Bruce Chatwin (1940-1989) was the supremely gifted British journalist, traveler, and writer who spent his all-too brief life reinventing himself.

The son of a lawyer who was happier at sea, Chatwin was a socialite, an art dealer at Sothebys, a photographer, an archeologist, an impeccable journalist, an indefatigable traveler, and an absolutely original thinker whose monumental travel books and novels, In Patagonia, The Viceroy Of Ouidah, On the Black Hill, The Songlines, and Utz are stunning in their insight and sensitivity. As his friend Salman Rushdie put it: "he had the most erudite and possibly the most brilliant mind I ever came across."

For all of this however, Bruce Chatwin remained an enigma to friends and the public alike until the day he died, January 18th, 1989, of AIDS. Blessed with preternatural good looks, and happily married to the long-suffering but absolutely supportive American heiress, Elizabeth Chanler, Chatwin was also an active homosexual who could be counted upon to be the life of any party--from the Riviera to Rio, from Soho to San Francisco. Everybody loved Bruce. But nobody, it seems, really knew Bruce.

British novelist Nicholas Shakespeare has written the definitive Chatwin biography, Bruce Chatwin (Doubleday, 2000, ISBN 0-385-49829-2), which is a wonder in its own right, balancing the complexity and the nobility of Chatwin's life and work with an artist's loving temperament.

Shakespeare's epigraph for his biography, taken from Jorge Luis Borges, sets the tone for all that follows:

As you are not unaware, I am much travelled. This fact allows me to corroborate the assertion that a voyage is always more or less illusory, that there is nothing new under the sun, that everything is one and the same, etcetera, but also, paradoxically enough, to assert that there is no foundation for despairing of finding surprises and something new: in truth, the world is inexhaustible.



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Bikram Choudhury
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Nicholas Shakespeare
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A. J. Weberman

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