- Category : Art-Photography
- Type : PEG
- Profile : 5/1 - Heretical / Investigator
- Definition : Split - Small (13)
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Dedication 1
British writer and traveler who won international acclaim for books which were based on his nomadic lifestyle. Chatwin’s writing was both thrilling and absorbing, carrying the reader with him to distant lands, and few writers were able to capture their readers’ imaginations as effortlessly as he did.
Born into a middle-class family, his father was a solicitor in Birmingham and was often away, sailing with the Navy. Chatwin received his education at boarding school and at Marlborough. He went to work at Sotheby’s in 1958 as a porter and rapidly progressed within the company due to an almost uncanny ability to spot fakes. His first novel, "Rotting Fruits," was written while he worked there. In 1966, he abandoned his promising career with the auction firm, however, to begin studying archeology at the University of Edinburgh; he flunked out halfway through the course. From 1973-76, he was a traveling correspondent for "The Sunday Times," London, but once again he broke from a seemingly secure life, and set off on a trip to Patagonia.
His book, "In Patagonia," chronicled these travels, winning awards in Britain and the United States. Chatwin wrote in a style devoid of flourish, with a keen eye for the small, seemingly irrelevant detail, and demonstrated the ability to capture a personality with his words. He kept notes throughout his travels, using moleskin notebooks, filling them with stories about the unusual people he met. He often mixed fact and fiction in his stories, and in his own life.
A strikingly handsome man, openly gay, with piercing eyes and tousled, fair hair, Chatwin assiduously cultivated a public persona, and a friend once described him as "Both mad and a snob about objects." He not only treasured fine art, but wanted everything about him to be the best as much as possible.
"The Songlines," 1987, was his most commercially successful work, and "Utz," 1988, was his last novel, although a collection of his essays titled "What Am I Doing Here?" was published after his death.
When he was 25 years old, he married Elizabeth Chanler, a woman he knew from Sotheby’s. They had no children, assuming that he was sterile though he was never tested to be sure. After 15 years together, she asked for a separation; however, toward the end of his life, they resumed their relationship.
In August 1986, dehydrated, anemic and weak, he was admitted to a clinic for tests, and on 9/05/1986, he was diagnosed HIV+. Always notoriously enigmatic, Chatwin went to great lengths to hide his disease from the public. Rumors had him suffering with various diseases such as malaria. He died of AIDS on 1/18/1989, 13:30 MET, at the state hospital in Nice, France.*
An artist and photographer throughout his life, Chatwin’s own artwork was published posthumously in "Photographs and Notebooks," 1993. His photographs trapped the beauty found in everyday objects, and his stark shots of crumbling shacks and ramshackle buildings displayed his keen awareness of the decay inherent in life.