Skip to Main Content

The Gold Machine

Tracking the Ancestors from Highlands to Coffee Colony

Published by Oneworld Publications
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

A New Statesman Book of the Year, 2021

‘Follow Iain Sinclair into the cloud jungles of Peru and emerge questioning all that seemed so solid and immutable.’ Barry Miles

From the award-winning author of The Last London and Lights Out for the Territory, a journey in the footsteps of our ancestors.

Iain Sinclair and his daughter travel through Peru, guided by – and in reaction to – an ill-fated colonial expedition led by his great-grandfather. The family history of a displaced Scottish highlander fades into the brutal reality of a major land grab. The historic thirst for gold and the establishment of sprawling coffee plantations leave terrible wounds on virgin territory.

In Sinclair’s haunting prose, no place escapes its past, and nor can we.

The Gold Machine is a trip, a psychoactive expedition in compelling company.’ TLS

About The Author

Iain Sinclair is the award-winning writer of numerous critically acclaimed books on London, including The Last London, Lights Out for the Territory, London Orbital and London Overground. He won the Encore Award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel Downriver. He lives in Hackney, East London.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (September 2, 2021)
  • Length: 356 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780861540716

Browse Related Books

Raves and Reviews

‘Follow Iain Sinclair into the cloud jungles of Peru and emerge questioning all that seemed so solid and immutable. The Gold Machine made me angry, sad, envious of Sinclair’s beautiful, evocative prose and grateful that I did not have to endure a soroche headache to gain a new understanding of colonial attitudes and the damage we have done.’

– Barry Miles

‘A glorious achievement, by turns drily humorous and darkly atmospheric.’

– Ian Thomson, FT

The Gold Machine is an intense negotiation with [Sinclair’s] ancestor… the driest of wit… Sinclair is incapable of writing a dull sentence, and his style in many ways reflects the hallucinatory nature of the tropics. I cannot think of many authors who can combine “sordid pilgrimage”, “manufactured myths” and “Jungian misdirection” in a single paragraph… The classic tropes of Sinclair’s work are all here, although transposed onto the Peruvian backdrop… The Gold Machine is a form of alchemy, and Sinclair is a wry sorcerer throughout.’

– The Spectator

‘The journey is richly imaginative, Sinclair’s mind sparkling with connections… The Gold Machine is a trip, a psychoactive expedition in compelling company. We finish it reeling slightly, and feeling grateful to have undertaken this journey without having to leave home.’

– Miranda France, TLS

‘Impeccably researched’

– The New Yorker

‘Other than Peter Ackroyd, nobody knows London better than Sinclair. Here, five decades into a distinguished writing career, he ventures farther afield, traveling to Peru on the trail of a Scottish ancestor who sought his fortune in coffee… Fans of travel literature will prize this shimmering account of a journey into the past.’

– Kirkus, starred review

‘In this magnificent book, Iain Sinclair and his daughter follow their culpable, intrepid ancestor into Peru, towards a coffee-black heart of colonial darkness. Of course the old man is looking for gold, and finding it, on every page, in every line. A sultry masterpiece.’

– Alan Moore

‘Marshalling his exceptional skills of social observation and narrative, Britain’s finest modern essayist Iain Sinclair strikes south in The Gold Machine… he conducts an elegiac dialogue between generations and sinks into the deep past.’

– New Statesman, Books of the Year, 2021

‘Sinclair’s discursive, intensely literate prose knits together time and place.’

– Washington Post, Best travel books of 2021

‘Swapping London for Lima, Hackney for Huancayo, in an unexpected departure from more familiar territory, The Gold Machine tracks a feverish descent into the darkness of Peru’s colonial past, as Sinclair follows in the footsteps of his nineteenth-century forbear. Written with his customary linguistic flair, this is a vivid and revealing addition to a unique body of work.’

– Merlin Coverley, author of Psychogeography

‘Excavator, outlier, alchemist. Sinclair’s formidable gaze turns backwards, forwards and touchingly inwards. A father–daughter pilgrimage to the rapids and along the bloodline: panning for salt, coffee, gold, misdeeds, consequences, presence, absence, family…and self. Disarmingly tender, generous and brimming. A book of wonder (noun and verb), from first word to last I was agog.’

