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Bruce Chatwin

Bruce Chatwin is a traveller whose In Patagonia was recently awarded the E.M. Foster Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Story: ‘The Seventh Day’

Bruce Chatwin, 2 June 1988

for Kevin

He was a nervous and skinny boy with thick fair hair, and he hated going back to boarding-school. He was eight years old. On the morning he was due to take the school train from Birmingham, he went into the garden and shoved a sprig of plum leaf down his throat and made himself sick. He showed his mother a smear of sick on the periwinkle under the plum tree. She hugged him and said...

Abel the Nomad

Bruce Chatwin, 22 November 1979

Wilfred Thesiger’s Arabian Sands and The Marsh Arabs are classics in line with Doughty’s Travels in Arabia Deserta. Yet his new autobiographical sketch, Desert, Marsh and Mountain, though it borrows large chunks of the two earlier books, is more absorbing than either. The subtitle, ‘The World of a Nomad’, gives a clue about what he is up to. The nomad in question is Mr Thesiger himself, as he travels, by camel or on foot, in Africa or in Asia, among tribesmen who are – or were – for the most part nomadic. At first sight, the book appears to be a collection of short travel-pieces, illustrated with photographs by someone with an unerring sense of composition. A closer look reveals a declaration of faith that goes a long way towards explaining the ‘strange compulsion’ which drives men like Wilfred Thesiger to seek, and find, the consolation of the desert.

Letter

Aids Panic

19 May 1988

In a review of three American books, And the band played on, Crisis: Heterosexual Behaviour in the Age of Aids and The Forbidden Zone, Mr John Ryle (LRB, 19 May) begins: ‘There is no good news about Aids. With a total of 85,000 cases reported at the beginning of this year the World Health Organisation estimate of the true figure is nearer 150,000. Their global estimate for HIV infection is between...

Chatwin and the Hippopotamus

Colin Thubron, 22 June 1989

It is hard to read this book dispassionately. Its gathering of stories, portraits, travelogues and fragments embodies such a rush and depth of enthusiasm – the stuff of many lives lived in...

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A Pom by the name of Bruce

John Lanchester, 29 September 1988

The albatross which features in ‘The Ancient Mariner’ isn’t really an albatross – that’s to say it isn’t the albatross you first think of, the Great Wandering...

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Writeabout

John Bayley, 9 July 1987

The well-known speech in Dryden’s play Aurungzebe beginning, ‘When I consider life, ’tis all a cheat,’ has the emperor gloomily observing that we still expect from the...

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Chatwins

Karl Miller, 21 October 1982

There were reports in the papers two years ago concerning identical twins, Freda and Greta Chaplin, who had been had up at York for making a nuisance of themselves, and who seemed like creatures...

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Fortunes of War

Graham Hough, 6 November 1980

The title of Olivia Manning’s last book, from Housman’s heroic-ironic epitaph on an earlier war, announces a summing-up: the last volume of a trilogy, the trilogy itself the...

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