cover image Anatomy of Restlessness: 8selected Writings 1969-1989

Anatomy of Restlessness: 8selected Writings 1969-1989

Bruce Chatwin. Viking Books, $22.95 (216pp) ISBN 978-0-670-86859-9

Chatwin (In Patagonia), who died in 1989 at 49, was a brilliant writer of travel-related essays and fiction. This aptly titled posthumous volume brings together nearly all that remains of his uncollected writings. Even the book reviews fit Chatwin's passion for renunciation of anything tying one to a fixed abode. The collection scrapes the bottom of the barrel, for included is a long letter to his London publisher projecting a book on the nomadic life he would never complete. However, two essays intended for it follow, and they make the reader regret the decision to abandon the book. Two autobiographical pieces set his life in context, describing his beginnings as a writer and the background of his rejection of ""things."" Of the four short pieces characterized as fiction, at least two are also closely autobiographical. Chatwin quotes Robert Burton (The Anatomy of Melancholy) as claiming that everything we experience in nature teaches us ""that we should ever be in motion."" Whatever hampers mobility, Chatwin contends--and urban civilization is the chief obstacle--diminishes independence by attaching us to emotional and economic ""anchors."" These disparate pieces hang together thematically but will be attractive largely to Chatwin's legion of loyalists who want to learn more about him. (Aug.)