Saturday, May 11, 2013

A small room inside a bay window. A single bed, a table and chair, and a sink. I could manage something larger, with more conveniences, but I could never match the view.

Spread out on the bed before me is a map of Patagonia, an area that comprises parts of Argentina and Chile, and whose name is derived from the name given by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1520 to the Patagónes he believed to be living there.

I never had much interest in Patagonia until I read Bruce Chatwin's In Patagonia (1977), which begins with the author's life-long interest in the area based on a piece of dinosaur hide his grandmother kept in her living room cabinet. This is a book I re-read every couple of years for the brevity and clarity of its anecdotes.

Another book on Patagonia is Paul Theroux's The Old Patagonian Express (1979), which I read after Chatwin's. While I enjoyed this book as well, my favourite passages come at the beginning, as Theroux sets out to retrace the historic route from his home in Massachusetts, travelling on commuter trains through Boston and Chicago, before reaching the North American plains.

No comments:

Post a Comment