The definitive collection of correspondence from a legendary writer, providing new perspectives on his extraordinary life.
The celebrated author of such beloved works as In Patagonia and The Songlines. Bruce Chatwin was a nomad whose desire for adventure and enlightenment was made wholly evident by his writing. A man of intense energy and chameleonlike complexity, he was, in his life as in his art, forever in quest of the exotic and the unexpected. He moved at ease within diverse art, literary, and social circles, and his lifelong travels took him to the farthest-flung corners of Asia, Africa, South America, and Australia.
This marvelous selection of letters-to his wife, Elizabeth; to his parents, Charles and Margharita; and to friends, including Patrick Leigh Fermor, James Ivory, Paul Theroux, and Susan Sontag-reveals a passionate man and a storyteller par excellence, spinning the narrative of his life from his first week of school to his untimely death. Written with the verve and sharpness of expression that first marked him as a writer of singular talent, Chatwin's letters provide a vivid record of his changing interests and concerns, as well as chronicling his lifelong restlessness and the gestation of his books. Under the Sun is the closest readers will get to an autobiography by this exceptional literary talent.
Searching Book Reviews.
"Was he a cold fish?" I asked.
"He was hot and cold. He was all things."
BC, from "Among the Ruins"
On February 1984, an Englishman with a rucksack and walking-boots strides into a bungalow in the Irene district of Pretoria. He is six feet tall, with fair hair swept over a huge forehead and staring blue eyes. He is only a step ahead of the illness that will kill him. He is 43, but he has the animation of a schoolboy.
Bruce Chatwin had come to South Africa to see the palaeontologist Bob Brain after reading his book The Hunters or the Hunted?. It was, Bruce wrote, the book he had "needed" since his schooldays, and it had reawoken themes that had been with him a long time.
"This is a detective story, but rather an odd one," begins Brain's classic text on early human behaviour, based on 15 years' excavation at the Swartkrans cave near Johannesburg. Brain's analysis of fossilised bones raised the possibility that Early Man was not a savage cannibal, as had been generally held, but the preferred prey of one of the large cats with whom he shared the open grasslands of Africa. Around 1,200,000 BC the roles were reversed when homo erectus began to outwit his predator, the dinofelis or false sabre-tooth tiger.
What had given man the upper hand? "Everything," says Brain, "is linked to the management of fire." But 30 years of exploring and digging in caves over southern and Saharan Africa had failed to produce evidence of fire prior to 70,000 BC. by which time dinofelis had been extinct a million years.
Bruce called Brain's book "the most compelling detective story I have ever read". As a schoolboy he had held that "everyone needs a quest as an excuse for living". Brain's findings promised a key.
For two days Bruce engaged Brain in conversations which he described as "the most stimulating discussions in my life". They spoke of Birmingham, where Bruce had grown up and from where Brain's father, finding England restrictive, had departed for the Cape. They spoke about Brain's son Ted, who died at 14 months when he choked on a piece of apple, teaching Brainpainfullyto live his life as though each day might be his last. And they spoke of the origin of evil. Bruce seized on Brain's discoveries to support his conviction that human beings were "not that bad" and that the predator instinct was not essential to our nature. If the leopard-like cat had preyed on our ancestors, then man in his origins was not necessarily aggressive. He lived his life in fear, dinofelis watching him from the shadows.
Brucewho called the cat "the Prince of Darkness"amused the older man. Brain says, "He understood 'the Prince of Darkness' as a psychological necessity. He thought we had lived so long with prowling nocturnal predators they had become part of our make-up. When we no longer had these animals in bodily form, we invented dragons and heroes who went off to fight them." Discussing, for instance, Uccello's painting of St. George in the act of lancing the dragon, Bruce seemed to think this was an illustration of what had actually happened. Brain had misgivings about this nostalgia for "the Beast we have lost". Nevertheless, it excited him to watch Bruce take his work and run with it. "Chatwin was like a nineteenth-century synthesiser," says Brain. "There is a place again for that kind of generalist, someone who can wander among specialised fields and pull things together. Otherwise it's very compartmentalised and syntheses don't really occur." The two men talked late into the night and on the following day they drove to the cave at Swartkrans.
From the cave entrance on a hill of pink dolomite it is possible to see, 40 kilometres to the south-west, the skyline of Johannesburg, and to the east, the dumps of chalky rock from the goldmines of Krugersdorp. Close as it is to one of the most dangerous cities in the world, Swartkrans is always tranquil. Black eagles looking for rock rabbit glide above slopes dotted with white stinkwood, and here and there are bright red flowers.
