Bruce Chatwin books

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Traveller and novelist, his books range across genres and literally across the globe.

In Patagonia:  The one that started it all, heavily edited from an original text that was many times longer, this sparse and elegant book not only reinvented the modern travel book but also (some argue) reinvented many of the stories that it related.  Essential for any traveller to Patagonia (go now!), it capture the place whether or not it is literally true in every detail…

The Songlines:  set in outback Australia and following the theme of nomads, it explores the fundamental problem of civilisation:  why people cannot sit quietly in an empty room.   Not a novel, not a travel book, not a list of quotes, not a work of autobiography, not an anthropological tract, it combines all three into an unforgettable experience.  Essential for anyone travelling in Outback Australia.

Utz:  Booker shortlisted, the theme of this powerful book is one of internal travel and struggle, in contract to Chatwin’s great travel books, above.  It is the story of a Prague porcelain collector, and despite this inauspicious theme, matches the other great books in its fascination and beats them in its emotional impact.  It also predicted the swiftness and peacefulness of Czechoslovakia’s 1989 Velvet Revolution, no mean feat for those that remember the paranoid mid 1980s.

On the Back Hill:  Set in Wales about two twins, interesting but not in the same league as the above

The Viceroy of Ouidah: a weird book about a weird story.  See the Werner Herzog film for more weirdness

Chatwin: by Nicolas Shakespeare A great biography, which includes the essential reading list for Chatwin, for the real diehard fans
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