In Patagonia is the brilliant breakthrough book about "the uttermost part of the earth" by Bruce Chatwin, the British author who brought travel-writing to new and exciting heights.

More than just the record of Chatwin's journey to the farthest place man can travel to on foot, In Patagonia is a modern Wonder Voyage, a form old as story-telling itself, the "hunt for a strange animal in a remote land."

The book takes the shape of a non-linear quest. Details such as "when, where and how," are not so important to Chatwin as the is-ness of a thing or a place or a person. Blessed with an encyclopedic mind, a gift for simile, and the ability to catagorize, which he honed during nearly a decade as an art dealer at Sotheby's in London, Chatwin's prose is spare, unadorned, more akin to haiku than reportage. "Writing is the painting of the voice," he wrote.

  • "She was waiting for me, a white face behind a dusty window. She smiled, her painted mouth unfurling as a red flag caught in a sudden breeze. Her hair was dyed dark-auburn. Her legs were a mesopotamia of varicose veins. She still had the tatters of an extraordinary beauty."
  • "I left the boneyard of La Plata, reeling under the blows of Linnaean Latin, and hurried back to Buenos Aires, to the Patagonia station, to catch the night bus south."
  • "The pink plastic of artificial limbs shone through the doctor's stockings. Both her legs were off at the knees. Perhaps the amputation saved her life."
  • "Once you get a drunk gaucho in the saddle, he won't fall off and his horse will get him home."

In Patagonia, 1977, Bruce Chatwin

"All the stories," Chatwin wrote to his agent, Deborah Rogers, "were chosen with the purpose of illustrating some particular aspect of wandering and/or of exile: i.e. what happens when you get stuck. The whole should be an illustration of the myth of Cain and Abel."

In Patagonia should be considered an object lesson for any aspiring writer, for it is the book Chatwin published after failing to finish to his satisfaction a thesis on nomads that he wrote full-time for years on end.

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