In Patagonia
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In Patagonia

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  5,618 ratings  ·  350 reviews
An exhilarating look at a place that still retains the exotic mystery of a far-off, unseen land, Bruce Chatwin's exquisite account of his journey through Patagonia teems with evocative descriptions, remarkable bits of history, and unforgettable anecdotes. Fueled by an unmistakable lust for life and adventure and a singular gift for storytelling, Chatwin treks through "the...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published March 1st 2003 by Penguin Books (first published 1977)
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Michael
This book was a special treat to me as a unique form a travel writing. In its exploration of people encountered on his trip to Patagonia in the early 70’s, Chatwin makes magic as he uses his series of little quests and the actual places of his travels to make a doorway to imagination. The excellent introduction by someone named Shakespeare highlights the special qualities of the book:

Just as Patagonia is not a place with an exact border, so Chatwin’s “particularly dotty book”, as he called it,...more
Eric
The truly fine-grained books are always impossible to review or describe. Even dragged-out praise leaves most of the best things unnoted. Certainly this is true in the case of In Patagonia, one of those unclassifiable mandarin anatomies whose summarized “action” but barely suggests the innumerable felicities of perception that make the book. A copy of In Our Time packed in his rucksack, Chatwin busses from Buenos Aires into Patagonia, tramps around, meets people and collects their stories--much...more
AC
This is not a travelogue, in any normal sense. It is rather a collection of 97 very short vignettes (almost like 'palm-in-the-hand' stories), many (as is now generally admitted) partially fictionalized, based on Chatwin's wanderings and readings and musings and imaginings about Patagonia, aka 'the end of the world' (geographically speaking), written throughout with a very odd tilt which is quite unique and which is Chatwin's own. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid play as great a role (greater,...more
Jessica
This was published in 1977, and as I read it, I couldn't help but think of Edward Said's Orientalism, published a year later. I admit to fantasizing about Said clobbering Chatwin over the head with a large rock. But not before Said had given him some choice words that could not be reduced to faux-Hemingway dialogue. As in the Songlines, you have a traveler who is more obsessed with traveling than the places he travels to, or the people he meets. There are so many vignettes in this, some with fab...more
Kua
In questo libro mi aspettavo stratosferiche descrizioni di paesaggi selvaggi, avventurose pennellate di grandi spazi, pagine coperte dalle emozioni di Chatwin di fronte a un viaggio così avventuroso... invece, a parte pochi cenni qua e là, la Patagonia passa sullo sfondo per tutto il libro. In compenso Chatwin ci fornisce un ritratto particolareggiato di tutti i personaggi che incontra durante il viaggio e delle storie a loro collegate. E se all'inizio è interessante conoscere i retroscena della...more
Jonfaith
Suffering from emotional bumps and bruises I needed a holiday. My brother Tim sent me a voucher so that I could fly to San Francisco for free. I was grateful. It was cold and gray but I was in San Francisco. One afternoon I found myself footsore and starving. I was heading towards BART stop when I saw a Thai restaurant on the other side of the street. I up a block crossed the street and discovered a book shop. Ducking in, I was pleased with their selection. I bought In Patagonia and went down th...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Patagonia is that stretch of land at the southern tip of South America, the major part of which is Argentina and the rest, Chile. In the 501 Must Read Books list this is included as a travel book. I think this is a bit off. The title gives a hint. It's "In Patagonia." The preposition "in" makes a lot of difference. Bruce Chatwin did not make a lot of description of the various places he had been in Patagonia when he started travelling there in 1974. At least not as much as the people--both livin...more
Jim
This is the third time I have read this classic by the late Bruce Chatwin. While purporting to be an episodic treatment of various past and present individuals who have been drawn into the orbit of Patagonia, it is quite as fictional as it is nonfiction. Although Chatwin has no great love for the literal truth, his transformations of people and events are fascinating.

It is very much like the old joke about the patient who tells his therapist some made up stories, to which the therapist says, "Th...more
Rex Fuller
This book is many things. A kind of dream. A nostalgia. A picture of the titular place. And an investigation into what happened to Butch Cassidy and Sundance. Most of all it is a string of stories, strung in fact in most instances by a colon at the end of the chapter. It's best to read it with a map of the place in hand. It mixes time periods and jumps around the southern tip of South America naming places on the assumption the reader knows where they are. And it is chock full of names of places...more
Jan-Maat
Readable and pleasant. The author, allegedly inspired by schoolboy ponderings over the safest place in a post-nuclear war world and childhood atlas voyages, travels to Patagonia and travels around Welsh settlers, hunts for prehistoric mega beasts said to survive in the wilderness and generally comments on the history and cultures of the region.

