Page 253. " The Solitudes of Góngora "
Luis de Góngora
Public DomainLuis de Góngora - Credit: Diego Velázquez.

Luis de Góngora (1561-1627) was one of Spain's greatest poets and a contemporary of Lope de Vega. His unfinished Solitudes are considered his masterpiece, a fabulous tale of shipwreck in which a turkey is compared to a jewel, cranes plough 'the oceans of the empty air' and a campsite is compared to a 'green chapel.'


Page 253. " The Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías "
The bullfight
Public DomainThe bullfight - Credit: Arturo Michelena

Lorca's lament to a famous bullfighter, gorged to death in the Plaza de Manzanares, is considered one of the greatest elegies in the Spanish language.


Page 255. " Walter Rauff is the inventor of the Gas Truck "

In Patagonia's shortest section is also one of its most haunting, a potent example of Chatwin's laconic style.

Walter Rauff was one of the most reviled men of the Nazi regime, an SS Officer thought to be responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 people. He was stationed in North Africa between 1942 and 1943, where he organised the persecution of the Jews in the Middle East. He was then sent to Italy where he oversaw the mass execution of Jews and Partisans.

He settled in Chile in 1958 at Punta Arenas, working for a crab cannery. Although arrested, he was set free by the Chilean Supreme Court, a decision Salvador Allende regretted he was unable to overrule. It is thought that he might have acted as an advisor to Allende's successor, the dictator Augusto Pinochet. But the CIA could never trace him. He was tracked-down in Santiago in 1979 however, by the film-maker William Bemister who persuaded him to be interviewed for the award-winning documentary The Hunter and The Hunted.

In 1941, Rauff worked on the development of the Gas Truck - a mobile killing chamber that pumped carbon monoxide back into the air-tight compartment where the Gestapo's victims were held.

Page 256. " La Mer "

As Chatwin finally sails away from Patagonia he is treated to a rendition of La Mer by a Chilean businessman. There are two possible candidates:

The unexpected hit by French singer Charles Trenet, which has since gone on to be recorded by hundreds of artists, including Bobby Darin.   Listen on Spotify:  Charles Trenet: La Mer     Bobby Darin: Beyond the Sea  

Or Debussy's orchestral work in three movements.    La Mer I    La Mer II   La Mer III

Whichever, we can only assume it would have been a very bad rendition; played on a piano 'missing many of its keys.'