The bisexual English novelist, archaeologist and travel writer BRUCE CHATWIN was born in Sheffield England. Chatwin’s book include the travelogue In Patagonia (1977), The Viceroy of Ouidah (1980), on the slave trade in Benin, For The Songlines, on the power of Australian aboriginal music and On the Black Hill a novel on the relationship of twin brothers in Wales.
In the late 1980s, Chatwin contracted AIDS. He was one of the first high-profile sufferers of the disease in Britain and although he hid the illness – passing off his symptoms as fungal infections or the effects of the bite of a Chinese bat, a typically exotic cover story – it was a poorly kept secret. He did not respond well to AZT, and suffered increasing bouts of psychosis which included extravagant shopping trips around the auction rooms of London – many of which purchases his wife quietly returned.
With his condition deteriorating rapidly, Chatwin and his wife went to live in the South of France at the house that belonged to the mother of his one-time lover, the designer Jasper Conran. Chatwin died in Nice in 1989 at age 48.
The novelist Paul Theroux, Chatwin’s one-time friend and fellow-writer, later commented on the memorial service in a piece he wrote for Granta, condemning Chatwin for failing to acknowledge that the disease he was dying of was AIDS. Lovers of the little black moleskin journals have undoubtedly read the story of Chatwin’s popularizing of the books. The story goes that when the small bookmaker in Paris was going out of business, Chatwin bought out all of their stock to use on his travels.