Skip to main content

The Gold Machine

Tracking the Ancestors from Highlands to Coffee Colony

Iain Sinclair

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

  • Publication date: September 1, 2022
  • ISBN: 9780861543731
  • RRP: £10.99
  • Pages: 432
  • Publication date: September 2, 2021
  • ISBN: 9781786079190
  • RRP: £20.00
  • Pages: 432
  • Publication date: September 2, 2021
  • ISBN: 9780861540716
  • RRP: £9.99
  • Pages: 356


‘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

Iain Sinclair

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.

Author page

More books by Iain Sinclair

Sign up to our newsletter

Sign up to our newsletters to find out more about our latest books and offers, straight to your inbox.
Select mailing lists