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Bruce Chatwin Essay

2051 words - 8 pages

Nicholas Shakespeare is a novelist who grew up in the Far East before settling in Tasmania. His novels are The Vision of Elena Silves (1989,winner of the Somerset Maugham Award), The High Flyer (1993,nominated as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists of 1993), and The Dancer Upstairs (1995,named American Library Association Best Novel of 1997 after its U.S. publication).Bruce Chatwin’s What Am I Doing Here (1989) and Anatomy of Restlessness (1996) might well serve as twin epitaphs for his life. As a wanderer and a seeker, he roamed the world discovering its peoples, history, geography, stories, and, ultimately, himself. Nicholas Shakespeare’s biography suggests that in his writing Chatwin found the world, but only at his life’s end did he find himself.Charles Bruce Chatwin was born May 13, 1940, near Sheffield, England, to Charles and Margharita (née Turnell), both from middle-class families. Charles served in the Royal Navy, and Bruce spent most of the war living with his grandparents. He saw little of his father until the military was demobilized. The Milwards, his grandmother’s family, were world travelers and left the detritus from their wanderings in a Schatzkammer, a cabinet of wonders. Bruce insisted that these treasures first inspired his interest in travel.After the war Charles resumed his legal practice, and the family, enlarged by the birth of Bruce’s brother Hugh, settled in Brown’s Green House south of Birmingham, where Bruce was enrolled at Innisfree House. Later he claimed he was hopeless at school. In September, 1953, Bruce entered Malborough College, where, despite his disclaimer, he did well in English and history. He also excelled at dramatics and began his lifelong passion for collecting. His first real trip abroad came when he spent a summer in Sweden. Being away from England and family proved to have a lasting impact. Further trips to the continent during his school years increased the fascination with travel that consumed him throughout his life.Although he prepared for Oxford, the cessation of national service overcrowded the university, delaying his entrance. His father also lacked the finances. So Bruce went to London to work at Sotheby’s, the auction house, which provided the training for his “eye” and the beginnings of his writing career. A protégé of the firm’s director, Peter Wilson, Bruce rose quickly in the ranks, first to Antiquities and then to Impressionist Paintings, becoming head of both departments. Sotheby’s encouraged Bruce’s wanderlust, and he traveled extensively, searching for objects to auction. His advancing salary also allowed him to expand his collecting; more objects, and costlier ones, soon passed through his hands. Living in London also broadened his sex life with both women and men.Then Bruce met Elizabeth Chandler, Wilson’s secretary. She came from a distinguished, rich, and eccentric family...

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