In Patagonia

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In Patagonia
Cover of the first edition
Author Bruce Chatwin
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Travel
Publisher Jonathan Cape
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 240
ISBN 0-224-01419-6
OCLC 3687188
LC Class F2936 .C47

In Patagonia is an English travel book by Bruce Chatwin, published in 1977.


In 1972, Chatwin was hired by the Sunday Times Magazine as an adviser on art and architecture.[1] His association with the magazine cultivated his narrative skills and he travelled on many international assignments, writing on such subjects as Algerian migrant workers and the Great Wall of China, and interviewing such people as André Malraux,[2] in France, and Nadezhda Mandelstam,[3] in the Soviet Union.

In 1972, Chatwin interviewed the 93-year-old architect and designer Eileen Gray in her Paris salon, where he noticed a map of the area of South America called Patagonia which she had painted.[4] "I've always wanted to go there," Bruce told her. "So have I," she replied, "go there for me." Two years later, in November 1974, Chatwin flew out to Lima in Peru, and reached Patagonia a month later.[5] When he arrived there he severed himself from the newspaper with a telegram: "Have gone to Patagonia." He spent six months there, a trip which resulted in the book In Patagonia (1977), which established his reputation as a travel writer.


The book is highly experimental in the way that it is structured. It is divided into a total of 97 separate sections, some of which are as short as a lone paragraph. In a sense this construction with its frequent use of digression, rather than a standard linear structure, mirrors one of the underlying themes of the work as a whole: a meditation upon wandering and nomadism in human life. This is accentuated by the fact that many of the narratives of the people that Chatwin meets in the work involve discussions of the nomadic life.[6]


The New York Times described it as a "little masterpiece of travel, history, and adventure."[7] Chatwin's fascination with Patagonia had its roots in a scrap of mylodon skin that sailor Charley Milward, his grandmother's cousin, had sent back to England.[8]

Some reviewers compared it with classics of travel literature such as Travels by Sir John Mandeville, Eothen by Alexander Kinglake and The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron.

After Chatwin had published the book and gained acclaim as a travel writer, however, residents in the region came forward to contradict the events depicted in the book.[9] It was the first, but not the last, time in his career that conversations and characters that Chatwin reported were alleged to have been fictionalised.[citation needed]


In Patagonia was awarded the Hawthornden Prize and the E. M. Forster Award.


  1. ^ Shakespeare 1999, p. 267.
  2. ^ Shakespeare 1999, p. 280
  3. ^ Chatwin 1990, pp. 83–85
  4. ^ Shakespeare 1999, p. 286
  5. ^ Shakespeare 1999, pp. 287–291
  6. ^ MacFarlane, Robert. "Book of a Lifetime: In Patagonia, By Bruce Chatwin". The Independent. Retrieved 29 June 2014. 
  7. ^ Review at Powell's Books
  8. ^ Utz, Richard. "In Patagonia". The Literary Encyclopedia. 09 March 2001
  9. ^ Introduction by Nicholas Shakespeare Chatwin 2005, xxiii-xxv