Brain completed his book in a hut nearby. Bruce, too, sensed a place of special significance. He wrote in his notebook: "Good feeling at Swartkrans."
He was familiar with the excavation procedure. With Brain and the site foreman, George Moenda, he took up a position close to the west wall. The three started to dig into a patch of calcified earth with plastic-handled screwdrivers. At 10 a.m. one of them found a bone tool. A second grey bone looked like a scraper. "Turned out to be gnawed by a porcupine," recorded Bruce. Over the course of 19 years, Brain told him, the cave had yielded more than 100,000 specimens like these. They had been digging in the west wall for half an hour after lunch when Moenda prised from the earth, alongside an arrangement of three stones, a cracked fragment of antelope bone. Beige white on the outside, blackened on the inside, the bone was speckled with dark patches, as if burned.
George handed it round. It had a soapy feel.
Brain was not a demonstrative man. He had so often set out to find confirmation of his thesis, suffered so many false alarms. But this time he was visibly moved. "This bone is remarkably suggestive!"
What they were looking at would eventually be validated, in 1988, as man's first known experimentation with fire. It would predate by 700,000 years the previously oldest find, at Choukoutien in China. "That was the first convincing evidence for the earliest use of fire in any human context anywhere," says Brain. "It was a very astonishing moment."
Brain was quick to speculate. This bone provided a partial explanation of how our ancestors escaped the continual threat of predation. He reconstructed the scene: a thunderstorm at the beginning of summer, the yellow grass, dried to a parchment in the winter sun, a lightning-struck bush, and homo erectus dragging back to his cave this elusive substance, which coming with flashes and thunder must have had a magical significance.
Man's use of the fire-struck bush represented for Brain the "crucial step in the progressive manipulation of nature. so characteristic of the subsequent course of human affairs". It would not, of course, guarantee permanent protection: another half million years would pass before man could make fire to order. But it offered intermittent respite.
(C) 2000 Nicholas Shakespeare All rights reserved. ISBN: 0-385-49829-2
Bruce Chatwin's death from AIDS in 1989 brought a meteoric career to an abrupt end, since he burst onto the literary scene in 1977 with his first book, In Patagonia. Chatwin himself was different things to different people: a journalist, a photographer, an art collector, a restless traveller and a best-selling author; he was also a married man, an active homosexual, a socialite who loved to mix with the rich and famous, and a single-minded loner who explored the limits of extreme solitude.
From unrestricted access to Chatwin's private notebooks, diaries and letters, Nicholas Shakespeare has compiled the definitive biography of one of the most charismatic and elusive literary figures of our time.
Nicholas Shakespeare was born in 1957. The son of a diplomat, much of his youth was spent in the Far East and South America. His novels have been translated into twenty languages. They include The Vision of Elena Silves. winner of the Somerset Maugham Award, Snowleg, and The Dancer Upstairs. which was chosen by the American Libraries Association in 1997 as the year's best novel, and in 2001 was made into a film of the same name by John Malkovich. His most recent novel is Inheritance. He is married with two small boys and currently lives in Oxford.
Shakespeare, William; Gill, Roma
Bruce Chatwin's death from AIDS in 1989 brought his meteoric career to an abrupt end. His reputation as a storyteller has grown over the last decade, and his exquisite, subtle texts continue to inspire readers all over the world. Chatwin was different things to different people: a director at Sotheby's, an archaeologist, a journalist, photographer and art collector. Married for 23 years, he was also an active homosexual. He was at once a socialite mixing with the rich and famous, and a loner who explored the limits of extreme solitude. From unrestricted access to Chatwin's private notebooks, diaries and letters, Nicholas Shakespeare has compiled the definitive biography of one of the most charismatic and elusive literary figures of our time.
