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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 ...

Abel the Nomad

Bruce Chatwin, 22 November 1979

Desert, Marsh and Mountain 
by Wilfred Thesiger.
Collins, 304 pp., £9.95
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... 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 ...

Chatwin and the Hippopotamus

Colin Thubron, 22 June 1989

What am I doing here 
by Bruce Chatwin.
Cape, 367 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 0 224 02634 8
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... lives lived in a single too-short one – that the reader grows haunted by regret for everything Bruce Chatwin would have written had he not died so early. The selection was made at his own request. It includes pieces written in 1988 as well as articles published as long as 17 years ago; had he been robuster at the end he would, I think, have deleted ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Have you seen their sandals?, 3 July 2014

... a lovely buzz of befuddlement under the spotlights. ‘The collection, entitled “Book Covers & Bruce Chatwin”,’ the notes declared, ‘features illustrations and typographical prints that take their creative lead from vintage English book covers.’ And where does Chatwin come in? It turns out that he was being ...


Karl Miller, 21 October 1982

On the Black Hill 
by Bruce Chatwin.
Cape, 249 pp., £7.50, September 1982, 0 224 01980 5
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... the lorry-driver was no oil-painting. This strange story can’t have escaped the sharp eye of Bruce Chatwin, who is an expert on strange places and strange people and on strange words, and who used to work for the Sunday Times. Chatwin is an admired writer who has now published three books. In Patagonia told of a ...

The Best Barnet

Jeremy Harding, 20 February 1997

With ChatwinPortrait of a Writer 
by Susannah Clapp.
Cape, 246 pp., £15.99, January 1997, 0 224 03258 5
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... Susannah Clapp’s memoir of Bruce Chatwin has little in the way of hard-going and nothing of the comprehensive record that bloats a literary biography. It makes no claims about the relation between a writer’s life and work that weren’t already clear from Chatwin’s career, and tends to confirm that the real waywardness of this ur-traveller lay in his darting and musing and drifting intelligence: the long list of places visited, sights seen, hinterlands crossed can seem like a vulgar indiscretion by comparison – the mind, not the world, was Chatwin’s oyster ...

Fortunes of War

Graham Hough, 6 November 1980

The Sum of Things 
by Olivia Manning.
Weidenfeld, 203 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 297 77816 1
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The Viceroy of Ouidah 
by Bruce Chatwin.
Cape, 155 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 224 01820 5
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The Sooting Party 
by Isabel Colegate.
Hamish Hamilton, 181 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 241 10473 4
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An Ancient Castle 
by Robert Graves.
Owen, 69 pp., £3.95, October 1980, 0 7206 0567 9
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... not War and Peace; but it has crystallised a segment of our recent past as nothing else has done. Bruce Chatwin is the author of a travel book In Patagonia which has been compared to a Conrad novel. The Viceroy of Ouidah was intended as historical biography, but, that plan being frustrated, it has turned into a novel, and the Conrad comparison is ...

From the Urals to the Himalayas

T.H. Barrett, 12 July 1990

The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia 
edited by Denis Sinor.
Cambridge, 518 pp., £60, March 1990, 0 521 24304 1
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... play the game, though for some reason a long tradition of British writers from Edward Gibbon to Bruce Chatwin have proved particularly good at it. Perhaps the Hobbit-like scale of British life irritates beyond endurance many who actually yearn to be sleeping out under the stars where they stand a reasonable chance of having their throats cut, and so ...


John Bayley, 9 July 1987

The Songlines 
by Bruce Chatwin.
Cape, 293 pp., £10.95, June 1987, 0 224 02452 3
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... life may bring them, and the instinct of the migrant to get somewhere, anywhere, on his own feet. Bruce Chatwin’s latest book is about the idea of being a nomad. From his experiences in Australia he builds a case for fairly aimless wandering about, over large distances, as the way of existing most suited to human consciousness. Travelling of this ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Voices from Beyond the Grave, 20 November 2008

... of Old Mr Turveydrop. He was not alone in this, if you bear in mind the solo thespian flights of Bruce Chatwin. A woman in Italy with whom Chatwin used to stay remembers an afternoon when the maid came running downstairs, frightened half to death by the noises coming from ...

A Pom by the name of Bruce

John Lanchester, 29 September 1988

by Bruce Chatwin.
Cape, 154 pp., £9.95, September 1988, 0 224 02608 9
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... the family home in Circleville, Utah and ate blueberry pie. Hitler was a vegetarian. Admirers of Bruce Chatwin’s writings will recognise these facts, which are gleaned from his books and reflect one of their pleasures. He has a talent for the offbeat and the out-of-the-way, a kind of archaeological talent for the excavation of interesting data. In ...

Bananas Book

Eric Korn, 22 November 1979

Saturday Night Reader 
edited by Emma Tennant.
W.H. Allen, 246 pp., £5.95
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... the wit and authority of its diction. Even the idiosyncratic punctuation functions beautifully. Bruce Chatwin and Claud Cockburn both essay the discreet charm of Borges. ‘It should be clear, even to the most unobservant reader, that I am Maximilian Tod,’ writes the former. And the latter, a few pages on: ‘How is it known to this writer just what ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: Howard Hodgkin, 6 July 2006

... writings, culled from various sources, by Julian Barnes, James Fenton, Susan Sontag, William Boyd, Bruce Chatwin, Bruce Bernard and Colm Tóibín (Barnes has also made a loan to the exhibition). Some are affectionately biographical. Comparisons between Hodgkin’s art of memory and Proust’s are made.* The pleasure the ...

Seeing Things

John Bayley, 18 July 1996

The World, the World 
by Norman Lewis.
Cape, 293 pp., £18.99, April 1996, 0 224 04234 3
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Omnibus: ‘A Dragon Apparent’, ‘Golden Earth’, ‘A Goddess in the Stones’ 
by Norman Lewis.
Picador, 834 pp., £9.99, January 1996, 0 330 33780 7
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... novels, informative, neatly written, and full of a dry detached humour, make Lawrence of Arabia or Bruce Chatwin, even Wilfred Thesiger and Freya Stark, look like the most tremendous show-offs, auto-destructive as wildlife films on TV. But then flamboyance – or flamboyant understatement – is usually what travel writing is about. It is a style that ...

Kindred Spirits

Chloe Hooper: To be Tasmanian, 18 August 2005

In Tasmania 
by Nicholas Shakespeare.
Harvill, 320 pp., £20, November 2004, 1 84343 157 2
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... On one level this is a traditional family romance. Exhausted after finishing his biography of Bruce Chatwin, Shakespeare moved to Tasmania – a place Chatwin never visited – to make a fresh start: ‘I was at that period sick of a life already lived. I hoped never to read another old letter again.’ No such ...

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