Under the Sun: Letters of Bruce Chatwin, Edited by Elizabeth Chatwin and Nicholas Shakespeare

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The Independent Culture

From the dazzling journey of In Patagonia to the scarcely coherent rambling of The Songlines, Chatwin's books were missives from a life on the run. The letters give the bare bones of his relentless itinerary.

We discover that Chatwin's character belied his angelic looks, though authors on deadline may be reassured by the discovery that The Songlines was delivered 17 years after signing the contract.

There can be few editors of epistolary collections with the honesty to declare they were once rendered "furious... totally fed up and exasperated" by the writer, but it is rare for a wife to edit her husband's letters.

This ego-driven collection is unlikely to attract many newcomers to Chatwin.