Video appunto: Chatwin, Bruce - Life, themes and style

Bruce Chatwin (1940-1989)

Chatwin was born in 1940 in a middle-class family. During WWII, he changed often house with his mother, and this influenced his interests and future writings. After prep school, he became interested in antiques and read Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron. After high school, he decided to start working for at the London fine art auctioneers, and soon became its director.
He then decided to leave for Africa and started his years of travelling as a “The Sunday Magazine” freelance contributor. He wrote “In Patagonia”, and “ The Viceroy of Ouidah”, the story of a Brazilian slave trader. His most famous book “The Songlines” (1987), narrates about Australia’s natives and their traditions, after came “Utz”, a book about the monastic cell of an art collector. He then died in Nice of HIV, while working on his last works “What Am I Doing Here”, a collection of his writings for different magazines, and “Anatomy of Restlessness: Uncollected”, an autobiography full of motivations and interests.


Chatwin called his books “searches”, which criticised Western materialism and described the lives of natives and nomads and their traditions as closer to the centre of things, and aimed to the recovery of values that Chatwin considered as forgotten in the “civilised” world.


Chatwin’s style is visual, and often describes details of the outside world. The writer is a great observer and usually uses allusions and references for the reader to understand the meaning, since the plot is not always the most important part of his works.