With Chatwin: A Portrait of Bruce Chatwin by Susannah Clapp - review by Jan Morris

Jan Morris

Forget the Fluff

With Chatwin: A Portrait of Bruce Chatwin

By

Jonathan Cape 224pp £14.99 order from our bookshop
 

Somewhere in this well-balanced memoir Susannah Clapp says that Bruce Chatwin could be 'too much' for some people. As a person, he was decidedly too much for me. Snobbism, equally camp and genuine; showy connoisseurship of a quirky kind; the deadly energy of a raconteur; the insensitivity of the tuft-hunter; a gift for mimicry; sexual ambiguity of the Strength Through Joy kind (I can see him now, riding his bicycle blond and bare-backed through Powys, for all the world like a Hitler Youth) – all these characteristics, distilled into one very clever, exuberant and apparently ageless being, made all too rich a mixture for an unsophisticated provincial. But in arte veritas, and it is the strength of this mercifully unostentatious book that Chatwin the writer easily outplays Chatwin the man. Some of his own books turn me off, as he tended to turn me off, but some seem to me to be timeless works of art, in

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