Shakespeare, William; Gill, Roma
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The definitive collection of correspondence from a legendary writer, providing new perspectives on his extraordinary life. The celebrated author of such beloved works as "In Patagonia" and "The Songlines," Bruce Chatwin was a nomad whose desire for adventure and enlightenment was made wholly evident by his writing. A man of intense energy and chameleonlike complexity, he was, in his life as in his art, forever in quest of the exotic and the unexpected. He moved at ease within diverse art, literary, and social circles, and his lifelong travels took him to the farthest-flung corners of Asia, Africa, South PDF America, and Australia. This marvelous selection of letters-to his wife, Elizabeth; to his parents, Charles and Margharita; and to friends, including Patrick Leigh Fermor, James Ivory, Paul Theroux, and Susan Sontag-reveals a passionate man and a storyteller par excellence, spinning the narrative of his life from his first week of school to his untimely death. Written with the verve and sharpness of expression that first marked him as a writer of singular talent, Chatwin's letters provide a vivid record of his changing interests and concerns, as well as chronicling his lifelong restlessness and the gestation of his books. "Under ePub the Sun" is the closest readers will get to an autobiography by this exceptional literary talent.Bruce Chatwin
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Chatwin was born in 1940 in Sheffield, UK. During the war, his mother traveled with him to England to see friends and relatives before the German air raids hideout. Instead of beginning the planned architectural studies, he worked 18 years as a messenger boy for the auction house Sotheby's. Four years later he was already director of the Department of impressionistic art. Supposedly because of eye trouble, he gave up this position and traveled to Sudan. He studied in Edinburgh for a year archeology, but the study stopped. In 1973 he joined the staff of the Sunday Times, initially as a consultant for art. Soon after, he devoted himself to a variety of topics, traveled for interviews and reports by the world. In December 1974, he announced there, allegedly with the telegram to the editor: " For four months continued to Patagonia ."
A meeting with the architect and designer Eileen Gray gave the decisive impulse to a six-month trip to Patagonia to seek remains of the Brontosaurus. Here he realized that telling and writing was the appropriate employment for him. He traveled in addition to numerous other countries Australia and grappled with the culture of the Aborigines. Travel books such as In Patagonia and The Songlines became bestsellers. The novels on the Black Mountain and The Viceroy of Ouidah were filmed, the latter. Titled Cobra Verde by the director Werner Herzog with Klaus Kinski in the lead role
Chatwin was married since 1964 with the American Elizabeth Chanler, he knew from Sotheby's. He was bisexual and had affairs with changing some prominent lovers. Bruce Chatwin in 1986 fell ill with AIDS, as a result he died in southern France in 1989. His ashes were interred in the presence of his friend Patrick Leigh Fermor next to a small church in Kardamilli on the Greek Peloponnese peninsula.Reception and impact
Critics Chatwin lack of understanding of the cultures described, particularly in Australia, and was accused of recklessness. He also inaccuracies and a penchant for free inventions were subordinated. In contrast, Chatwin's laconic style was praised by critics. The readership Chatwin became popular through his sculptural descriptions acting strange environments. His large, articulated with culturally critical tendency enthusiasm for nomadism - he thought of himself as a nomad - fascinated many readers.Others
Bruce Chatwin used on his many travels always notebooks, which he described as a " carnet Moleskines ". Even today this fact is marketed effective advertising. Chatwin is quoted to the effect that losing his passport was a triviality compared to the catastrophic loss of his notebooks: "To lose a passport which the least of one's worries: to lose a notebook was a catastrophe. "Prizes and awards Works
The German translations wrote Anna Kamp.Films
Item Description: New York: The Viking Press, 1983, 1983. Soft cover. Book Condition: Good. Very Good, First Edition. 9 x 11". Series of b&w photographs of bodybuilder/performance artist Lisa Lyon by Mapplethorpe, a work of imagination, reality and fantasy mixed, Images are brassy, bizarre, seductive. 112 full page photos. text by Chatwin. inscription on back of cover, pictorial soft cover, 2 corners show crease. Bookseller Inventory # 000317
Mapplethorpe, Robert; Chatwin, Bruce [Mitarb.]
Published by Schirmer-Mosel 1983 (1983)
Quantity Available: 1
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From Germany to U.S.A.
