What am I Doing Here?
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What am I Doing Here?

By (author) Bruce Chatwin

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In this collection of profiles, essays and travel stories, Chatwin takes us to Benin, where he is arrested as a mercenary during a coup; to Boston to meet an LSD guru who believes he is Christ; to India with Indira Ghandi when she attempted a political comeback in 1978; and to Nepal where he reminds us that 'Man's real home is not a house, but the Road, and that life itself is a journey to be walked on foot'

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  • Paperback | 384 pages
  • 128 x 196 x 24mm | 322.05g
  • 01 Jan 2009
  • VINTAGE
  • Vintage Classics
  • London
  • English
  • 0099769816
  • 9780099769811
  • 155,598

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Author Information

Bruce Chatwin was born in Sheffield in 1940. After attending Marlborough School he began work as a porter at Sotheby's. Eight years later, having become one of Sotheby's youngest directors, he abandoned his job to pursue his passion for world travel. Between 1972 and 1975 he worked for the Sunday Times, before announcing his next departure in a telegram: 'Gone to Patagonia for six months.' This trip inspired the first of Chatwin's books, In Patagonia, which won the Hawthornden Prize and the E.M.Forster Award and launched his writing career. Two of his books have been made into feature films: The Viceroy of Ouidah (retitled Cobra Verde), directed by Werner Herzog, and Andrew Grieve's On the Black Hill. On publication The Songlines went straight to No.1 in the Sunday Times bestseller list and remained in the top ten for nine months. On the Black Hill won the Whitbread First Novel award while his novel Utz was nominated for the 1988 Booker prize. He died in January 1989, aged forty-eight.

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Review quote

"As a writer he was unclassifiably interesting: lucid, ironic, cool. He seemed to owe nothing to anybody." -- Colin Thubron Sunday Times "Chatwin is equally fascinating on places. He goes yeti-hunting in Nepal, and magnificently evokes the Himalayas' seductive harshness. He visits Afghanistan in the steps of his own favourite writer, Robert Byron, and reveals something no current news report ever succeeds in doing why anyone should want to spend time in that beautiful, tormented land...human existence at least as Chatwin sees it is gloriously open-ended, unpredictable and exotic" Sunday Times "One of its chief delights is that it contains so many of its author'sbest anecdotes, his choicest performances" -- Salman Rushdie Observer "I like the combination of its far-reaching quality and the minute precision with which his thoughts are charted" -- Rose Tremain Sunday Times "All the writing in this volume demonstrates Bruce Chatwin's loathing of the humdrum, the dreary, the predictable. What attracted him was the unusual, the weird and wonderful... the journalist in him (strongly present) knew a good story when it heard one" -- Margaret Forster Guardian

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Review text

A vibrant, mischievous collection of 35 profiles, stories, and travelogues by the author of The Songlines and In Patagonia, these impressively idiosyncratic pieces acquire a terrible poignancy in light of Chatwin's untimely death last January. Chatwin's predilection for the bizarre runs riot here ("my whole life has been a search for the miraculous," he admits), as his wanderings to weird corners of the world bring him up against some exceptional - and exceptionally strange - characters and events. In Benin, he is arrested as a mercenary; in Boston, he meets self-proclaimed avatar Mel Lyman, who idolizes Charles Manson and draws cosmic meaning from the Super Bowl; in Hong Kong, he learns the tricks of the geomancer's trade. The best pieces profile Arthur Koestler and Werner Herzog ("the only person with whom I could have a one-to-one conversation on what I would call the sacramental aspect of walking"), both experts at living on the fringes. Chatwin himself tweaks the reader at times with queer opinions ("Russia's revolution is the outstanding intellectual event of the century"), but most often he lets his varied oddballs speak for themselves. A flamboyant early Chinese Emperor obsessed with horses, an Indian wolf-boy, an expatriate American who paints nothing but postage stamps - on and on, the cavalcade dazzles, and Chatwin clearly delights in the telling. Irresistible, for those who like the offbeat - and a reminder of how it hurts when a novel literary voice is lost forever. (Kirkus Reviews)

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