Bruce Chatwin by Nicholas Shakespeare
A Biography

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Synopsis

"Unimprovable (and unstoppably readable)"
--Pico Iyer, Time

"Moving and elegant...A superb portrayal of the restless and randy travel writer brings us as close to his hidden heart as we're likely to get."
--Salon.com

"Shakespeare's engrossing bio does exactly what Chatwin's fans have longed to do: get beneath the alluring but elusive quality of his persona and prose. [Grade]: 'A'"
--Entertainment Weekly

"Immensely readable... Shakespeare portrays a man of colossal energies and intellect in perpetual conflict, whose life was a web of contradiction, controversy, and conundrum.... Shakespeare artfully synthesizes what could have been cacophonous voices into an impressively rendered and remarkably coherent portrait."
--Vogue

"Quite simply, one of the most beautifully written, painstakingly researched, and cleverly constructed biographies written this decade. Shakespeare has a quite extraordinary empathy for his subject, whom he portrays with humor, warmth, and an eye for telling detail, creating a book almost as original, intelligent, and observant as those by Chatwin himself."
--William Dalrymple, Literary Review (London)


Bruce Chatwin burst onto the literary landscape in 1977 with In Patagonia, which quickly became one of the most influential travel books of the twentieth century. The books that followed--The Viceroy of Ouidah, On the Black Hill, The Songlines, and Utz--confirmed his status as a major writer able to reinvent himself constantly. And the life he led successfully established him as one of the most charismatic and elusive literary figures of our time.

Beautiful to behold, charming, intelligent, a writer of exquisite prose, Chatwin was welcome in every society--from the most glamorous patrons of Sotheby's, where he held his first job, to the remote tribes of Africa. He was a thinker of striking originality, a reader of astonishing breadth and depth, and a mesmerizing storyteller. Salman Rushdie claimed that "he had the most erudite and possibly the most brilliant mind I ever came across."

And yet for all the adoration he received, when Chatwin died of AIDS in 1989, he died an enigma, a panoply of apparently conflicting identities. Married for twenty-three years to his American wife, Elizabeth, he was also an active homosexual. A socialite who loved to regale his rich and famous friends with uproariously funny stories about his travels and the people he met on them, he was at heart a single-minded loner who explored the limits of extreme solitude.

Award-winning novelist Nicholas Shakespeare spent eight years traveling across five continents in Chatwin's footsteps. He was given unrestricted access to Chatwin's private notebooks, diaries, and letters, and has gathered evidence from Chatwin's peers, his friends, his family, his hosts, his enemies, and his lovers. The result is this masterful biography, rendered in a graceful narrative that brilliantly leads us into Chatwin's world--across all the vast geographic, social, and emotional expanses that he traveled--and into his psyche.


Beautiful to behold, charming, intelligent, a writer of exquisite prose, Chatwin was welcome in every society--from the most glamorous patrons of Sotheby's, where he held his first job, to the remote tribes of Africa. He was a thinker of striking originality, a reader of astonishing erudition, and a mesmerizing storyteller. Although married for twenty-three years to his American wife, Elizabeth, he was also an active homosexual, but at heart, a loner.

Acclaimed novelist Nicholas Shakespeare spent eight years traveling in Chatwin's footsteps. The result is this definitive biography rendered in a graceful narrative that brilliantly leads us into Chatwin's world, from the glittering dinner tables among the famous to foreign deserts among nomads, and into his psyche. -->
 

About Nicholas Shakespeare

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NICHOLAS SHAKESPEARE is the author of The Vision of Elena Silves, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award; The High Flyer, for which he was nominated one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists in 1993; and The Dancer Upstairs, chosen by the American Library Association as the Best Novel of 1997. He grew up in the Far East and South America, and now lives in London.
 
Published February 15, 2000 by Nan A. Talese. 640 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Gay & Lesbian, Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference, Travel. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Bruce Chatwin

Kirkus Reviews

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Though impressed by the man's unfettered brilliance, Shakespeare evenhandedly displays every persona constituting "The Chatwin Effect," from solipsistic na‹f to literary wonder-worker, mountebank sponger to golden-haired Prometheus.

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The Guardian

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The description Chatwin gives his mother in 1963 of a market in Herat, in Afghanistan, selling vintage western dresses is the liveliest thing in the volume: "Gowns that could have been worn by Mary Pickford, shiny black velvet with no back, or by Clara Bow, red lace and bead fringes, Jean Harlow,...

Sep 19 2010 | Read Full Review of Bruce Chatwin: A Biography

Publishers Weekly

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Celebrated English travel writer and novelist Chatwin (In Patagonia) died of AIDS 20 years ago;

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Publishers Weekly

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Chatwin himself declares that the borderline between fiction and nonfiction ""is to my mind extremely arbitrary, and invented by publishers."" To Shakespeare the ""camouflage of fiction did allow Bruce to do what he liked."" A friend sees an unresolved tension in the bisexual Chatwin and his work;

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The Telegraph

Chatwin’s reputation was .

Sep 12 2010 | Read Full Review of Bruce Chatwin: A Biography

Express

They claimed to enjoy an "open" marriage, such a fashionable Sixties concept, and Chatwin's extensive travels certainly kept the couple apart for months on end.

Sep 26 2010 | Read Full Review of Bruce Chatwin: A Biography

Scotsman.com

When Bruce Chatwin appears in a Bruce Chatwin book he's virtually a fictional character, turning down hopeful assaults on his person;

Sep 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Bruce Chatwin: A Biography

Bookmarks Magazine

Bruce Chatwin (1977): Though its reliability would later be questioned, this "little masterpiece of travel, history, and adventure" (New York Times) chronicles Chatwin's perilous journey to--and six-month sojourn on--the southernmost tip of South America.

Feb 14 2011 | Read Full Review of Bruce Chatwin: A Biography

Literary Review

It is a compelling character portrait of a dazzling beauty with a polymorphous sexuality - 'he's out to seduce everybody, it doesn't matter if you are male, female, an ocelot or a tea-cosy,' said Miranda Rothschild - who was also an egotistical dandy, a slyly boastful fabulist, the generator of r...

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http://www.citypaper.com

When Shakespeare reveals that Chatwin consistently manipulated details, obscuring facts and reinventing personae to suit his work, the reader feels betrayed, as did some of Chatwin's subjects.

Jul 26 2000 | Read Full Review of Bruce Chatwin: A Biography

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