(Charles) Bruce Chatwin 1940–
English novelist and travel writer.
Each of Chatwin's books depicts a different world, consistently evoking the strangeness of place and people in a style termed "powerfully visual and aural" by the New Yorker. His acclaimed travel book, In Patagonia (1977), contains historical data and insightfully delineates people and places he encountered on a journey through the tip of South America. His first novel, The Viceroy of Ouidah (1980), was originally intended to be a biography but became instead an imaginative reconstruction of the nineteenth-century slave trade set within the former West African country of Dahomey. Horror and grotesque humor combine in this novel to depict the world and mentality of a Brazilian slave trader. Most critics praised the novel, although a few objected to the sensational subject matter.
Chatwin's second novel, On the Black Hill (1982), shifts locale once more. In this novel Chatwin delves into the lives of identical twins living in rural Wales. The important events in the story are confined to the family farm; the peculiarities and limited perspectives of that existence emerge through a series of compact, keenly observed episodes. Most critics praised the novel and Chatwin's compressed style. John Updike observed that Chatwin gave a sense "of the immensity of time a human life spans, a span itself dwarfed by the perspectives of history."
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 85-88.)