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Bruce Chatwin Biography

(1840–89), In Patagonia, The Viceroy of Ouidah, On the Black Hill, The Songlines, Utz

writer novel travel paths

British novelist and travel writer, born in Sheffield, educated at Marlborough and at Edinburgh University, where he gained a degree in anthropology, a lifelong interest. His first book, In Patagonia (1978), a collection of travel writing, was followed by The Viceroy of Ouidah (1980), a fictional account of the life of a Brazilian adventurer, Francisco Manoel da Silva, set in Africa in the early 1800s. On the Black Hill (1982) described the relationship between Lewis and Benjamin Jones, twin brothers, living on a remote Welsh hill farm at the turn of the century. The novel was admired for the poetic intensity with which the author conveyed the details of his characters' isolated existence, and the strength of feeling between them. The widely praised The Songlines (1987), an idiosyncratic mixture of fiction, anthropological study, and travelogue, chronicled the writer's travels in the Australian desert following the ‘songlines’ or ancestral paths of the Aboriginal people. These paths form a network across the landscape, acting both as invisible frontiers and as the repositories of ancient Aboriginal myths of creation. Utz (1989) displayed another aspect of the writer's remarkable versatility. Set in post-war Prague, the novel meticulously describes the fanatical love of a collector of Meissen porcelain for the delicate pieces he has amassed over the years, and for which he has sacrificed everything, even his own freedom. The posthumously published Photographs and Notebooks (ed. David King and Francis Wyndham, 1993) were compiled from photographs and notes from Chatwin's travels in Mauritania, Niger, Mali, Dahomey, and Afghanistan.

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