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In Patagonia Paperback – June 7, 1988

110 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Fascinated by Patagonia since an early childhood lust for Grandma's scrap of hairy Giant Sloth skin, Chatwin's also intrigued by odd miners and the log cabin built by Butch Cassidy in Cholila. In 1977 the London Observer called it "a brilliant travel book," and while Chatwin's no longer alive (he died in 1989), his book still glows. From Rio Negro to the southernmost town of Ushuaia, Chatwin depicts all in writing as spare as the Patagonian desert itself, and as vibrant as the purple clouds off Last Hope Sound.


"Elliptical and alive, this is a brilliant travel book" Observer "It is hard to pin down what makes In Patagonia so unique, but, in the end, it is Chatwin's brilliant personality that makes it what it is... His form of travel was not about getting from A to B. It was about internal landscapes." Sunday Times "The chameleon traveller...who wrote books in a genre of their own, and whose life was his own subtlest creation... a complex, flamboyantly gifted and rather tragic figure" -- Colin Thubron Guardian --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Later Printing edition (June 7, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014011291X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140112917
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,874,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bruce Chatwin reinvented British travel writing with his first book, In Patagonia, and followed it with many travel books and novels, each unique and extraordinary. He died in 1989.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Published back in 1978, Bruce Chatwin's seamless mix of fact and fiction is still among the most enthralling of travel books. Prompted by a piece of reddish animal skin he found in his grandmother's curio cabinet when he was a child, the author ignites himself on a flight of fancy about its origin. This leads him to an expansive area of wild beauty, Patagonia on South America's southernmost tip. I have been lucky enough to visit this part of the world myself about four years ago, and I can confirm from my travels that Chatwin does an amazing job of capturing not only its physical splendor but its colorful inhabitants. However, this is no linear travel narrative, as the author breaks his stories down into mini-sections, ninety-seven in total.

Several of the episodes deal with his own experiences on the road and the individuals he encounters like the gauchos on the pampas, the Welsh-originated villagers, a French soprano, and a hippie from Haight-Ashbury looking for work in the mines. Interspersed with these accounts are snippets of history, real or imagined, such as an unknown connection between Magellan's expedition and Shakespeare's "The Tempest", the whereabouts of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid after they left the states, and a 19th-century European lawyer who convinced the local Araucanian Indians to elect him their monarch. Chatwin shows particular gift for culling whimsical trivia into a greater storytelling context that is hard to resist as long as the reader is aware that little of it is verifiable. He inevitably ends the book the way he started - by finding the source of the animal scrap. Few writers have shown such a vivid imagination and a powerful sense of imagery as Chatwin has with his splendid travelogue. This will make those with an extreme case of wanderlust want to book their flights to Punta Arenas, Chile, right away.
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62 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful collection of tall tales, fiction, fact and bizarre anecdotes, loosely connected by their association with a sparsely populated part of South America. Unfortunately critics and publishers in their obsessive need to categorise books, called it a Travel Book. This was misleading, as are the claims that he reinvented travel writing or had some sort of unique insight into Patagonia, its people, history and landscape. Chatwin was primarily a storyteller, not a travel writer or an expert on Southern Argentina. His talent for the 5-6 page yarn is unparalleled in modern literature and this is as good as anything he wrote.
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59 of 69 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 5, 1997
Format: Paperback
Reviews of Bruce Chatwin's "In Patagonia" tend to gush emotionally about Chatwin's spare verse and quirky sketches of colorful characters. Others have claimed to have used his book as a guide while living in Patagonia. As much as Chatwin's now-famous travelogue offers pleasant reading, it still pales in comparison to other Patagonian travel books, including "Edward Chace, A Yankee in Patagonia." Chatwin also liberally hijacked ideas straight from previous authors, who made his journey and investigated the same people and subjects a full four or five decades before the publication of "In Patagonia." What's more, the locals down there (and a Ph.D candidate in Patagonia history I met on my journeys) hate Chatwin, claiming he was sloppy with his facts about their relatives. Chatwin's name in Patagonia is as popular as General Sherman's in Atlanta. So don't get overwhelmed by the Chatwin hype. Browse the Patagonian classics you'll find on most library shelves first, then reread this so-called masterpiece. Comparative shopping is worth the effort here.
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106 of 129 people found the following review helpful By Caitlin Johnson on March 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
In December 1947, Bruce Chatwin began a journey through Patagonia, a "vast, vague territory that encompasses 900,000 square kilometres of Argentina and Chile." As he wandered, Chatwin recorded the stories of the people he met and those who had gone before him; "fugitives of justice, regime change, or simply 'the coop of England.'" The result was In Patagonia, an instant classic that was described as "a law unto itself."

Thirty years later, I landed in Puerto Montt, Chile at the northwestern edge of Patagonia and started my own journey through that windswept country. I toted In Patagonia along with me as I traveled through Patagonia; resolving every few days to read it, only to put in down in favor of more entertaining books after the first few pages. Despite the book's inability to really grab my attention, I had this unshakable notion that if one has a book titled In Patagonia and one is, in fact, in Patagonia, one should read the book. (This was coupled with the fact that I had used precious cargo space to haul the book 6,000 miles from home and I was damn well going to make use of it.) It wasn't until the end of the journey, while bussing it across Patagonia, that I packed all of my books *except* In Patagonia in the backpack that was stored underneath of the bus. Upon arriving in Punta Arenas ten hours later, I still didn't like In Patagonia, but I had read over a hundred pages and felt honor bound to stick it out for the rest of the book.

Paul Theroux best sums up what I didn't like about In Patagonia: "How had he traveled from here to there? How had he met this or that person? Life was never so neat as Bruce made out.
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