Jim's Reviews > In Patagonia

In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin
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's review
Sep 08, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: travel-classics, argentina, reread
Read in December, 2011

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, "That's very interesting." When the patient admits that he has been making all his experiences up, the therapist, without skipping a beat, says, "That's even more interesting!"

To present a simple example (there are more in Nicholas Shakespeare's excellent introduction to this edition), because Chatwin was fascinated with Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, he takes a person whose passion in life is actually Agatha Christie and presents her as a devotee of Mandelstam.

This time, I read Chatwin's book while traveling through Patagonia myself. I can see why the book remains so popular, irrespective of its literal truthfulness.

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