– Keggie Carew, author of Dadland

‘Like Fitzcarraldo carrying a boat over mountains to fabulous worlds, Sinclair backpacks all the known legends, skeletons and lies, to tightrope a lurching dazzling bridge between generations. His, ours and those to come. Splendid in corruption. Wealthy in shock. This is the invaders' New Testament. Jamming gold coins in our eyes for lenses, leaving nothing to pay the boatman, because after this reads you, there is no place to go. A masterpiece.’

– B. Catling, author of The Vorrh Trilogy

‘Sinclair is the laureate of the peripatetic and The Gold Machine is his Heart of Darkness. It is the brilliantly written narrative of a long, dark journey into his own familial past. The magic begins on page 1 and continues to its end.’

– Duncan Wu, Raymond A. Wagner Professor of Literature, Georgetown University

‘Iain Sinclair remains the reigning ambassador from the kingdom of books, a fifty-year argument for the practice and legitimacy of writing. The Gold Machine extends the argument. Sinclair and his daughter travel to Peru and re-create the colonial expedition of his great-grandfather, pathways laid out in the forgotten ancestor’s published works. This is what the template has always been, will always be. Find an old book, absorb its secret message, go outside and destroy yourself in its service. Brilliant.’

– Jarett Kobek, author of I Hate the Internet

‘This is some of the best prose Sinclair has ever written – its poetic playfulness always in energetic tandem with razor-sharp observation. The book also transcends the genres you throw at it. It is a post-colonial essay haunted, if not deeply disturbed, by what the complex literary spirits of Conrad, Poe, Burroughs, Ginsberg and Ed Dorn bring to the party, a peripatetic séance in Amazonia often rudely interrupted by reality. This is an enthralling read.’

– Paul Tickell, film-maker and journalist

‘Ceylon, Australia and Peru, as well as Dundee, Maesteg and, of course, Hackney too. The Gold Machine thrusts a sharp and revealing probe into the not always leafy heartlands of Britain’s imperial past. Perfect reading for anyone keen to understand how this history continues to weigh on the present, and a prophetic last word for those Brexit-crazed champions of “unwoke” England who refuse to accept that it is over.’

– Patrick Wright, Professor (emeritus) of Literature, History and Politics, King’s College London

‘This book is further proof that, when he leaves London, Iain Sinclair’s gifts of observation expand to suit his subject. In The Gold Machine he follows the psychic and physical resonances of a visionary ancestor through the personal origin myth he has explored in poetry and prose all his life. Marshalling his exceptional skills of social observation and narrative, Britain’s finest modern essayist strides South. Travelling with his daughter Farne he conducts an elegiac dialogue between generations and sinks into the deep past, making profound associations, travelling back and forth in time through a rapidly changing Peru on the trail of the mysterious Arthur Sinclair.’

– Michael Moorcock

‘The physical journey begins in Lima; the intellectual voyage, as Sinclair devotees might guess, is serpentine… Prospective readers may wonder how this avowed Londoner gets on outside the M25. The answer is that he fares well… Sinclair fulfils his “unspoken obligation” to go to the Amazon with honesty and nerve… he has drawn attention to a predatory past that Britain has long forgotten.’

– Literary Review

‘Sinclair uses his passion for psychogeography to tell the story of what has happened in the years since the Peruvian Corporation left the Ashaninka people, how monetization exploited generational farming practices and left them in ruins… a thrilling ride.’

– Booklist

‘Sinclair’s observations are sharp and vital… [The Gold Machine] stands in the long line of travel books where it is the journey, rather than its inspiration, that proves to be compelling.’

– Geographical Magazine

‘This book follows the eye-opening journey of the author and his daughter through Peru. It deftly contrasts the country’s eco-tourism industry of today with the colonial incursions of his great-grandfather – a displaced Highlander – and his thirst for gold.’

– Scots Magazine

‘Sinclair walks every inch of his wonderful psychogeographies, pacing out huge word-courses like an architect laying out a city on an empty plain.’

– J.G. Ballard

‘Sentence for sentence, there is no more interesting writer at work in English.’

– John Lanchester

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images

More books from this author: Iain Sinclair