I’ve just finished rereading Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia. I first read it in 1978 or 79, I forget which, and still have my original Picador paperback copy.
I remember being impressed by the mystic otherworldliness of Chatwin’s luminous text – a journey to the end of the world in search of the skin of an extinct creature – a sort of Anglophone Borges.
Thirty plus years on I find myself still impressed by the quality of his writing and his technique of gluing little stories and events together in a narrative. Today, rather than a mystical journey I would view it more as a journey into a vanished society of English farm managers, Scottish Welsh and German migrants, more as social history than anything else.
When Chatwin travelled there, there were still people who remembered hearing stories of the early days of settlement and who remembered some of the events of the time. Now all these people would be long dead, and Patagonia, is doubtless a very different place – more Argentinian than perhaps it once was.
That said I still enjoyed the writing and the turns of phrase and the near fantastical parts of his story telling, and came away with the feeling that the world is now a more prosaic place than it once may have been
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