The Songlines

( 3 )


Part adventure story, part philosophical essay, this extraordinary book takes Bruce Chatwin into the heart of Australia on a search for the source and meaning of man's restless nature.
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Part adventure story, part philosophical essay, this extraordinary book takes Bruce Chatwin into the heart of Australia on a search for the source and meaning of man's restless nature.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In his new book, Chatwin (In Patagonia, etc.) explores the area around Alice Springs, in central Australia, where he ponders the source and meaning of nomadism, the origins of human violence and the emergence of mankind amid arid conditions. Searching for ``Songlines''the invisible pathways along which aboriginal Australians travel to perform their central cultural activitiesChatwin is accompanied by Arkady Volchok, a native Australian and tireless bushwalker who is helping the aboriginals protect their sacred sites through the provisions of the Land Rights Act. Chatwin's description of his adventures in the bush forms the most entertaining part of the book, but he also includes long quotations from other writersanthropologists, biologists, even poets. These secondary materials provide a resonant backdrop for the author's reflections on the distinctions between settled people and wanderers, between human aggression and pacifism. First serial to the New York Review of Books. (August 17)
Library Journal
For Australian aborigine's ``songlines'' are the string of sites of significant cultural events, such as marriage, song, trades, dances, a hunt, etc., in an individual's and group's history. They are the invisible means by which a man indicates and keeps track of his territory. British author Chatwin ( In Patagonia) organizes his book around the Australian aboriginal's notion of songlines, although the writing is more often than not on the periphery of this theme. Interspersed with the explanation of songlines are a narrative of a mild adventure, sometimes with novelistic dialogue, and jottings from Chatwin's notebooks (making up a considerable portion of the book), which include his own musings and observations, proverbs, and quotes from famous people, most of which concern travel and wandering and theory about instinct, myth, etc. A curious work.Roger W. Fromm, Bloomsburg Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib.
From the Publisher
"A blend of travelogue, memoir, history, philosophy, science, meditation, and commonplace book...Chatwin's astonishing style captures the metamorphoses of his own 'Walkabout'....He takes the travel genre beyond exoticism and the simple picturesque into the metaphysical."—The Boston Globe

The riches of The Songlines are varied and artfully stashed. Chatwin's physical journey over Australia's parched hide corresponds to his intellectual excursions, which are full of surprising turns."—Time

"No ordinary book ever issues from Bruce Chatwin. Each bears the imprint of a dazzingly original mind."—Newsday

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140094299
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/28/1988
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 980,989
  • Product dimensions: 5.08 (w) x 7.71 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Chatwin (1940–1989) was the author of In PatagoniaThe Viceroy of OuidahOn the Black HillThe Songlines, and Utz. His other books are What Am I Doing Here and Anatomy of Restlessness, posthumous anthologies of shorter works, and Far Journeys, a collection of his photographs that also includes selections from his travel notebooks.

Rory Stewart is the author of The Prince of the Marshes and The Places in Between.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2010

    Captures the true essence of Aboriginals

    I bought this specifically for a friend who recently visited Australia because in this particular book Bruce Chatwin imparts a real understanding of the Australian Aboriginal's reverence for, and unity with, the land upon which he walks. 'Songlines' is a gift truly worth the giving!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2000

    You won't believe how I got this book!

    Talk about practice in motion. When I asked a friend to pick out a book for me at the 2nd hand store, I couldn't believe what happened. Without looking, she reached out and passed me 'Songlines'. What makes this so amazing is that I celebrate Aboriginal Spirituality as my own. This book gave great insight into the internal workings of Aboriginal culture. Chatwin gives a great flavor to this 'documentary' with personal experience and observation. Drive through the outback, eat sugar ants, meet the Pintupe. Knowing that these people are real, each character stands alive ready to meet me someday. On the down side, I found Chatwin's diviations to his journals distracting and skipped over most of it. But if you have any interest in Australia or its native peoples, this is great read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2000

    A great book for people with wanderlust...

    This book is part documentary on the austrailian people, one part story of cultural meeting, and part anthology of people who have written on traveling. The author through his own story covers reactions of austrailians to a Brit author, and retells past times of meeting other people around the world. Very good, get it for your traveling friends (and yourself, of course!)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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