Bruce Chatwin (1940-1989) was the author of In Patagonia, The Viceroy of Ouidah, On the Black Hill, The Songlines, and Utz. His other books are What Am I Doing Here and Anatomy of Restlessness, posthumous anthologies of shorter works, and Far Journeys, a collection of his photographs that also includes selections from his travel notebooks.
Whether he is cruising down the Volga, gauging the effects of French colonialism in Algeria or searching for the Yeti (``Abominable Snowman'') in the Himalayas, Chatwin, who died recently, exudes natural curiosity and a nose for adventure. By the author of In Patagonia and The Songlines , this mosaic of travelogues, profiles, semi-fictionalized stories and fragments is an endless feast, rich in small discoveries and larger perceptions of the world. In India, Chatwin investigates the case of a ``wolf-boy'' who survived years living in the wild. In Hong Kong he meets a geomancer, who determines the best site for a building or a marriage bed by aligning it with the Earth's ``dragon-lines.'' There are pieces on art auctioneering, nomads, Afghanistan, a California LSD guru who thinks he's the Savior, power politics in ancient China. There are also perceptive encounters with filmmaker Werner Herzog, Nadezhda Mandelstam, Indira Gandhi, Andre Malraux, couturier Madeleine Vionnet and many others. (Sept.)
YA --A collection of personal essays reflective of a life lived with curiosity and wonder. Whether writing about travels with Indira Gandhi as she politicks her way through India or discussions with an Austrian autodidact and botanist in China who inspired Ezra Pound, Chatwin creates accessible yet literate portraits of people and places, often with an unforgettable turn of phrase or image. His personal adventures are exciting; he writes of many unexpected discoveries and delights. There are essays on his friendships with Andre Malraux and filmmaker Werner Herzog, descriptions of the riddles of the Yeti, and many other topics. Chatwin led an interesting life and found irony and humor in his subjects, whether they were famous or not. It is a gift to his readers that he could write about them so beautifully. --Barbara Weathers, Duchesne Academy, Houston
Chatwin's preference, or better, his passion, is for the eccentric, the rebel, the misfit. Whether it is person, place, object, or even word, what engages Chatwin's attention is the singular attribute that demands rational definition and explanation: What about horses gripped the imagination of ancient Chinese? Why have the major religions emerged from the most irreligious of peoples, nomads? Why has Russian painting since the Revolution profoundly affected abstract art? Most of these 35 sketches are of people encountered worldwide, some famous (Malraux, Indira Gandhi), all distinguished for some unique statement or action--from an aesthetic of violence to political murder to postage stamp painting. Chatwin's prose is a kind of democratic Mandarin, at once enameled, crisp, and colloquial. Chatwin died in January 1989.-- Ed. -- Arthur Waldhorn, City Coll., CUNY