While Bruce Chatwin is best known as a master of travel literature, his three acclaimed novels must not be overlooked. Here we see a writer exploring human life, from its freedoms to its limits, in ever more exhilarating and unexpected ways.
In On the Black Hill, twin brothers begin to realise that the world beyond their familiar fields is changing. In Utz, a scholar visits a communist state to meet an eccentric porcelain collector. And in The Viceroy of Ouidah, an ambitious slave trader makes a choice that could threaten his ultimate dream.
When Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia was published in 1977 it heralded the arrival of a startling new talent in British literature. Critics were surprised and spellbound by a story of an adventure which blurred the boundaries between travel writing, biography, history and memoir. All readers recognised its timeless quality – Auberon Waugh went as far as to call it ‘a classic’.
Forty years later, Chatwin’s first book continues to inspire generations of travellers and writers. This 40th anniversary edition celebrates the enduring status of In Patagonia and includes a host of material from the archive to recreate the book’s genesis and publication.
This Moleskine-bound edition is sold together with a blank Moleskine notebook, for recording your own thoughts and adventures. Perfect for the travel writers of the future.
The Songlines is Bruce Chatwin's magical account of his journey across the length and breadth of Australia, following the invisible and ancient pathways that are said to criss-cross the land. Chatwin recorded his travels in his favourite notebook, which he would usually buy in bulk in a particular stationery shop in Paris. But when the manufacturer went out of business, he was told “Le vrai moleskine n’est plus”. A decade after its publication, on reading this anecdote in The Songlines, a small Milanese publisher was inspired to revive production of the legendary ‘moleskine’ notebook.
This limited, special edition of The Songlines celebrates both the 30th anniversary of the publication of Chatwin's iconic work, and the 20th anniversary of a brand that has now become synonymous with culture, memory and travel.
Bruce Chatwin is one of the most significant British novelists and travel writers of our time. His books have become modern-day classics which defy categorisation, inspired by and reflecting his incredible journeys. Tragically, Chatwin's compelling narrative voice was cut off just as he had found it. 'Bruce had just begun' said his friend, Salman Rushdie, 'we saw only the first act'.
But Chatwin left behind a wealth of letters and postcards that he wrote, from his first week at school until shortly before his death at the age of forty-eight. Whether typed on Sotheby's notepaper or hastily scribbled, Chatwin's correspondence reveals more about himself than he was prepared to expose in his books; his health and finances, his literary ambitions and tastes, his uneasiness about his sexual orientation; above all, his lifelong quest for where to live. Comprising material collected over two decades from hundreds of contacts across five continents, Chatwin's letters are a valuable and illuminating record of one of the greatest and most enigmatic writers of the twentieth century.
On the Black Hill is an elegantly written tale of identical twin brothers who grow up on a farm in rural Wales and never leave home. They till the rough soil and sleep in the same bed, touched only occasionally by the advances of the twentieth century.
In depicting the lives of Benjamin and Lewis and their interactions with their small local community Chatwin comments movingly on the larger questions of human experience.
Bruce Chatwin was born in Sheffield in 1940. He worked for Sotheby’s and the Sunday Times before announcing his departure in a telegram: ‘Gone to Patagonia for six months.’ This trip inspired the first of his books, In Patagonia, which won the Hawthornden Prize and the E.M. Forster Award and launched his writing career. Two of Chatwin’s books have been made into feature films: The Viceroy of Ouidah (retitled Cobra Verde), directed by Werner Herzog, and Andrew Grieve’s On the Black Hill. The Songlines was a Number 1 bestseller while On the Black Hill won the Whitbread First Novel Award and Utz was shortlisted for the 1988 Booker Prize. He died in January 1989, aged forty-eight.