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What am I Doing Here?


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Bruce Chatwin was, in his life as in his art, forever in search of the extraordinary, the exotic and the unexpected.

About the Author

Bruce Chatwin reinvented British travel writing with his first book, In Patagonia, and followed it with four other books, each unique and extraordinary. He died in 1989.


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

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

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.)

"As a writer he was unclassifiably interesting: lucid, ironic, cool. He seemed to owe nothing to anybody." -- Colin Thubron * Sunday Times *
"Chatwin is equally fascinating on places. He goes yeti-hunting in Nepal, and magnificently evokes the Himalayas' seductive harshness. He visits Afghanistan in the steps of his own favourite writer, Robert Byron, and reveals something no current news report ever succeeds in doing why anyone should want to spend time in that beautiful, tormented land...human existence at least as Chatwin sees it is gloriously open-ended, unpredictable and exotic" * Sunday Times *
"One of its chief delights is that it contains so many of its author'sbest anecdotes, his choicest performances" -- Salman Rushdie * Observer *
"I like the combination of its far-reaching quality and the minute precision with which his thoughts are charted" -- Rose Tremain * Sunday Times *
"All the writing in this volume demonstrates Bruce Chatwin's loathing of the humdrum, the dreary, the predictable. What attracted him was the unusual, the weird and wonderful... the journalist in him (strongly present) knew a good story when it heard one" -- Margaret Forster * Guardian *

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