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In Patagonia (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 25 Mar 2003
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Fascinated by Patagonia ever since an early childhood lust for his Grandma's scrap of hairy Giant Sloth skin, Bruce Chatwin is intrigued by odd miners, Darwin, the Welsh and the log cabin built by Butch Cassidy. From Rio Negro to the southernmost town of Ushuaia, Chatwin depicts all in writing as spare as the Patagonian desert and as vibrant as the purple clouds off Last Hope Sound. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
A book to stand on the shelf with Graham Greene, Somerset Maugham, and Paul Theroux. The New York Times Book Review Bruce Chatwin joins the ranks of the great British travel writers with In Patagonia. The Washington Post"
"A book to stand on the shelf with Graham Greene, Somerset Maugham, and Paul Theroux." --The New York Times Book Review"Bruce Chatwin joins the ranks of the great British travel writers with In Patagonia." --The Washington Post
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The majority of the book, however, is taken up with exploring the stories these people tell. From Chatwin's search for the past of his Grandmother's cousin, Charley Milward, through his exploration of the various myths surrounding Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Charles Darwin, various revolutionaries, 16th century explorers, and others, to delving into possible inspirations for Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Shakespear's Tempest; this book is about human legends and how they diverge and take on a life of their own over time.
Because of the way the book is structured and the very nature of its subject matter, it feels rather fragmented and piecemeal. But nontheless it is an astounding, enlightening achievement, and a fascinating read. Just don't expect to learn much about the Patagonian landscape from it.
I would greatly recommend this book, since it is a refreshing change of style to the more modern travel experience books on the market, and so makes for very compelling reading.
Patagonia has been a haven for many European nationalities besides the Spanish. British, Welsh, Scots and the Germans have found refuge and opportunities here. Chatwin encounters a wide spectrum of the inhabitants. By touring on foot, bus and horse, as well as obtaining the occasional lift, he is able to garner intense impressions. Lacing the account of what he observes with numerous piquant historical side notes, he imparts the place along with the spirit of the residents. The history varies as the land itself. Rising from the Atlantic across a vast plain until reaching the rising slopes of the "back" of the Andes, Patagonia offers incredible vistas and diversity. Decades of building immense rancheros and farms have been punctuated by social and political upheavals. Chatwin recounts the lives of many of the rebels and how they impacted the pampas scene. His literary capacity seems as vast as the territory. We even encounter The Ancient Mariner. There are no dull moments in this book.
Chatwin presents a more knowledgeable view in discussing aboriginal people than that of most travel writers. There's nothing patronizing in his tone as he tries to address their plight. "Tries to" because European intrusion has left so little for researchers of indigenous cultures to address. He cites the expressive terms in the Yamana language to point out how culturally inept the colonizing powers have been. We learn to use the term "primitive" with caution. Millennia of residence gained the original peoples skills the Europeans disparaged, often to
their regret. It's becoming a familiar story, made sadder at the realization the loss of cultures swept away by colonization.
At the end, his original quest brings him to a cave visited by Charley Milward, wrecked ship's captain. He cannot replace the artifact Milward left in Chatwin's grandmother's house, but there is other compensation. That the quest isn't a failure adds further lustre to an incredible journey. But what Chatwin has gained is as nothing compared to what he's given us. This book will remain a classic for years to come. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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