Item Description: Schirmer-Mosel 1983, 1983. 128 S. Überwiegend Ill. 29 cm. 1084 g.Geb. ISBN 3888141133. Neupreis DM 48,00. Gebundene Ausgabe. fast neu, ungebraucht, ungelesen. Sofortversand mit Rechnung, keine Vorauszahlung (D,A,CH)! Gewicht in Gramm: 1084. Bookseller Inventory # XX1082017X
Mapplethorpe, Robert and Bruce [Mitarb.] Chatwin:
Published by München. Schirmer-Mosel, (1983)
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Item Description: München. Schirmer-Mosel, 1983. Pp. m. Sch. 128 S. überwiegend Ill. ; 29 cm Sprache: Englisch Gewicht in Gramm: 833. Bookseller Inventory # 18040
Item Description: Schirmer/Mosel Verlag GmbH, 1983. Soft cover. Book Condition: Very Good. Soft cover publication titled LADY LISA LYON. With photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe and text by Bruce Chatwin. Published in 1983 by Shirmer/Mosel - text in German. Front cover is creased at lower tips. Bookseller since 1995 (LL-15A-TS) rareviewbooks. Bookseller Inventory # RVB05111602
Item Description: Bullfinch Press/Little, Brown and Co. (1996). Boston. 1996. Softcover. Book Condition: Fine. Robert Mapplethorpe. (illustrator). "First Miniature Edition." (The first edition was published in 1983.) Tiny paperback, measuring 4 x 4.75"; introduction by Chatwin, photos by Robert Mapplethorpe. Fine in pictorial paperwraps and dust jacket. Bookseller Inventory # 49058
Robert Mapplethorpe, Bruce Chatwin
Published by Schirmer/Mosel Verlag GmbH 1985 (1985)
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Item Description: Schirmer/Mosel Verlag GmbH 1985, 1985. Note that this is a paperback edition Paperback very good. Bookseller Inventory # A130457
Chatwin was born in 1940 at his maternal grandparents' house in Dronfield. near Sheffield. England. His mother, Margharita (née Turnell), had left the family home at Barnt Green. Worcestershire. and moved to her parents' home when Chatwin's father, Charles Chatwin, went away to serve with the Royal Naval Reserve. [ 1 ]Art and archaeology
After leaving Marlborough College in 1958, Chatwin reluctantly moved to London to work as a porter in the Works of Art department at the auction house Sotheby's. [ 3 ] Thanks to his sharp visual acuity, he quickly became Sotheby's expert on Impressionist art. He later became a director of the company. [ 4 ]
In late 1964 he began to suffer from problems with his sight, which he attributed to the close analysis of artwork entailed by his job. He consulted eye specialist Patrick Trevor-Roper who diagnosed a latent squint and recommended that Chatwin take a six month break from his work at Sotheby's. Trevor-Roper had been involved in the design of an eye hospital in Addis Ababa. and suggested Chatwin visit east Africa. In February 1965, Chatwin left for the Sudan. [ 5 ] On his return, Chatwin quickly became disenchanted with the art world, and turned his interest instead to archaeology. He resigned from his job at Sotheby's in the early summer of 1966. [ 6 ]
Chatwin enrolled at the University of Edinburgh to study archaeology in October 1966. [ 7 ] However, despite winning the Wardrop Prize for the best first year's work [ 8 ]. he found the rigour of academic archaeology tiresome, and spent only two years in the city, leaving without taking a degree. [ 9 ]Literary career
In 1972, Chatwin was hired by the Sunday Times Magazine as an adviser on art and architecture. [ 10 ] His association with the magazine cultivated his narrative skills and he travelled on many international assignments, writing on such subjects as Algerian migrant workers and the Great Wall of China. and interviewing such diverse people as André Malraux [ 11 ]. in France. and Nadezhda Mandelstam [ 12 ]. in the Soviet Union .
In 1972, Chatwin interviewed the 93-year-old architect and designer Eileen Gray in her Paris salon, where he noticed a map of the area of South America called Patagonia which she had painted. [ 13 ] "I've always wanted to go there," Bruce told her. "So have I," she replied, "go there for me." Two years later, in November 1974, Chatwin flew out to Lima in Peru. and reached Patagonia a month later. [ 14 ] When he arrived there he severed himself from the newspaper with a telegram. "Have gone to Patagonia." He spent six months there, a trip which resulted in the book In Patagonia (1977), which established his reputation as a travel writer. Later, however, residents in the region came forward to contradict the events depicted in Chatwin's book. It was the first, but not the last time in his career, that conversations and characters that Chatwin reported were alleged to be fictionalised.
Later works included a fictionalised study of the slave trade. The Viceroy of Ouidah , which he researched with extended stays in the West African state of Benin. For The Songlines , Chatwin went to Australia to develop the thesis that the songs of the Aborigines are a cross between a creation myth. an atlas and an Aboriginal man's personal story. Winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize , On the Black Hill was set closer to home, in the hill farms of the Welsh Borders, and focuses on the relationship between twin brothers, Lewis and Benjamin, who grow up isolated from the course of twentieth century history. Utz , his last book, was a fictional take on the obsession which leads people to collect. Set in Prague. the novel details the life and death of Kaspar Utz, a man obsessed with the collection of Meissen porcelain. Chatwin was working on a number of new ideas for future novels at the time of his death in 1989, including a trans-continental epic, provisionally titled "Lydia Livingstone."Style and influence
Chatwin is admired for his spare, lapidary style and his innate story-telling abilities. However, he has also been strongly criticised for his fictionalised anecdotes of real people, places, and events. Frequently, the people he wrote about recognised themselves and did not always appreciate his distortions of their culture and behaviour. Chatwin, however, was philosophical about what he saw as an unavoidable dilemma, arguing that his portrayals were not intended to be faithful representations; as his biographer Nicholas Shakespeare argues: 'He tells not a half truth, but a truth and a half.'
