When a Travel Story Gets Lost in Literature

Book Title: In Patagonia

Author: Bruce Chatwin

Cover of book - In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin
Source: Book Depository

Promotional Blurb: The masterpiece of travel writing that revolutionized the genre and made its author famous overnight.

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. Fuelled by an unmistakable lust for life and adventure and a singular gift for storytelling, Chatwin treks through “the uttermost part of the earth” – that stretch of land at the southern tip of South America, where bandits were once made welcome – in search of almost-forgotten legends, the descendants of Welsh immigrants, and the log cabin built by Butch Cassidy.

An instant classic upon publication in 1977, In Patagonia is a masterpiece that has cast a long shadow upon the literary world. Source

My Thoughts: Hmmm, I would not use the words ‘masterpiece’ and ‘exhilarating’ to describe this book. I believe the more appropriate words would be ‘rambling’, ‘disjointed’ and ‘literary’.

I had high hopes as I turned the first page as I am starting to develop a real interest in South America and especially walking in some parts of it. I thought the book, although dated, would give me a little insight into a few of the features of the main countries. What I got instead was a historical, political and literary review.  

I should have known that, seeing Chatwin is an author of ‘classics’, his book would be more of a literary journey than a travelogue. Amongst his descriptions of the people and landscape, he scatted snippets of Shakespeare and poetry as well as historical and political revolution stories. He seems to have a had a particular fascination with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Quite a good read, but I did lose interest at times as he rambled off down some literary road, leaving me way behind. I do admit to skimming quite a few pages until I reached a section that talked more about what he was actually seeing/experiencing, than what he could link to literature. I gave it 6/10.

(For a much more exciting and invigorating read, check out my review of Dervla Murphy’s Eight Feet in the Andes as she, her daughter and a mule walk 1,300 miles in Peru. A far more gripping read and a fabulous adventure).

Author - Bruce Chatwin. Source: Calle del Orco
Bruce Chatwin. Source: Calle del Orco

Author bio: Bruce Chatwin was born in Sheffield in 1940. After attending Marlborough School he began work as a porter at Sotheby’s. Eight years later, having become one of Sotheby’s youngest directors, he abandoned his job to pursue his passion for world travel. Between 1972 and 1975 he worked for the Sunday Times, before announcing his next departure in a telegram: ‘Gone to Patagonia for six months.’ This trip inspired the first of Chatwin’s books, In Patagonia, which won the Hawthornden Prize and the E.M. Forster Award and launched his writing career.

Two of his books have been made into feature films: The Viceroy of Ouidah (retitled Cobra Verde), directed by Werner Herzog, and Andrew Grieve’s – On the Black Hill. On publication The Songlines went straight to Number 1 in the Sunday Times bestseller list and remained in the top ten for nine months. On the Black Hill won the Whitbread First Novel Award while his novel Utz was nominated for the 1988 Booker Prize. He died in January 1989, aged forty-eight. Source

Author blog or website: Not found

Publisher: Penguin

Available from: Book Depository for AUD$28.28

#travelreads  #longdistancewalking #travelinspo #thegreatoutdoors #armchairtravel #bookreview #patagonia #southamerica #epicadventure #argentina #dinosaurs #searchingfordinosaurs

23 thoughts on “When a Travel Story Gets Lost in Literature

  1. wetanddustyroads July 13, 2022 / 7:32 pm

    We have a few books about Patagonia (but definitely more travel orientated than literary) … maybe I’ll skip this one then 😉.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure July 14, 2022 / 12:44 pm

      Maybe I just came to it with the wrong expectations or perception of what it would be about. Anyway, each to their own.. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Toonsarah July 13, 2022 / 11:42 pm

    I rather liked this and was especially interested in the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid connections to the region. Maybe it helped that we have visited the Chilean part of Patagonia and I could relate to the landscapes he describes?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure July 14, 2022 / 12:46 pm

      Yes, I think some in country experience would help enormously. I have to say I was surprised that Butch and Co didn’t lay low down there. They carried on their merry robbing ways. Not really how to win friends and influence people! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. restlessjo July 14, 2022 / 8:06 am

    My first thought was that you have turned Brian’s shelf of books around. Ha! You probably didn’t even see the post. I might well enjoy this book. Depends whether I like his writing style. But I know that the Murphy books are a good read.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure July 14, 2022 / 12:49 pm

      Very different to Murphy’s romping style. Chatwin is far more measured and dives down a literary rabbit hole at the drop of the hat. I think my linear brain prefers an adventure that roughly follows a straight path…of sorts! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. sunnydaysinseattle July 15, 2022 / 4:01 am

    I just read another book that’s very similar to what you described. I expected a travel story, instead it was a mix of all others and a little travel.Can’t say I was not disappointed.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. maristravels July 31, 2022 / 11:16 pm

    What a relief to read someone who hasn’t fallen completely for the undoubted charms of Chatwin. He writes well and has a wealth of literary quotes at his fingertips but forgive me, I yawned a few times while reading In Patagonia. Better far is Dervla Murphy, not to mention Bill Bryson as a travel writer. Chatwin’s success reminds me of WWl poet, Rupert Brooke, who was eulogised by politicians and many of his contemporaries who were slow to recognise the greatness of Wilfrid owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Isaac Rosenberg et al. But, it’s good to have a choice and something to please everybody.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure August 4, 2022 / 5:08 pm

      I am so glad I am not on my own with my luke warm reception of this book. Sometimes authors just try too hard, rather than letting the story evolve. But what would I know?? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • maristravels August 4, 2022 / 6:57 pm

        There used to be a ‘reviewing Mafia’ who reviewed each others books, not to mention having gone to school together, and for a period from the middle to near the end of the last century, a few big names held sway. This can still happen and like going back to the source in history, one should keep an open mind on reviewer as well!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Life...One Big Adventure August 5, 2022 / 10:18 am

          True. I am like that when I eagerly read the big award-winning books and come away thinking ‘how could that possibly have been selected as the winner?’ It is all in the eye/mind of the beholder.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure September 1, 2022 / 8:55 am

      🙂 – Rarely have I been described as ‘generous’ in my literary reviews! I guess it is good that we all take different things from books…or not!

      Liked by 1 person

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