Complaints from people mentioned in the book revealed that the literary result was fictionalised.

In adolescence I read this and The Songlines and a few...more
Alex V.
What a singular, breathtakingly effortless book! I'm in the midst of the final editing of a travel book of my own and I had to put this down for later, lest I start turning my own work into a pale imitation of Chatwin's breezy empathic prose. The way he weaves through the lives of those he meets in Patagonia, the conceit of the piece of brontosaurus skin his grandmother kept in the china cabinet that set him on this journey, even the mild controversy around the veracity of Chatwin's accounts - i...more
Ale Vergara
Qué cosa tan maravillosa. Leyendo un poco sobre el libro, me encontré con que en algún momento acusaron a Chatwin de falsear información: qué soberana burrada, qué corta lectura. Si bien es un libro de viajes que, supuestamente, habla de lo vivido por el autor en su viaje a la Patagonia, quedarse únicamente en el terreno de lo "real" y lo "inventado" es no darse mucha cuenta de nada.

Acá unas notitas sobre lo "real" y lo "ficticio" en este libro.

- En la Patagonia empieza con un pedazo de piel q...more
D.A.Calf
In Patagonia is one part wunderkammer, one part fantastic colonial history and one part covert tale about the enigma that wrote it. Chatwin, it turns out, is even more fascinating than his works which, given that he was prone to the embellishment of already interesting situations is no small feat. The youngest ever something-or-other at Sotheby's, Chatwin left early to study archaeology only to hook it to the remote corners of the world before too long. He wrote his wife long missives from far o...more
Rozzer
When this book first came out, back in the old days, I subscribed to the TLS and learned about it by reading their review. The review described a book which seemed so impossible that I wrote (from New York) to the reviewer (who turned out to be living on a farm in the Welsh mountains) via the TLS asking whether the review was some kind of April Fool's prank. The reviewer wrote back and told me that no, this was a real book about a real journey that Chatwin (a real person) had actually taken. I o...more
Rob
What at first seems a disjointed and piecemeal (but never meandering) narrative, reveals itself to have a curious thread, as the young travel writer, first drunk on sensations and visual marvels, retreats (or advances) into hearsay and stories - tall tales and some true - which sketch an anti-Empire, a mirror image of European colonialism, in which the Europeans are not the driving force, eventually driven out, as in Africa and the subcontinent, but rather the tail being wagged by a mightily ins...more
brook
Forced myself to finish this book. The book starts out with a rambling, skipping history of Argentina, dipping into popular lore to talk about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. From there, it dips into short anecdote after anecdote, divided up roughly by chapters, chronicling the narrator's trip through Argentina to find remains of a great giant sloth that made the papers around the turn of the 20th century.
You've got 3 interesting possible subjects:
1. The history of outlaws fleeing to Argent...more
Nell Grey
Feb 10, 2012 Nell Grey rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The curious
Shelves: travel
A difficult book to analyze. The writing style seems simple - composed mainly of short statements - yet the author's eye picks out the oddest details. These details, together with a wide literary knowledge, well-researched history, myth and legend and encounters with strange and sometimes wonderful characters along the way, add up to an unusual read that gives one a peculiar and almost mystical feel for the country.

