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In Patagonia

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  13,887 ratings  ·  906 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
Paperback, 199 pages
Published March 25th 2003 by Penguin Classics (first published 1977)
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Average rating 3.70  · 
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 ·  13,887 ratings  ·  906 reviews

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Mar 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
It was the day before I left for my vacation to South America that I learned about this book. It was an offhand mention by a client, "Oh, have you read In Patagonia?" I picked it up on my way home and stuffed it into the already full backpack.

Chatwin's writing got under my skin, and I don't necessarily mean that in a good way. At times he can turn a beautiful phrase when describing a sunset or the wind scoured landscape that seems to go forever. In other places I wanted him to move on, his prose
Jan 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: travel
2.5 stars
This is my first foray into Bruce Chatwin. I have always been wary of travel writing of a certain type when it drifts into literary colonialism. It is too easy for wealthy white travellers to go to foreign lands in search of the interesting and exotic.
There is a good deal of myth surrounding Chatwin and even this book. The whole books starts and finishes with a fossilised piece of skin which Chatwin says he remembers from his childhood. Family myth said it was from a dinosaur, but in a
Jun 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 a BART stop when I saw a Thai restaurant on the other side of the street. I trekked up a block, crossed the street and discovered a book shop. Ducking in, I was pleased with their selection. I bought In Patagonia and w
I don’t regret reading this book. There is so much talk about it, I wanted to experience it for myself.

In 1974 Bruce Chatwin, working for The Sunday Times Magazine since 1972, is said to have sent the editor, Francis Wyndham, a telegram. The brief message relayed only four words--“Have gone to Patagonia”, this being the sole explanation for his departure. Well actually, what did happen was that he informed the editor via a letter explaining in more detail his need to go to Patagonia. "I am doing
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 (view spoiler) and generally comments on the history and cultures of the region.

Complaints from people mentioned in the bo
Sep 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
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,
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: travel, argentina
I picked up In Patagonia hoping to learn more about Argentina and Argentinians. After all, that's the country where this book is set and travel memoirs are usually great for an outsider's view of a place. Silly me! After reading this book, no one would fault the reader for thinking that Argentina was located somewhere in Europe. Chatwin deals exclusively with the European immigrants of various nationalities and some Americans in his travels around Patagonia. There are a however, a couple of smal ...more
Sep 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
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
Steven Godin

I was hoping this might have had something in common with Paul Theroux's fascinating The Old Patagonian Express, but it didn't. I rarely ever read travel writing, but thought I'd give this a go as it's seen as the book that revolutionized the genre. This was a strange mix of travelogue, history and myth, of which I found both interesting and at times uninteresting, with only the parts about the Welsh migration to Patagonia, the travels through the Puelo valley route to Chile, and towards the end
James Barker
Bruce Chatwin baulked at being called a travel writer and reading this I can see why. Part-literature, part-history, the slender volume is packed full of diverse and disparate characters and episodes. Then there is the flying off of tangents- satisfying tangents that entrench you in histories of.. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (the Patagonian years), the mylodon and other prehistoric beasts, Simon Radowitzky, the search for Trapalanda (a version of Eldorado), the creation of an extraordinar ...more
Patagonia defies definition. It sits at the very end of a continent, nudges into the tumultuous Southern ocean, covers two countries and is a place of enigmas. It was a place that Brue Chatwin had longed to visit for years after seeing a piece of 'brontosaurus' in his grandparent's curiosity cabinet. It wasn't a piece of a dinosaur, but another part of an extinct animal that had been found in Patagonia.

The memory of it lived on in Chatwin's imagination and was the spark that made him give up his
Jul 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
I have enjoyed reading this travel classic. I have, honestly I have. All good travel/ history should have one reaching for google maps and even reading (at worst) wikipedia and I have been doing that. With that I am keen to go to all the exotic places that the author visited, those places with Spanish names that are seemingly full of not only Latins but Englishmen and Germans and Welsh and have strange natives and had the likes of North American outlaws gallivanting around the countryside. What ...more
Jan 04, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
Prior to my reading this, if you had asked me what is Patagonia?, I probably would have said, "That company that makes backpacks and outdoor crap."

Within the first 30 to 40 pages, if you had asked me again, I would have said it was practically the end of the world, an exotic, magnetic, land, filled with strange characters and harsh, extreme, beautiful landscapes.

