From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Celebrated English travel writer and novelist Chatwin (In Patagonia) died of AIDS 20 years ago; he was only 48. His letters—from such far-flung locales as Sweden, Afghanistan, his beloved Greece, Turkey, Africa, and, of course, Patagonia—are lovingly compiled and thoroughly annotated, with indispensable narrative (explaining, for instance, Chatwin™s sudden conversion to Eastern Christianity) by Chatwin™s widow and his biographer. Given to impulsive life and career changes, Chatwin discusses the full range of life from the mundane to the spiritual, from his writing to his dislike of his own œpretty boy looks. He charmed or intimately knew such cultural movers and shakers as Christopher Isherwood, Susan Sontag, Jasper Johns, Edmund White, and many others. There were at least two serious long-term relationships with men (one with filmmaker James Ivory). Yet the Chatwins remained married and always intellectual partners; toward the end of his life, Chatwin writes, despite marital difficulties, œneither of us have loved anyone else. (Feb. 7)
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*Starred Review* This compilation of correspondence is aptly titled. British travel writer and novelist Chatwin traveled widely, constantly, and obsessively—everywhere under the sun, in other words. He possessed a restless soul, to be sure. And to a large degree, he was secretive; information about his homosexuality and his affliction with the AIDS virus was closely guarded. He cast a personal spell with his charm and a lasting one through his works, which are so imaginative they are pure excitement to read; at the same time, however, it can be confusing to determine whether to see them as fiction or nonfiction. Nevertheless, beginning with his first published book, In Patagonia (1977), Chatwin maintained a reputation among discerning readers for his riveting characters—invented or not is unimportant, even in his travel books—and his rigorously precise writing style. Chatwin’s wife and his biographer (Bruce Chatwin, 2000) combined efforts over a two-decade period to retrieve more than 90 percent of Chatwin’s correspondence from childhood to immediately before his untimely death at 48. Chatwin’s many appreciators will see the compilation in its overall significance as a personal visit with one of their literary heroes, as much as that is possible now. --Brad Hooper