Bruce Chatwin: A Biography
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"Unimprovable (and unstoppably readable)"
--Pico Iyer, Time
"Moving and elegant...A superb portrayal of the restless and randy travel writer brings us as close to his hidden heart as we're likely to get."
"Shakespeare's engrossing bio does exactly what Chatwin's fans have longed to do: get beneath the alluring but elusive quality of his persona and prose. [Grade]: 'A'"
"Immensely readable... Shakespeare portrays a man of colossal energies and intellect in perpetual conflict, whose life was a web of contradiction, controversy, and conundrum.... Shakespeare artfully synthesizes what could have been cacophonous voices into an impressively rendered and remarkably coherent portrait."
"Quite simply, one of the most beautifully written, painstakingly researched, and cleverly constructed biographies written this decade. Shakespeare has a quite extraordinary empathy for his subject, whom he portrays with humor, warmth, and an eye for telling detail, creating a book almost as original, intelligent, and observant as those by Chatwin himself."
--William Dalrymple, Literary Review (London)
Bruce Chatwin burst onto the literary landscape in 1977 with In Patagonia, which quickly became one of the most influential travel books of the twentieth century. The books that followed--The Viceroy of Ouidah, On the Black Hill, The Songlines, and Utz--confirmed his status as a major writer able to reinvent himself constantly. And the life he led successfully established him as one of the most charismatic and elusive literary figures of our time.
Beautiful to behold, charming, intelligent, a writer of exquisite prose, Chatwin was welcome in every society--from the most glamorous patrons of Sotheby's, where he held his first job, to the remote tribes of Africa. He was a thinker of striking originality, a reader of astonishing breadth and depth, and a mesmerizing storyteller. Salman Rushdie claimed that "he had the most erudite and possibly the most brilliant mind I ever came across."
And yet for all the adoration he received, when Chatwin died of AIDS in 1989, he died an enigma, a panoply of apparently conflicting identities. Married for twenty-three years to his American wife, Elizabeth, he was also an active homosexual. A socialite who loved to regale his rich and famous friends with uproariously funny stories about his travels and the people he met on them, he was at heart a single-minded loner who explored the limits of extreme solitude.
Award-winning novelist Nicholas Shakespeare spent eight years traveling across five continents in Chatwin's footsteps. He was given unrestricted access to Chatwin's private notebooks, diaries, and letters, and has gathered evidence from Chatwin's peers, his friends, his family, his hosts, his enemies, and his lovers. The result is this masterful biography, rendered in a graceful narrative that brilliantly leads us into Chatwin's world--across all the vast geographic, social, and emotional expanses that he traveled--and into his psyche.
Beautiful to behold, charming, intelligent, a writer of exquisite prose, Chatwin was welcome in every society--from the most glamorous patrons of Sotheby's, where he held his first job, to the remote tribes of Africa. He was a thinker of striking originality, a reader of astonishing erudition, and a mesmerizing storyteller. Although married for twenty-three years to his American wife, Elizabeth, he was also an active homosexual, but at heart, a loner.
Acclaimed novelist Nicholas Shakespeare spent eight years traveling in Chatwin's footsteps. The result is this definitive biography rendered in a graceful narrative that brilliantly leads us into Chatwin's world, from the glittering dinner tables among the famous to foreign deserts among nomads, and into his psyche. -->
CLC looking tired and in need of a holiday again – why he can’t retire and treat his whole life as a holiday I can’t imagine. Let him write a book, sail around the Horn – anything except to eke out his last active decade in a Birmingham solicitor’s office. Adrian Chanler here and Hugh and we sat about in a lethargic state – drinking too much without enjoyment – eating too much with ill effects after. Long walks alone up the valley which was cold and beautiful. Mist passing over a silvery sun. I
demons . . . This time the oil smelled of something I knew perfectly well, lemony. But I was so perfectly happy I forgot to ask her.” Once he had finished Utz, he threw himself into editing his journalism. He helped me – by no means a close friend – with my first novel. He understood immediately how to make it better and asked me to dedicate it to him. In his notebook he alluded to future projects. He wanted to write a book on healing. In hospital, he read a small-printed Bible from which he
very vulnerable to his enhanced expectations. He used to ring me often at home to give revised estimates, upping the numbers. ‘I think I’ve recalculated the sum of money.’ The profits from some projected book mentioned the figure of �20 million. That was worrying. It was clear evidence that he was demented.” “Being Bruce, he could see the funny side,” says Elizabeth, but to her distress works of art continued to pile up at Homer End. A piece of the Red Fort, a portable twelfth-century altar
intimacy, was less able to reciprocate. Gregor von Rezzori said, “He was not loving at all, he couldn’t care less. But who loves a loving person?” After Ivry Guild became engaged and Spink left the flat, Bruce embarked on a string of short-lived relationships with both sexes. Most were furtive, schoolboy affairs, as with Teddy Millington-Drake. “It didn’t last very long and then we became great friends,” said Millington-Drake. “We were all very juvenile in those days. We didn’t take our love
divided life. She stayed behind to prod the workmen during most of Bruce’s first term. “Everything takes FOREVER in that part of the world.” Five weeks to install a stove; the same time to connect the telephone in the lodge. The valley’s bitter climate was another concern. From November until February a hoar frost settled on the house. “It looked as if it had a spell on it.” As winter set in, she felt beleaguered. She wrote to Gertrude on 2 November, “I’m sitting here feeling more or less like