To mark the 40th anniversary of the appearance of In Patagonia, Vintage is to publish next month an edition that contains Bruce Chatwin’s original proposal for what he was then calling “O Patagonia”. It also has a letter from Chatwin to a colleague in London, in which he declares: “I’m working on something that could be marvellous, but I’ll have to do it in my own way.” His own way turned out to be a form in which, in the words of his biographer Nicholas Shakespeare, “He tells not a half-truth, but a truth-and-a-half.”
The writer of the “NB” column in the current TLS says that the problem has dogged travel writers ever since:
The reader assumes that this is a true story; the writer sheepishly admits that it isn’t entirely. It was to cope with this sort of objection that the term “creative nonfiction” was born.