“The one thing you might have thought that none of us really needed was yet another Chatwin book: least of all 550 pages of his letters. Yet the letters are wonderful, and while they do give much ammunition to those who want to dismiss Chatwin as a social-climbing show-off, they contain many intriguing insights into his life and writing. Moreover, they are the closest we are ever going to get to a Chatwin autobiography.”
A more equivocal appraisal from Nicolas Rothwell in The Australian.
And Nicholas Murray’s always-worth-reading view at his blog.
Some of you may know that the Europeans put Chatwin’s fellow countrymen to shame when it comes to demonstrating their appreciation of Bruce’s work. The Italians, in particular, consider Chatwin something of a god, and have, for a number of years, organised a festival and prize in his honour. It is called the Premio Chatwin and it is happening this year between the 18th and 20th of November in Genova.
An article from Blue Magazine, kindly supplied by the translator Sheila Oppezzi, explains more:
A Guardian review simply isn’t enough; the Observer want to have their say too.
I’m also going to point interested readers in the direction of Hugh Thomson’s website thewhiterock.co.uk, where you’ll find not only a blog post on the Letters from the man who reviewed them for the Independent, but also a whole host of other pieces of interest.
‘While he was alive, I teased him and questioned his unreliable accounts of travel. His death was a shock and when he was more or less beatified by the critics, I rolled my eyes. But with each passing year I am more convinced that he was the real thing, an original in all his work, and Rimbaudesque in acting on his belief that life is elsewhere.’
You can read the whole piece here.
A sympathetic and interesting interview with Elizabeth Chatwin in today’s Telegraph.
A typically insightful review in the Spectator by Philip Hensher.
And finally, a gossipy column from the Evening Standard, which manages to avoid any mention of Bruce’s writing.
More as I have it.
The first drips of what will surely become a flood of publicity for Under the Sun: The Letters of Bruce Chatwin are beginning to fall.
Nicholas Shakespeare writes a typically eloquent piece recounting his journey to Athos in search of the rusted metal cross which inspired Chatwin’s conversion to the Orthodox faith:
‘One afternoon after his usual maté (mistaken by the cook for hashish), Chatwin walked to the monastery of Stavronikita, once painted by Edward Lear. He puffed towards it with his heavy rucksack. “The most beautiful sight of all was an iron cross on a rock by the sea,” he wrote. From where he stood – just below the monastery – the black cross appeared to be striving up against the white foam.
Then these words: “There must be a god.”’
Another more perfunctory - though positive - review of the book from the Irish Times can be find here.
I’ll be posting articles here as they come through, but please feel free to forward any you think I might have missed using the contact form.
Under the Sun: The Letters of Bruce Chatwin is published by Jonathan Cape, and will be released in the UK on September 1st 2010.
“In November 2008, I travelled to the Mani in Greece to visit the tiny ruined chapel of St. Nicholas in Chora, “a tenth century Byzantine church on a headland two miles up a mountain,” as described by Patrick Leigh Fermor in Nicholas Shakespeare’s biography of Bruce Chatwin. More specifically, I was making my way to an olive tree very close to the church under which Elizabeth Chatwin had elected to bury the ashes of the writer, her late husband. He came to know the chapel when he stayed in a small apartment at the Hotel Theano in nearby Kardamyli for seven months writing the first draft of his book The Songlines. The ancient church had been one of his favourite places.”
View the whole essay here.
Here lies the power of objects providing intimations of immortality disguising loss under a veneer of eternal value. Of course, there is something ironic in the fact that most objects will survive its owner, from gold rings, to a pair boots, or even a 2-cent plastic non-biodegradable supermarket bag. Chatwin also wrote: “I have often noticed that in the really great collections the best objects congregate like a host of guardians angels around the bed, and the bed itself is pitifully narrow. The true collector houses a corps of inanimate lovers...”’
Hat Tip: Buenos Aires Herald
"We now go to Pizza Express over the road. The publisher's lunch was really dying out anyway. Tony Whittome from Hutchinson retired recently; he'd been there 40 years and he did the lunches with Kingsley Amis. Two malt whiskies when you sat down, two bottles of claret and then calvados, but people don't really do it any more."
More at The Guardian.
The full piece here.
For those of you unfamiiar with the story, illumination can be found here.