Some time ago I promised I’d post a review of Under the Sun once I’d finished it – it’s been one of my lunchtime books this year – a book to read a few pages of over lunch – the idea being to draw me away from the screen and curb my bad habit of doing stuff at lunchtime.
I’d been fired up to start reading this book by my rereading of his In Patagonia, which can best be described as ‘magic realism meets travel writing’.
It’s a book I’ve always had an affection for, and some of his more exotic nomad inspired pieces of journalism. Whil I’ve read most of his other books, I must admit none of them ever grabbed me the same way as In Patagonia with its description of a vanished almost fantastical world.
I thought, if I read under the Sun I’d get more of an insight into the thought processes and the journey that went into in In Patagonia. In that I was disappointed.
Instead I got a portrait of Chatwin – not necessarily a nice person, but clearly someone who was immensely likeable, an easy conversationalist, and someon bursting with ideas and enthusiasms. Someone you’d enjoy talking to over dinner, but possibly only once.
The other thing that emerges is his priviliged gilded lifestyle, Chatwin having clearly mastered the art of living grandly on little money – something that I must admit makes me a little envious, the idea of being able to borrow an old fort in India to write in certainly has class.
And that’s the pciture of Chatwin that emerges – he clearly had class, style and wit, and on the whole engaged and entertained his friends.
Of course it’s a selection of his correspondence, and for all I know letters that reflect badly on him have been suppressed. That doesn’t really matter, the picture that emerges is consistent enough of someone capable of immense charm, though perhaps ever so slightly disreputable – but then that’s perhaps to be expected of someone who began as an art dealer …
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