Chatwin's blunt, bizarrely funny, and engaging statements in "In Patagonia"

Ann Pepi, English 171, Sages and Satirists, Brown University, 2002

Drawn into a bizarre world, through intrigue surrounding a bit of dried skin flecked with red hair, it is no wonder that I often found myself left wondering upon a literary meseta in In Patagonia. As someone perpetually falling for eloquent nature descriptions, I assumed my attention would caught by the colors of the Patagonian wilds, "And where one meseta broke off, there were four mountains, four peaks piled one on the other in a straight line: a purple hump, an orange column, a cluster of pink spires, and the cone of a dead volcano, ash-grey and streaked with snow. The river ran down to a lake, Lake Ghio, with water a bright milky turquoise. The shores were blinding white and the cliffs also were white, or striped horizontally white and terracotta. Along the north shore were clear water lagoons of sapphire blue separated from the opaline water by a band of grass." In addition to colorful accounts of nature and people Bruce Chatwin gained my trust as a reader through detailed, researched historical accounts; yet, while the descriptions were picturesque and vivid I remained in awe upon beautifully stratified mesetas almost solely because of the odd endings Chatwin inserted at the conclusions of his essays/stories. Below are short statements and abrupt endings from the closings of his various writings.

In the same, seemingly random, way that Chatwin mentions "The Sundance Kid was a keen Wagnerian", he also states: "Never kick the woman you love", "Albatrosses and penguins are the last birds I'd want to murder", "He died of delirium tremens in his mid-forties", "'He probably ate them,'the fat man said", and "The Golden Age ended when men stopped hunting, settled in houses and began the daily grind."

It seems Chatwin most always ends his short essays with a segue into the next or with something akin to one of the above blunt, bizarrely funny, and engaging statements. What I am curious to know is why? Why choose short, abrupt cliffhangers for endings as opposed to smooth sentences that would link essays together with subtle transition? What reaction is trying to be summoned within the reader's mind?

United Kingdom In Patagonia Reading and Discussion Questions

Last modified 9 April 2002