The story begins with a glass-fronted cabinet in his grandmother's dining room a...more
Jeremy
Chatwin's evocation of this place works so well because it's ultimately built as much around what is in the place as what is foreign or not immediately obvious about it. We get portraits of delightfully eccentric expatriates, the strange, phantasmagorical rules of local cults, the delightfully rendered histories of explorers, scientists, marxist troublemakers, American vigilantes and numerous others who directly or maybe only tangentially caught up in the be-witching allure of Patagonia. His abi...more
Eric
A meandering account of a westerner's journey through Patagonia. At once a personal travelogue and social history, In Patagonia weaves together first-hand interactions, deeply researched history and local legend into an ethereal landscape of myth and tangible tragedy, of sea captains and ranchers, of unicorns and giant sloths, vanished first peoples and the multi-ethnic populace who came to replace them, Butch Cassidy and Charles Darwin, of kings and Marxists all against a backdrop of wide open...more
Jack
While often classified as a "Travel Book" it is far more than that. If one were to classify William Least Heat Moon's "Blue Highways" or John Steinbeck's "Travels with Charlie" as travel books then so might "In Patagonia" be so classified. But,this is so much more. It is an exquisite account of his journey through Patagonia. I particularly enjoyed his description of the people past and present. Chatwin tells a tantalizing tale blending history, myth, travel. While he traveled the country by foot...more
Sarah
Written in 1977 after a trip taken in 1974 to Patagonia, this book is considered among the best travel books written. But its not actually about Patagonia, its more about the creation of the idea of Patagonia by the people who live there (either because they were born there or because they had an idea of the place). For instance, the story of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid is told through the folk lore of grandchildren of the people who thought they saw them or met them or were their victims...more
Richard Simpson
Patagonia is a historical and cultural anomaly, a place at the edge of the world where you'd least expect to see the descendants of Welsh miners and Bavarian patriots existing in the emptiness. Like the abundance of fossils in the ground below them, an indication of a never-ending chain of earthly species, these people are fossils, fossils of the past, of their culture, and of a world before the technological advancements and constraints of modernity. You might even say they are lost, a term mos...more
Janessa Lantz
A dreamy exploration of the history, myths, and people of Patagonia. One of my favorite chapters was #64 where Bruce Chatwin is describing a tribe of people, the Yaghan. It's a section that perfectly captures the authors ability to play the curious observer, something that allows him to express a lack of understanding without sounding judgmental or ignorant:

What shall we think of a people who defined 'monotony' as 'an absence of male friends?' Or, for 'depression,' used the word that described
...more
Andrew
Like all writers that W.G. Sebald has namechecked and I've read, Bruce Chatwin is a phenom. How true his account of his Patagonian travels is seems rather questionable, but I don't give that much of a shit, really. In this plain, laconic style, Chatwin traverses landscape and every possible political and cultural ideology. Rather than using beautiful language as the focus of his writing, he zooms in on objects themselves: a piece of mylodon skin, a grimed photo of Hitler. Patagonia, I'm on my wa...more
Katti
Looking for a book as a preparation to a long trip to Patagonia, I was enthused by the introduction, by Nicholas Shakespeare, I am attracted to the loneliness, the size, the climate of Patagonia, and Shakespeare names it as 'patagonia's nothingness forces the mind in on itself'.
But Chatwin's book is a series of anecdotes, some interesting, others totally boring. He looked up British decedents, and reading his book makes you think most Patagonian inhabitants are Brit.
I didn't expect this to be...more
Chris
I read this, true to the cliche, while travelling through Patagonia myself. It's a remarkably original book. On the surface there's no real reason why it should be compelling, or even interesting. But somehow the book's very oddness and arcane details become its best asset. It also highlights what books and travel have in common: at their very best, they take you to an entirely new place.
Erica Chambers
I would love to give this 3 and a half stars. Chatwin's writing is beautiful.... The problem was me not the book... I have no interest in South America. None. So I couldn't really fall in love with this book in the way I'm sure many people do. I would highly recommend this book for the writing - and if you love Patagonia - this will be a special treat.
Cheryl in CC NV
May 15, 2012 Cheryl in CC NV marked it as skimmed-reference-dnf  ·  review of another edition
Couldn't get into it. For one thing, Chatwin assumes we know something of the area and its history, its relationship to the rest of the world. I don't. Maybe someday.... but given the size of Mt TBR, not likely. Sorry.
Dottie
One of my favorites by Chatwin. This is an adventure story, among other things. But it is Chatwin and his writing that draw the reader in and keep one glued to the unwinding tales.
Zora O'Neill
Oh man. Why did I waste so many years without reading this book? So delightful. So full of weird details. So good it actually made me think about going to Patagonia...
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Charles Bruce Chatwin was an English novelist and travel writer. He won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel On the Black Hill (1982). 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. "I've always wanted to go there," Bruce told her. "So have...more
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“I climbed a path and from the top looked up-stream towards Chile. I could see the river, glinting and sliding through the bone-white cliffs with strips of emerald cultivation either side. Away from the cliffs was the desert. There was no sound but the wind, whirring through thorns and whistling through dead grass, and no other sign of life but a hawk, and a black beetle easing over white stones.” 10 likes
“I pictured a low timber house with a shingled roof, caulked against storms, with blazing log fires inside and the walls lined with all the best books, somewhere to live when the rest of the world blew up.” 7 likes
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