cover image Under the Sun: The Letters of Bruce Chatwin

Under the Sun: The Letters of Bruce Chatwin

Bruce Chatwin, selected and edited by Elizabeth Chatwin and Nicholas Shakespeare, Viking, $35 (554p) ISBN 978-0-670-02246-5

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 “pretty 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, “neither of us have loved anyone else.” (Feb. 7)