irene

    This classic of the travel genre is a collection of short sketches of the Welsh shepherds and North American outlaws and Russian housewives and German farmers and Indian captives and the many others the author met on his travels through Patagonia. Alongside these sketches are legends of bandits and tales of shipwrecks and hearsay of mythical creatures and more. According to the introduction, Chatwin did not want this categorized among travel books, but regarded it as a reflection on human restle This classic of the travel genre is a collection of short sketches of the Welsh shepherds and North American outlaws and Russian housewives and German farmers and Indian captives and the many others the author met on his travels through Patagonia. Alongside these sketches are legends of bandits and tales of shipwrecks and hearsay of mythical creatures and more. According to the introduction, Chatwin did not want this categorized among travel books, but regarded it as a reflection on human restlessness. Apparently, Chatwin took liberties with the truth. The people he photographed and named felt that they had been exploited and betrayed when they learned of their presence in these pages. I wonder if I would have enjoyed the book more if I had not read the introduction, had not realized that Chatwin held the truth loosely, that he had used people’s stories without permission. I never felt connected to the individual’s I met in this book. Rather I felt as if I were peering at spectacles in a freak show. Maybe each sketch was too short to allow for that connection, or maybe he had a bit of ridicule in his presentation.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nofar Spalter

    If you are remotely interested in travel writing, this book is a must. It revolutionized the genre, transforming it from a "I went there and saw that" log to a literary, transcendent piece of fictionalized non-fiction. Chatwin weaves his own accounts of traveling in Patagonia with excerpts from the accounts of previous travels, myths, newspaper clippings of the doings of Butch and Cassidy, moral musings about colonialism (in their infancy, but it's 1974), echoes of classic literature, and a grea If you are remotely interested in travel writing, this book is a must. It revolutionized the genre, transforming it from a "I went there and saw that" log to a literary, transcendent piece of fictionalized non-fiction. Chatwin weaves his own accounts of traveling in Patagonia with excerpts from the accounts of previous travels, myths, newspaper clippings of the doings of Butch and Cassidy, moral musings about colonialism (in their infancy, but it's 1974), echoes of classic literature, and a great sense of loneliness and wandering. You actually experience what it was like being Chatwin in Patagonia in 1974, without him telling you what he had for breakfast each day, or how he washed his clothes. An astounding accomplishment, even today.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Faiza Sattar

