Project Description

Bruce Chatwin 1999 (Shortlisted Whitbread Book of the Year)

Bruce Chatwin’s death from AIDS in 1989 brought a meteoric career to an abrupt end, since he burst onto the literary scene in 1977 with his first book, In Patagonia. Chatwin himself was different things to different people: a journalist, a photographer, an art collector, a restless traveller and a best-selling author; he was also a married man, an active homosexual, a socialite who loved to mix with the rich and famous, and a single-minded loner who explored the limits of extreme solitude. From unrestricted access to Chatwin’s private notebooks, diaries and letters, Nicholas Shakespeare has compiled the definitive biography of one of the most charismatic and elusive literary figures of our time.

Unimprovable (and unstoppably readable)
Pico Iyer, TIME
Quite simply, one of the most beautifully written, painstakingly researched, and cleverly constructed biographies written this decade. Shakespeare has a quite extraordinary empathy for his subject, whom he portrays with humor, warmth, and an eye for telling detail, creating a book almost as original, intelligent, and observant as those by Chatwin himself.
William Dalrymple, Literary Review
In Nicholas Shakespeare, Chatwin has found the right biographer. This is a magnificent work of empathy and detection
Colin Thubron, The Sunday Times
I take my scalp off to Nicholas Shakespeare. Biographies don’t come any better than this… A glorious quilt-work of texts, voices and places, joined together with consummate judgement
Justin Wintle, Financial Times
Moving and elegant… A superb portrayal of the restless and randy travel writer brings us as close to his hidden heart as we’re likely to get
Shakespeare’s engrossing bio does exactly what Chatwin’s fans have longed to do: get beneath the alluring but elusive quality of his persona and prose. Grade: A’
Entertainment Weekly
Immensely readable… Shakespeare portrays a man of colossal energies and intellect in perpetual conflict, whose life was a web of contradiction, controversy, and conundrum…. Shakespeare artfully synthesizes what could have been cacophonous voices into an impressively rendered and remarkably coherent portrait
Though it runs to 550 pages, Nicholas Shakespeare’s biography feels concise: comprehensively researched, elegantly written, perfectly balanced between the life, the books and the ideas. It’s hard to imagine the Life being better done – or that…there is anything now left to say
Blake Morrison, Independent on Sunday
An epic piece of work of immense fascination. In awe-inspiring detail… he does what Chatwin never did and drenches all these worlds in their emotional, human implications
Duncan Fallowell, The Times
This excellent biography is very far removed from Chatwin’s own anecdotal concision. However, it is fantastically difficult to fashion a narrative out of the inchoate facts of someone’s life. Shakespeare has managed to pull it off
Ian Thomson, Guardian
Vastly enjoyable
Thoroughly researched and unsparingly revealing … a graphic page-turner
Publishers Weekly
Masterful, absorbing…simply a brilliant portrait of the artist as a young man
An ingenious, outsize myth-meets-facts “life and works” of the charismatic global citizen and compulsive tale-teller…This spirited tell-all will make newcomers yearn to try his books. An unflinching reconstruction of a singular writer’s scorching trajectory through life: Speed makes it concise; fate makes it haunting
Kirkus Reviews