Page 26. " Port Madryn "

Port Madryn
Public DomainPort Madryn - Credit: NASA

Puerto Madryn is the capital of the Chubut province in Argentina. It was first settled by Welsh immigrants in 1865. They named it Porth Madryn in honour of colonist Sir Love Jones-Parry. In this aerial short of the Peninsula Valdes Port Madryn is located just above the bottom, left-hand corner.

The ageing clipper Mimosa sailed from Liverpool with the first Welsh settlers in May 1865. They arrived in Patagonia two months later. There were 153 passengers on board, although some claims put it at 163.

Page 26. " failed independence movement "

Wales had been annexed to England since Henry VIII and the Laws in Wales Acts, 1535-1542. Industrialisation in the early 19th century brought conflict between the Welsh and the English factory-owners, leading to unrest and calls for Welsh autonomy.

Page 26. " gave them land along the Chubut River "

The Welsh named the Rio Chubut (from the Teheulche chupat) Afon Camwy, or 'twisting river.' The 820km long river helped the settlers irrigate and prosper, spreading along the valley to Trelew, Rawson and Gaimán. Under the terms of the original settlement they were given up to 100 acres, and in 1875 the Argentine government granted them ownership of the land.

Page 26. " Calle Saint-Exupéry "

The road (calle) is named in honour of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of the famous novella Le Petit Prince. He was a keen aviator, and wrote the book Vol de Nuit (Night Flight) in 1931 in which a terrible storm takes place, a storm so strong planes flew backwards. He is best loved in the region, however, as the engineer of postal flights across Patagonia from 1929-1931.


Page 28. " since the flood "

The settlers found less rainfall in Patagonia than they had expected, but the Chubut Valley is prone to periodic flooding. The last substantial one took place in 1899, and as Mrs Jones is in her eighties it's possible, although unlikely, she is referring to this one.  

Page 29. " Neapolitan love songs "

Plaintive love songs popular in Naples. Here Caruso sings A Vucchella by Francesco Paolo Tosti and Gabriele D'Annunzio.


Page 30. " Archdruid "

The title given to the presiding official at the Eisteddfod, the annual Welsh arts, science and cultural festival.

Page 31. " salmuera "

Typically means brine, but Mrs Powell appears to have her own version.

Page 32. " complicated questions about Villa de'Este "
Villa d'Este
Creative Commons AttributionVilla d'Este - Credit: Neaners

A Renaissance villa in Tivoli where Franz Liszt was invited by its owner, Cardinal Gustav von Hohenlohe. Liszt composed his Les Jeux d'Eaux a la Villa d'Este to evoke the glorious gardens. They were later used to spectacular effect by the film-maker Kenneth Anger for his experimental short film L'Eaux d'artifice.

Listen on Spotify

Liszt had a close but sometimes difficult friendship with fellow composer Richard Wagner, who married his daughter Cosima.



Page 33. " the last music Chopin is writing "

Chopin's last composition was the Mazurka No. 49 in F. Minor, published posthumously.

Listen on Spotify

Page 35. " Welsh Bible Society "
The Bible Society was created in 1804 with the intention of making available, distributing and translating the bible into all the world's languages. A full Welsh language edition of both the Old and New Testaments was not available until 1588 when William Morgan completed his translation. The William Morgan bible is now the recognised bible in Wales, just as the King James bible is in England.
Page 36. " John Wesley's hymns "
Along with his brother Charles, John Wesley was one of the founders of the Methodist Church and a prolific writer of hymns.
Page 37. " the gaucho Martin Fíerro "
Martin Fierro First Edition
Public DomainMartin Fierro First Edition - Credit: LadyInGrey

The Argentine writer José Hernández (1834-1886) wrote his epic two-part poem about the fictional gaucho, Martin Fíerro, in protest against the Europeanisation of Argentina and as a celebration of the gauchos' role in ending Spanish colonial rule.

Page 37. " Ovid's Tristia "
Ovid Banished from Rome - Turner
GNU Free Documentation LicenseOvid Banished from Rome - Turner - Credit: The Athenaeum/Joseph Mallord William Turner

The books on The Maestro's desk don't just reflect the poet's personal tastes, but reveal Chatwin's own interests and summarise the concerns of the Patagonia settlers:

 Tristia is Ovid's poem of exile, following his banishment from Rome.

 Virgil wrote his Georgics as an examination of the trials and tensions of the 'land' and agriculture.

Henry David Thoreau lived for a while as a virtual hermit at Walden Pond in Massachusetts, resulting in his exploration of self-sufficiency and exile.

Antonio Pigafetta travelled with the Portugese explorer Ferdinand Magellan on the first recorded circumnavigation of the world. His Voyage of Magellan provides much of what we know about the journey.

Walt Whitman
Public DomainWalt Whitman - Credit: Bayley Collection/Samuel Hollyer

Walt Whitman's ambitious collection of poetry, Leaves Of Grass, provides a detailed insight into the vigour, process and effects of urbanisation in America.

W.H.Hudson set his adventure, The Purple Land, in Argentina and Uruguay. The story of an English adventurer who elopes to Montevideo after marrying a young Argentine without her father's permission, it's strong on accounts of gaucho life.

And William Blake's poems in his ambitious Songs of Innocence are a masterful paean to the joys and innocence of the natural world.

Given Chatwin's tendency to embellish, it's tempting to speculate that these books were selected for the pages of In Patagonia quite deliberately.




Page 38. " the poem can wait "

In Poetry and Drama, published by Faber and Faber in 195o, T.S. Eliot advised  prospective poets:

'The poem can wait a little while. The approval of a few sympathetic and judicious critics is enough to begin with.'

Page 39. " Zouave "
Public DomainZouaves - Credit: Maure Phot
An infantry of the French Army, the Zouaves originally came from the Zouaoua Berber tribes, but were later conscripted from across all North African territories under French rule, especially Algeria and Tunisia.
Page 42. " Instituto Bahai "

A monotheistic religion that believes in the rational soul, the Unity of God, the Unity of humankind, and full equality for men and women. The Bahá'í Faith originated in Persia in the mid-nineteenth century and follows the concept of He whom God shall make manifest, as written by their predecessor and inspiration Siyyid 'Alí-Muhammad of Shiraz. Seen as an apostasy to Islam, the Bahá'í's have been persecuted, tortured and even executed. In 1953 their leader, Shoghi Effendi, formulated his Ten Year Crusade with the intention of spreading the faith across the world.

Page 42. " Bokhara rugs "
Rugs of Central Asia
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeRugs of Central Asia - Credit: Todd Huffman - Flickr

Beautifully ornate, hand woven rugs from Central Asia. Bokhara (or Bukhara, after the Uzbekistan town from where they originate) are mostly made in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.

Page 42. " Shahnama "

The Shahnameh (Book of Kings) is a voluminous epic by the poet Ferdowsi, written in the 10th century. It tells of the history, religion and culture of all Persia and is still revered across Iran and Central Asia to this day.

Page 49. " belonged in the black tents "


Bedouin tents in Palestine
Public DomainBedouin tents in Palestine - Credit: Elmendorf, Dwight Lathrop

The tents of the Bedouins in Arabia were often made of goat's hair, and were therefore black or dark brown.



Page 50. " Clemente Onelli "

Onelli was an explorer and naturalist who worked for the Argentine Boundary Commission in the early 20th century to establish the border between Chile and Argentina. Chatwin later compares him to wandering characters from three of Richard Wagner's operas.