“A little known episode from the life of Edward Elgar, his trip up the Amazon in 1922, is, on the surface, the subject of one of my all-time favourite reads, the prize-winning novel Gerontius by James Hamilton-Paterson. But Gerontius, like Elgar 's music, has many facets and the themes of travel and water are employed cleverly to define a ratio between going away from somewhere and arriving somewhere else, leaving something behind and discovering something new. But what emerges from a series of encounters and awe-inspiring views is the opposite of an anthropological field trip to confirm cultural differences. Instead the reader is left with the notion that nothing new is ever found that does not repeat the memory of something that is lost. Everything is re-discovery and no matter how exotic the destination, the traveller will always find the same thing he left behind
James Hamilton-Paterson left the United Kingdom twenty-seven years ago and, since then, has lived mainly in Italy and the Philippines. His books include America’s Boy, a non-fiction account of the Marcos family, and the novels Loving Monsters and Cooking with Fernet Branca. Rancid Pansies is his most recent novel.
A travel writer, memoirist, poet and award-winning novelist, James Hamilton-Paterson worked as a hospital porter and teacher before he left the UK 25 years ago. He now divides his time between Tuscany and the Philippines. Though regarded by many as one of our finest prose stylists, his reclusiveness has placed him at the edge of the cultural mainstream. Ian Thomson reports on a literary loner
James Hamilton-Paterson is among the most reclusive and mysterious of British literary exiles. A loner by temperament, he belongs to no metropolitan coterie or salon, and for the past 25 years has ploughed his own furrow. His work resists definition. Travel? Autobiography? Fiction? I suppose it has elements of all three, Hamilton-Paterson says, adding: Publishers find it hard to pigeonhole me. His books have won him a cult readership, nevertheless. In addition to five non-fiction works, he has published two volumes of poetry, five novels, three children's books, two short story collections. He also writes a fortnightly column on marine and scientific matters for a Swiss magazine. Now 62, Hamilton-Paterson left his native England over a quarter of a century ago, and divides his time between Tuscany and the Philippines. He describes himself (with characteristic self-deprecation) as a rat-poor literary drifter and professional absentee .