Bruce Chatwin Long Fiction Analysis
The principal theme that runs throughout all four of Bruce Chatwin’s novels is the fall of humankind from its pristine condition of nomadic innocence into the corrupt world of permanent location. Chatwin called this fall “the sins of settlement.” He used the myth of Cain and Abel rather than that of Adam and Eve to illustrate the fallen condition of the human race. Abel became a metaphor for the wandering nomadic shepherd, and Cain a metaphor for the first settler, because, after he was cast out of Eden, he moved east to found the first city. Chatwin applies this mythic fall to modern civilization in one form or another in all his novels; each novel is also a variation on what became his permanent theme: the nature of human restlessness.
The Viceroy of Ouidah
After the enormous success of his best-selling travelogue In Patagonia, Chatwin decided to write a scholarly biography on the notorious Brazilian slave trader Francisco Felix de Souza. However, after his second visit to Benin in 1978, when he was arrested and brutalized by the Marxist military government, he decided instead to write a fictionalized account of de Souza’s life. Benin had previously been known as Dahomey, an ancient city. Dahomey became, with de Souza’s assistance, one of the leading slave-trading countries during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. De Souza, a Brazilian, had come to Dahomey to acquire slaves from West...
(The entire section is 1371 words.)
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