Friday, December 18, 2009

In Patagonia - Bruce Chatwin

buy - author site

The Deal: At this point in time, due to an RSI, I can only type for 10 minutes at a time. What you see below is what is hammered out before the timer goes off- and nothing more.

If Miss Apricot stretches her neck....she still fails to look like a guanaco on the pampas.

On the back here it says 'The book that redefined travel writing'.

Really? 'cause I just read a book by some Dane that was published 38 years before hand, and it worked better for me. Perhaps I'm just a simple minded fool who likes looking at pictures.

In a way, they both did the same thing: dug up the stories around them. Chatwin told the stories of the towns he passed through, the people who gave him lifts, and the estanicas he visited. And then, occasionally he didn't. Sometimes, he would merely describe the scene before him, and leave it to the reader to cast judgments, if there were any to be made. He go on great tangents, talking of references to the land made in literature, references generally stolen from other references. Or he would narrate some explorers voyage, some hundreds of years ago, and in great ambling loops bring that history back around to the person he was seeking, or the ground he stood upon.

Unlike Mielche, he was quite absent from the text. If he wanted to be there, it didn't show. If he didn't want to be there, it didn't show. Was this the redefinition spoken of? I haven't read much travel writing, so I don't know what the norm is, or was. It felt like I was looking over the shoulder of someone who didn't care, this absence.

I was quite taken by the brontosaurus skin, though. And the unicorn.

Written as it was much later that Mielche's, there are none of the native tribes left, and I felt this absence as well. All the people he talked to were ex-pats and immigrants from far, far away, dreaming of a home they couldn't run any further from. He paints Patagonia as a strange place of exile.

Apparently this is the book people take to Patagonia. I'd prefer Mielche's company.

Verdict: ignoring the pigeon-hole of travel writing, this is actually a very interesting book, and an excellent read.

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