Chatwin on Collecting I

The acquisition of an object in itself becomes a Grail Quest – the chase, the recognition of the quarry, the decision to purchase, the sacrifice and fear of financial ruin, the Dark Cloud of Unknowing (‘Is it a fake’?), the wrapping, the journey home, the ecstasy of undressing the package, the object of the quest unveiled, the night one didn’t go to bed with anyone, but kept vigil, gazing, stroking, adoring a new fetish – the companion, the lover, but very shortly the bore, to be kicked out or sold off while another more desirable thing supplants itself in our affections. I have often noticed that in the really great collections the best objects congregate like a host of guardian angels around the bed, and the bed itself is pitifully narrow. The true collector houses a corps of inanimate lovers to shore up the wreckage of life. In a self-analysis of surgical precision, Signor Mario Praz, in his House of Life, explains that people are never reliable. Instead one should surround oneself with things, for they never let you down.”

In Bruce Chatwin – Anatomy of Restlessness: Selected Writings 1969-1989. 1996, p. 172.


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