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Anatomy of Restlessness

It is commonly supposed that Bruce Chatwin was an ingenuous latecomer to the profession of letters, a misapprehension given apparent credence by that now famous passage in his lyrical, autobiographical "I Always Wanted to Go to Patagonia, " in which we are told that this indefatigable traveler's literary career began in midstride, almost on a whim, with a telegram announcing his departure for the farthest-flung corner of the globe: "Have gone to Patagonia." Such a view overlooks the fact that from the late 1960s onward Chatwin was already fashioning the tools of his future trade in the columns of a variety of magazines and journals. And that he continued to do so through every twist and turn of his career, from art expert to archaeologist, to journalist and author, right up until his death in 1989. These previously neglected or unpublished pieces - short stories, travel sketches, essays, articles, and criticism - gathered together here for the first time, cover every period and aspect of the writer's career, and reflect the abiding themes of his work: roots and rootlessness, exile and the exotic, possession and renunciation.
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About the Author

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.


In 1977, British travel writer Chatwin seemed to achieve overnight success with In Patagonia. His unconventional, highly literate, and semi-autobiographical style evolved through six more books and numerous articles, but it was only after his sudden death in 1989 that his early development as a writer and his pre-Patagonia work came to notice. An earlier collection, What Am I Doing Here? (LJ 7/89), showcased his own selection of shorter works, but this collection aims to fill the gaps, with fiction, short autobiographical pieces, and book reviews. Also included are the surviving remnants of Chatwin's study of nomadism, most of which he had destroyed as unpublishable. Although always interesting, these 17 pieces are not Chatwin's best‘some read almost like parodies‘and add little to his reputation. A good collection of his short work is still needed. With an excellent bibliography and notes; for specialized collections.‘Shelley Cox, Southern Illinois Univ., Carbondale, Ill.

Chatwin (In Patagonia), who died in 1989 at 49, was a brilliant writer of travel-related essays and fiction. This aptly titled posthumous volume brings together nearly all that remains of his uncollected writings. Even the book reviews fit Chatwin's passion for renunciation of anything tying one to a fixed abode. The collection scrapes the bottom of the barrel, for included is a long letter to his London publisher projecting a book on the nomadic life he would never complete. However, two essays intended for it follow, and they make the reader regret the decision to abandon the book. Two autobiographical pieces set his life in context, describing his beginnings as a writer and the background of his rejection of "things." Of the four short pieces characterized as fiction, at least two are also closely autobiographical. Chatwin quotes Robert Burton (The Anatomy of Melancholy) as claiming that everything we experience in nature teaches us "that we should ever be in motion." Whatever hampers mobility, Chatwin contends‘and urban civilization is the chief obstacle‘diminishes independence by attaching us to emotional and economic "anchors." These disparate pieces hang together thematically but will be attractive largely to Chatwin's legion of loyalists who want to learn more about him. (Aug.)

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