Book review: ‘In Patagonia’ by Bruce Chatwin

Wandering about Patagonia with no clear plan in mind.

In Patagonia

I first read In Patagonia many years ago, and had been meaning to re-read it for some time. My memories of it still left a lasting, albeit vague, impression. But my ageing eyes were put off by the small typeface in my battered old copy of the book. Fortunately, the 40th anniversary edition proved far easier to read.

My vague memories of the book weren’t far wrong. After all these years, In Patagonia is still a strange, haunting book. Bruce Chatwin seems to wander about Patagonia with no clear plan in mind, delving into history, making random excursions, and describing encounters with colourful locals. It’s a format that works well.

Being more cynical than when I first read the book, I now suspect some of Chatwin’s stories were embellished for dramatic effect. But In Patagonia remains an unusual, fascinating read.

On thing I had forgotten was just how short most of the chapters are. There are 97 of them in total, with many being only two or three pages long. It’s a format I found remarkably engaging. With such short chapters, Chatwin doesn’t have time to hang about. He’s on to his next subject and up to speed in a couple of sentences. Which makes the book a real page-turner.

Still very good, after 40 years.