Having finished the book, it feels like Chatwin somehow drained the life out of the place and obliterated its magic. He left me a monot
Nov 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: challenge-2016
A really enjoyable read. From stories of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to tea with Welsh ex pats Bruce Chatwin keeps up an interesting narrative as he travels through Chile and Argentina in the 1970s. His fascination Patagonia stems from a piece of Sloth skin that was in his grandmothers glass cabinet, sent home by her brother Charlie Milward. Chatwin goes in search of stories of his uncle Charlie and hopes to find a piece of Sloth to replace the one his mother diaposed of when his grandmot ...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
Jan 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
I think the best way to represent my experience with this book would be to include all that I learned and researched as I read it. I just need to transfer them from my written notepad.
Paul Dembina
Found myself slightly underwhelmed by this one. Probably due to overly high expectations,after the affectionate recent film profile from Werner Herzog and hearing what an influential book this was. Ah well, probably my loss
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
Blends the history of Patagonia, and the region, with the author's contemporary encounters and observations. The story focuses on eccentrics and adventurous people, suggesting that the remote and wild country attracts and breeds them. Published in 1977, and written during the US- organized fascist junta of Pinochet, Chatwin discusses that elephant in the room in a highly selective and oblique manner, through his interview with a large landowner, dispossessed of her land, during the short-lived A ...more
Mar 23, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Chris Gager
Jul 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So far this is an easy 4* book. Totally engrossing if a bit weird. In a good way... Sort of like a National Geographic article on steroids with ALL the warts included. In place of photographs we get BC's pithy word pictures. What a crazy place this is! All those immigrants and wanderers and visionaries from Europe and North America, including Butch Cassidy and Sundance. He evens meets an old lady who encountered Butch(maybe) as a four-year-old. The indigenous locals seem to be permanently drunk. ...more
Magic Square Challenge 2018 - #2 - Book Vipers Monthly Read

A classic travel memoir that unfortunately failed to infect me with wanderlust. There were several issues that prevented In Patagonia from working out for me. Firstly, it lacked direction, or itinerary, that would give me a clear scope of Chatwin's journey. Each short chapter was disconnected from the rest, and kind of jumped from topic to topic. I feel like the author just wrote down the first thing that came to his head in the order th
Yigal Zur
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
a must to any traveler to patagonia
In this unusual piece of travel writing, Bruce Chatwin visits the remote area of Patagonia. The spur for his journey was a piece of dinosaur skin remembered from his childhood - he goes in search of the mythical beast and to find evidence of the relative who sent the skin home. He intersperses descriptions of the places he visits with anecdotes about the people he meets and about historical figures (such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) who had also found their way to this remote part of t ...more
Dec 07, 2018 rated it liked it
This classic of the travel genre is a collection of short sketches of the Welsh shepherds and North American outlaws and Russian housewives and German farmers and Indian captives and the many others the author met on his travels through Patagonia. Alongside these sketches are legends of bandits and tales of shipwrecks and hearsay of mythical creatures and more. According to the introduction, Chatwin did not want this categorized among travel books, but regarded it as a reflection on human restle ...more
Nofar Spalter
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are remotely interested in travel writing, this book is a must. It revolutionized the genre, transforming it from a "I went there and saw that" log to a literary, transcendent piece of fictionalized non-fiction. Chatwin weaves his own accounts of traveling in Patagonia with excerpts from the accounts of previous travels, myths, newspaper clippings of the doings of Butch and Cassidy, moral musings about colonialism (in their infancy, but it's 1974), echoes of classic literature, and a grea ...more
Faiza Sattar
Aug 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, travelogue
★★★☆☆ (3/5)

I selected this book because I craved for a travelogue. It fits the bill but in a very awkward and unusual and not altogether pleasing way. It’s less about the landscape, with more emphasis on portraits of inhabitants of Patagonia. In my misanthropic moods, this makes for a more annoying than enjoyable read. I understand that travel entails an observation of both the scenery and the humans who tread upon that piece of land but the lens of this book is too myopic and focused on the lat
Even though I am a lover of travel and adventure literature, I have never picked up this classic by Bruce Chatwin. It was interesting to read the introduction and learn how controversial the book has become. Chatwin fudged a few facts and many of the people he wrote about weren't too happy with their treatment.

For myself, I thought the book was very interesting and it kept me reading and not wanting to put it down. Each chapter, some as short as 3-4 paragraphs, are recollections or observances
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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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