The Hay Festival 1994

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The Independent Culture
The spirit of an author can be felt just as keenly in his absence as in his presence - especially if he has affinities with a particular area, as the late Bruce Chatwin did with the Black Hill that adjoins the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Today, Chatwin's biographer Nicholas Murray will be exploring some of the themes of On the Black Hill, that novel which seems to sit so strangely with Chatwin's restless nature. The author's walks over the Black Hill began when he was a child, and continued through his school years at Marlborough, and his later friendships with such locals as Penelope Betjeman and George Melly.

Yesterday, travel writers Redmond O'Hanlon and Colin Thubron brought the spirit of the man back to us - all that eclectic knowledge, that manic energy, and that fastidious sense of outdoor dress.

Throughout the festival an exhibition of photographs of Chatwin's travels will be on display in the Maskrey's Gallery. Until after his death no one knew that Chatwin had been a photographer at all, though O'Hanlon had seen a camera about his person, given to him by Werner Herzog (according to Chatwin), and worth about pounds 6,000. The pictures themselves are painterly, bright, clear images of a static brilliance that display a fascination with surface.

Unlike Chatwin's reputation, the Black Hill itself is under threat. There is a proposal to build at least 15 wind turbines, in spite of the fact that the hill itself is designated a site of Special Scientific Interest. Chatwin would turn in his grave. Michael Glover

See below right for listings of today's events

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