He extensively used a particular brand of notebooks manufactured in France. When production stopped in 1986, he bought up the entire supply at his stationery store. A modern version of the simple, black notebooks is sold by Moleskine .
German filmmaker Werner Herzog relates a story about meeting Chatwin in Australia while Herzog was working on his 1984 film, Where the Green Ants Dream. According to Herzog, he found out that Chatwin was in Australia researching a book (The Songlines ), and Herzog made the effort to seek him out. Herzog states that Chatwin professed his admiration for him, and even met him carrying one of Herzog's books, On Walking In Ice. The two apparently hit it off immediately, united by a shared love of adventure and telling tall tales. Herzog states that he and Chatwin talked almost nonstop over two days, telling each other stories, but confesses that Chatwin "told about three times as many as me." [ 15 ] Herzog also claims that when Chatwin was near death, he gave Herzog his leather rucksack and told him, "You're the one who has to wear it now, you're the one who's walking."Personal life
Much to the surprise of many of his friends, Chatwin married Elizabeth Chanler, a descendant of John Jacob Astor. on 26 August 1965. [ 16 ] He had met Chanler at Sotheby's where she worked as a secretary. Chatwin was bisexual throughout his married life, a circumstance his wife knew and accepted. They had no children, and after fifteen years of marriage, she asked for a separation and sold their farmhouse at Ozleworth in Gloucestershire. [ 17 ] However, towards the end of his life they reconciled. According to Chatwin's biographer Nicholas Shakespeare. the Chatwins' marriage seems to have been celibate, and he describes Chatwin as homosexual rather than bisexual. [ 18 ]
Chatwin was known as a socialite in addition to being a famous travel author. His circle of friends extended far and wide and he was renowned for accepting hospitality and patronage from a powerful set of friends and allies. Penelope Betjeman - wife of the poet laureate John Betjeman - showed him the border country of Wales. and thereby helped to contribute to the gestation of the book that would become On the Black Hill . [ 19 ] Tom Maschler. the publisher, was also a patron to Chatwin during this time, lending him his house in the area as a writing retreat. [ 20 ] Later, he visited Patrick Leigh Fermor. in his house near Kardamyli. in the Peloponnese of Greece. [ 21 ]Death at an early age
Around 1980, Chatwin contracted HIV. Chatwin told different stories about how he contracted the virus, such as that he was gang-raped in Dahomey. and that he believed he caught the disease from Sam Wagstaff. the patron and lover of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe [ 23 ]. He was one of the first high-profile sufferers of the disease in Britain and although he hid the illness - passing off his symptoms as fungal infections or the effects of the bite of a Chinese bat. a typically exotic cover story - it was a poorly kept secret. He did not respond well to AZT. and suffered increasing bouts of psychosis which included extravagant shopping trips around the auction rooms of London - many of which purchases his wife quietly returned. With his condition deteriorating rapidly, Chatwin and his wife went to live in the South of France at the house that belonged to the mother of his one-time lover, Jasper Conran. There, during his final months, Chatwin was nursed by both his wife and Shirley Conran. He died in Nice in 1989 at age 48.
A memorial service was held in the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Sophia in West London on the same day that a fatwa was announced on Salman Rushdie. a close friend of Chatwin's who was in attendance. Paul Theroux. Chatwin's one-time friend and fellow-writer, quotes himself as saying to Rushdie "it'll be your turn next, Salman". Theroux later commented on the memorial service in a piece he wrote for Granta. condemning Chatwin for failing to acknowledge that the disease he was dying of was AIDS.
Chatwin's funeral was also attended by the novelist Martin Amis who describes the memorial in his essay Salman Rushdie. from the anthology "Visiting Mrs Nabokov".
His ashes were scattered by a Byzantine chapel above Kardamyli in the Peloponnese near to the home of one of his mentors, Patrick Leigh Fermor .Works Citations References
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