Nowhere Is a Place

IN PATAGONIA (1978) was Chatwin’s first literary success. THE OLD PATAGONIAN EXPRESS made Theroux famous. In the pages that precede their Patagonian collaboration, Theroux remembers Chatwin, who died in 1989. His recollections of “chatter, chatter, chatter Chatwin” alone are worth the price of admission. What follows is an eloquent dialogue between passionate, imaginative, articulate travelers.

Patagonia is the southern tip of South America. It includes parts of Argentina and Chile and Tierra del Fuego. Magellan passed its shores in 1520 on his way around the world. There Charles Darwin made his astonishing observations. Its stark landscape, giant inhabitants (now extinct), and proximity to the bottom of the globe have drawn adventurers seeking extremes for hundreds of years. Its name has come to mean the ends of the world, the exotic, the fantastic. Its mysteries have inspired William Shakespeare, Herman Melville, and Edgar Allan Poe. It was in Patagonia that Coleridge’s mariner shot the albatross. It was in Patagonia that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid eluded, for a while, the Pinkerton Agency’s persistent detectives.

Chatwin and Theroux delivered their lecture together, with slides provided by RGS members. In this reissue of the lecture, the speaker-writer is identified before each section, and every other page is a photograph as beautiful and as dramatic as one has come to expect from Sierra Club Books. Notes on the photographs by Jeff Gnass are provided at the end of the book.