    ★★★☆☆ (3/5) I selected this book because I craved for a travelogue. It fits the bill but in a very awkward and unusual and not altogether pleasing way. It’s less about the landscape, with more emphasis on portraits of inhabitants of Patagonia. In my misanthropic moods, this makes for a more annoying than enjoyable read. I understand that travel entails an observation of both the scenery and the humans who tread upon that piece of land but the lens of this book is too myopic and focused on the lat ★★★☆☆ (3/5) I selected this book because I craved for a travelogue. It fits the bill but in a very awkward and unusual and not altogether pleasing way. It’s less about the landscape, with more emphasis on portraits of inhabitants of Patagonia. In my misanthropic moods, this makes for a more annoying than enjoyable read. I understand that travel entails an observation of both the scenery and the humans who tread upon that piece of land but the lens of this book is too myopic and focused on the latter. Upon reaching the second half of the book, I surmised that I was a tad bit interested by the casual purveying of history of the Patagonian land. From the urban legend of Butch Cassidy and his stooges, to the unruly stories of defiance of anarchists and Marxists; from the immigrants settling in from all over Europe to the natives squandering and quarrelling amongst themselves - this unique travelogue bizarre but marvelous in its rendering of the region. ​ A selection of my favourite passages from the book The Exiles, the Natives • The remoter the valley, the more faithful the re-creation of an original homeland. • They chose Patagonia for its absolute remoteness and foul climate; they did not want to get rich. • Inside, the rooms were whitewashed and had brown painted doors, polished brass handles and grandfather clocks. The colonists came with few possessions but they clung to their family clocks • Anselmo had a passion for the culture of Europe, the authentic, blinkered passion of the exile • For Mrs Ivor Davies was dreaming of Italy, and of Venice in particular. She had once seen Venice and the Bridge of Sighs. And when she said the word sospiri, she said it so loudly and insistently that you knew she was pining for Italy • ‘Patagonia!’ he cried. ‘She is a hard mistress. She casts her spell. An enchantress! She folds you in her arms and never lets go.’ The rain drummed on the tin roof. For the next two hours he was my Patagonia. • ‘She gets a bit jumpy when we have visitors. Works herself into a state. Seems to think visitors mean housework. Not the domesticated type. But don’t take any notice. She loves having visitors really.’ • Today, he would be classed as a revolutionary. But he had no sense of political organization. • I sat back and watched the history of South America in miniature. The boy from Buenos Aires took his insults for half an hour, then he stood up, exploded and pointed the Indian back to his seat. • She picked her teeth with a thorn and laughed at the futility of existence • He wore chequered shirts and a red handkerchief at the neck, but when he relaxed, his face collapsed in Nordic sadness • ‘And now I must go to Mass,’ he said. ‘Tell me, brother, which religion have you?’ ‘Protestant.’ ‘Different road,’ he sighed. ‘Same Divinity. Adiós, Hermanō.’ • Paco loved his truck and called her Rosaura. He scrubbed her and polished her and hung her cab with lace frills. Above her dashboard he fixed a statuette of the Virgin of Luján, a St Christopher and a plastic penguin that nodded with the corrugations of the road. He pinned nudes to the roof, but somehow the girls were an abstraction whereas Rosaura was a real woman • The layers of metaphorical associations that made up their mental soil shackled the Indians to their homeland with ties that could not be broken • He was not a clever man but a wise one. He was a self-centred bachelor, who avoided complications and did little harm to anyone. His standards were Edwardian but he knew how the world changed; how to be one step ahead of change, so as not to change himself. His rules were simple: Keep liquid. Never wait for higher prices. Never use money to show off to your workers. • Then the Whites came with a new guanaco, the sheep, and a new frontier, barbed wire. At first the Indians enjoyed the taste of roast lamb, but soon learned to fear the bigger, brown guanaco and its rider that spat invisible death. The Landscape • “Patagonia is the farthest place to which man walked from his place of origins. It is therefore a symbol of his restlessness. From its discovery it had the effect on the imagination something like the Moon, but in my opinion more powerful.” • Patagonia is as I expected but more so, inspiring violent outbursts of love and hate. • I pictured a low timber house with a shingled roof, caulked against storms, with blazing log fires inside and the walls lined with the best books, somewhere to live when the rest of the world blew up. • By day the city quivered in a silvery film of pollution. • Unalike the deserts of Arabia it has not produced any dramatic excess of the spirit, but it does have a place in the record of human experience. Charles Darwin found its negative qualities irresistible. In summing up The Voyage of the Beagle, he tried, unsuccessfully, to explain why, more than any of the wonders he had seen, these ‘arid wastes’ had taken such firm possession of his mind. • The Yaghan tongue—and by inference all language—proceeds as a system of navigation. Named things are fixed points, aligned or compared, which allow the speaker to plot the next move Beautifully Crafted Sentences • The wind whistled in the street and the music ghosted from the piano as leaves over a headstone and you could imagine you were in the presence of genius. • and he concludes that desert wanderers discover in themselves a primaeval calmness (known also to the simplest savage), which is perhaps the same as the Peace of God. • His birthplace was an arbour of green saplings, sods and rancid seal-skins. His mother cut his umbilical cord with a sharp mussel-shell and rammed his head against her copper-coloured teat. For two years the teat was the centre of his universe. He went everywhere with the teat: fishing, berrying, canoeing, visiting cousins, or learning the names—as complex and precise as Linnaean Latin—of everything that swam or sprouted, crawled or flew • Bridges’s dilemma is common enough. Finding in ‘primitive’ languages a dearth of words for moral ideas, many people assumed these ideas did not exist. But the concepts of ‘good’ or ‘beautiful’, so essential to Western thought, are meaningless unless they are rooted to things • We talked late into the night, arguing whether or not we, too, have journeys mapped out in our central nervous systems; it seemed the only way to account for our insane restlessness. • In the 1890s a crude version of Darwin’s theory, which had once germinated in Patagonia, returned to Patagonia and appeared to encourage the hunting of Indians. A slogan: ‘The Survival of the Fittest’, a Winchester and a cartridge belt gave some European bodies the illusion of superiority over the far fitter bodies of the natives. • The cobbles underfoot, the breath of the crowd, the stuccoed buildings and sidewalk trees; the guns, horses and police helmets, carried Radowitzky back to his city and the Revolution of 1905. • Sometimes I saw him up ahead, bobbing over fallen trunks, and then I came up close. He was a single male, his coat all muddied and his front gashed with scars. He had been in a fight and lost. Now he also was a sterile wanderer.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    Even though I am a lover of travel and adventure literature, I have never picked up this classic by Bruce Chatwin. It was interesting to read the introduction and learn how controversial the book has become. Chatwin fudged a few facts and many of the people he wrote about weren't too happy with their treatment. For myself, I thought the book was very interesting and it kept me reading and not wanting to put it down. Each chapter, some as short as 3-4 paragraphs, are recollections or observances Even though I am a lover of travel and adventure literature, I have never picked up this classic by Bruce Chatwin. It was interesting to read the introduction and learn how controversial the book has become. Chatwin fudged a few facts and many of the people he wrote about weren't too happy with their treatment. For myself, I thought the book was very interesting and it kept me reading and not wanting to put it down. Each chapter, some as short as 3-4 paragraphs, are recollections or observances or a bit of history about Patagonia and the people who live there. With the exception of the continued focus on Uncle Charley near the end, most of these chapters were engaging and showed the author's flair for writing about places and people. Where the book fails, though, is that this is not a personal story at all. It's bookended with a piece of hide that the young Chatwin sees in his grandmother's house, supposedly a hide from a pre-historic Patagonian animal that captivates his young mind and imagination. So, although it's something of a quest that takes him there, he never expands upon it, or offers any insight into how his life has been changed, or is changing, by Patagonia. In fact, there is little personal reflection at all, except the times when he recounted how he walked here and there. One chapter details a hike on a trail through a swampy area with a raging river, which he has to cross naked. Later, he watches the stars, but there's nothing of substance to his doing this. It's rather pedestrian, actually. Chatwin gives a good portray of Patagonia, enhanced or not, and this book is worth reading. Just don't expect any kind of life lesson to be gleaned from it.

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