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In the Studio

Rye Dag Holmboe: Howard Hodgkin, 3 June 2021

... in his Bloomsbury house: he used to say that it was one of the best things he had ever done. Bruce Chatwin recalled him discussing tiny details of interior decoration and felt that the rooms he lived in were ‘more affected, more calculated and more dandified than anything I could dream of’. The result was alluring but also eccentric. Hodgkin had ...

On David King

Susannah Clapp, 21 June 2018

... him. Even his eye was egalitarian, as I came to realise when I asked him for his memories of Bruce Chatwin, a friend from his Sunday Times days. He had designed a book of Chatwin’s photographs, turning it into a disputatious work of art: in the spirit of a 1930s volume he admired, Art without Epoch, he put a ...

Through the Grinder

Graham Coster, 8 February 1996

The Pillars of Hercules: A Grand Tour of the Mediterranean 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 523 pp., £17.50, November 1995, 0 241 13504 4
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... is the point of the exercise. They are always long books – no miniature monographs like Chatwin’s on Patagonia or Rushdie’s on Nicaragua. Graham Greene spun Journey without Maps out of a few weeks’ trek into the Liberian interior, an itinerary further truncated by illness; for Voices of the Old Sea, perhaps his best travel-book, Norman Lewis ...


Gabriele Annan, 6 March 1997

The Architect of Desire: Beauty and Danger in the Stan ford White Family 
by Suzannah Lessard.
Weidenfeld, 352 pp., £18.99, March 1997, 0 297 81940 2
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... and tastes. In her straining after the essence of things, she reminds one of David Malouf and of Bruce Chatwin (who married into her clan). I don’t mean that she copies them: she is too committed, too intense for that; an element of what an American reviewer called ‘self-administered therapy’ convinces one that she is too seriously involved to be ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: Google Glass, 23 May 2013

... steps a day. I know this with such precision not because I’ve turned into a cross between Bruce Chatwin and Rain Man but because I’ve been using a Fitbit One, a fancy-schmancy pedometer which tracks how much I’ve been moving about and automatically synchronises it, via a Bluetooth dongle on my computer, with a website and an app on my ...


Iain Sinclair: The Peruvian Corporation of London, 10 October 2019

... without the traditional raids and kidnappings. I remembered Herzog’s creed, as reported by Bruce Chatwin: ‘Walking is a virtue, tourism is deadly sin.’ This stern Bavarian dogma, repeated over many mesmeric interviews, lectures and presentations, became a little threadbare, itself a form of cultural tourism. A brand statement. Almost a slogan ...

Gentlemen Travellers

Denis Donoghue, 18 December 1986

Between the Woods and the Water 
by Patrick Leigh Fermor et al.
Murray, 248 pp., £13.95, October 1986, 0 7195 4264 2
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by Jonathan Raban.
Collins, 301 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 00 272119 8
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The Grand Tour 
by Hunter Davies.
Hamish Hamilton, 224 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 241 11907 3
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... place and report the experience in one of the styles patented by Graham Greene, Paul Theroux, Bruce Chatwin and Robert Byron. The scholarly version of these explorations is called anthropology, as in Claude Lévi-Strauss, Clifford Geertz, Margaret Mead, and many American scholars in receipt of sabbatical leave and Guggenheim fellowships. If you have ...

Notes from an Outpost

Kenneth White, 6 July 1989

... for the past twenty-odd years. The only parallel I can see in recent British literature is with Bruce Chatwin. The movement is from history to geography, and from the deconstruction of metaphysics, via a differently-grounded thinking, towards a new poetic-intellectual (and hence living) space. For the last five years, I have been living on the north ...


Will Self: Video Games, 8 November 2012

... on being the prime experiential reality for proto-humans and then Homo sapiens for many millennia. Bruce Chatwin put forward a similar thesis in The Songlines, inspired by the stratigraphy of the Sterkfontein Caves, but he wanted to loop back the predatory lope into his Grand Theory of Universal Ambulation. Trout, on the other hand, is absolutely fixated ...

Candle Moments

Andrew O’Hagan: Norman Lewis’s Inventions, 25 September 2008

Semi-Invisible Man: The Life of Norman Lewis 
by Julian Evans.
Cape, 792 pp., £25, June 2008, 978 0 224 07275 5
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... he was more like Graham Greene – with whom he shared a period and many destinations – than Bruce Chatwin, who might have learned from Lewis how to be a writer who is also a brilliant disappearing act. Lewis wrote as much fiction as anything else but many of his 15 novels are out of print and his reputation rests entirely on the travel writing. He ...

Osip and Nadezhda Mandelstam

Seamus Heaney, 20 August 1981

... Journey to Armenia is now available in Clarence Brown’s translation, with an introduction by Bruce Chatwin. It appeared first in the Soviet magazine Zvezda in 1933, and was the last piece of his work that Mandelstam would see published in his lifetime. To call it travel writing is to miss the mark almost as badly as the Pravda reviewer who savaged ...

Embracing Islam

Patrick Parrinder, 4 April 1991

Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981-1991 
by Salman Rushdie.
Granta, 432 pp., £17.99, March 1991, 9780140142242
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... this side idolatry, for literature and the form of the novel. Elsewhere he writes of his love for Bruce Chatwin, and applauds Calvino’s whimsical notion that what set off the Big Bang at the beginning of the universe could have been ‘the first truly generous impulse, the first expression of love’. In his current seclusion he is heartened by the ...

Silly Buggers

James Fox, 7 March 1991

The Theatre of Embarrassment 
by Francis Wyndham.
Chatto, 205 pp., £15, February 1991, 0 7011 3726 6
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... which later turned into books. Gore Vidal, also an admirer of Wyndham, was a frequent contributor. Bruce Chatwin was persuaded by him to begin his career as a writer on the Magazine. Others, it should be said, like Norman Lewis, were not his protégés. The standard was high. We were subjected to intense envy and dislike from those on the newspaper on the ...

Some Flim-Flam with Socks

Adam Kuper: Laurens van der Post, 3 January 2002

Storyteller: The Many Lives of Laurens van der Post 
by J.D.F. Jones.
Murray, 505 pp., £25, September 2001, 0 7195 5580 9
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... to re-create their own lives.’ Among recently exposed fantasists, he lists Patrick O’Brian, Bruce Chatwin, Laurie Lee and Jeffrey Archer, all writers for whom a legend as man of action was a large part of their stock in trade. The South African poet Roy Campbell, who was a world-class liar, influenced Van der Post at an impressionable age. (‘I ...

One Enduring Trace of Our Presence

Maya Jasanoff: Governing Iraq, 5 April 2007

Occupational Hazards: My Time Governing in Iraq 
by Rory Stewart.
Picador, 422 pp., £17.99, June 2006, 0 330 44049 7
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... Asia – a list that would include the Etonians Robert Byron and Colin Thubron, the Marlburian Bruce Chatwin and the gentry Scot William Dalrymple – so often boast superior educations if not pedigrees. Aspects of Stewart’s response to Iraq show the influence of his earlier travels. His interest in the culture of the Marsh Arabs, for ...

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