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The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin
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The Songlines (1986)

by Bruce Chatwin

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,884472,963 (3.96)4 / 119
  1. 30
    Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors by Nicholas Wade (mercure)
    mercure: Wade addresses many of the issues that fascinated Chatwin from a scientific point of view.
  2. 20
    In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson (flissp, John_Vaughan)
  3. 10
    One for the Road by Tony Horwitz (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: Bruce Chatwin was fasinated by nomads and wanderings, Tony Horwitz qualifies for both, and writes with engaging wit.
  4. 10
    Utz by Bruce Chatwin (John_Vaughan)
  5. 10
    Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins by Ian Tattersall (elenchus)
    elenchus: There is an intriguing overlap between Chatwin's thesis that human's have a nomadic instinct linked to our early history as prey to the big cats; and Tattersall's exploration of just when hominids moved out of forested areas and into the open edge areas and grasslands, and what implications that had for our diet, behaviors, group organization, and brain development. Each book focuses on other themes, but this overlap is moderately important to each and reinforces one another in useful ways.… (more)
  6. 00
    An intruder's guide to East Arnhem Land by Andrew McMillan (MiaCulpa)
    MiaCulpa: Both delve into the traditional beliefs of Australian Aboriginals, the oldest living culture on Earth. While neither provide an explanation about many Aboriginal customs (which is good as many of these customs are secret), they do provide a good starting point for people wishing to learn more about Aboriginal cultures.… (more)
  7. 00
    Ghost milk: calling time on the grand project by Iain Sinclair (elenchus)
    elenchus: Both Chatwin and Sinclair blend fiction, non-fiction, and travelogue / memoir to get their ideas across. Chatwin's prose is more precise, Sinclair's more poetic, but both cast a wide net in terms of material incorporated into their essays.
  8. 00
    Walkabout by James Vance Marshall (KayCliff)
  9. 00
    Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before by Tony Horwitz (John_Vaughan)
  10. 00
    In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams by Tahir Shah (PatMock)
    PatMock: If you liked the concept of stories providing underlying connections
  11. 00
    Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache by Keith H. Basso (elenchus)
    elenchus: A remarkably similar use of story, myth, and nomadism among the Western Apache and Australian indigenous people. Basso's is an accessible scholarly take, but the stories and their use by Apache individuals take center stage. Chatwin's prose is more poetic and less rigorous (he insisted The Songlines was fiction), but highly evocative of story and myth.… (more)
  12. 00
    What Am I Doing Here? by Bruce Chatwin (John_Vaughan)
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English (37)  Dutch (4)  Spanish (2)  German (2)  Italian (1)  French (1)  All languages (47)
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
Dreaming Tracks: "The Songlines" by Bruce Chatwin

(Original Review, 1988-05-15)

I’ve been reading “The Songlines” by Bruce Chatwin for the past couple of days, which I’m really enjoying at about the halfway point. It’s a travel book, I suppose, about Chatwin’s experiences in the Australian Outback learning of Aboriginal culture and their belief in ‘songlines’ or ‘dreaming tracks’, or “to the Aboriginals as ‘Footprints of the Ancestors’ or the ‘Way of the Law’:

“Aboriginal Creation myths tell of the legendary totemic beings who wandered over the continent in the Dreamtime, singing out the name of everything that crossed their path — birds, animals, plants, rocks, waterholes — and so singing the world into existence.”

It’s fascinating reading in so many ways, about something I knew nothing about. The idea of the songlines, of people being able to understand the land they live on through song, and to be able to navigate across the large expanse of Australia in the remembrance of these songs, is a concept I frankly find bewitching and beautiful. I’m especially taken by the fact that, knowing these songs, different tribes can come to understand one another — tribes who, though they may speak different languages, will be able to comprehend each other through song; because although the words will be foreign the melody will be the same and in the rhythm of the song is its meaning.

Really, really interesting. However, I had a look on the Wikipedia page for The Songlines before writing this review — I didn’t know whether to refer to it as a travel book, or whatever; Wikipedia classifies it as a combination of fiction and nonfiction, though it’s reading like a travelogue to me — and it states:

“[T]he text has been criticised for being masculist, colonialist, simplistic and unreliable as both a source on European Australians and Aboriginal culture.” (It also notes it has been praised by other critics.) So this is something I will have to bear in mind as I continue reading it. ( )
1 vote antao | Dec 14, 2018 |
Very interesting book but it could have been great. BC's intimate travels w aborigines in northern Australia are recorded along w his descriptions of Songlines and opinions on nomadic peoples, and language was an opinion piece. He was a bit too in love w his subject matter and the ending came on fast. But where do you end such a book.
He writes well and his first hand travels w aborigines where enlightening. ( )
  JBreedlove | Nov 24, 2017 |
Una volta, in un articolo, il grande storico delle idee Paolo Rossi disse che non sono state poi moltissime le idee originali prodotte dall'uomo nel corso della sua storia e che l'attività dei pensatori, nei secoli, è spesso quella di ripensarle ed essere in grado di riproporle come nuove. La frase mi è tornata in mente leggendo questo splendido libro: qui ne ho trovate - rarissimo - addirittura due o tre, attorno alle quali si arrotola e srotola la narrazione.
Forse le divagazioni di Chatwin sulle origini dell'umanità e su quanto è ancora in noi di quelle origini non sono nuovissime (ma faute) ma hanno, almeno per me, l'aria fresca della scoperta.

[audiolibro]
( )
  icaro. | Aug 31, 2017 |
Our Nature lies in movement; complete calm is death. Pascal ( )
  ltfitch1 | Jun 5, 2016 |
Walking is everything! A wonderfully interesting (fiction and non-fiction) book about some of the insights that the Australian aborigines can provide modern-day man (and also deals with their plight). I don't necessarily "buy" all his conclusions, but they are fun/interesting to contemplate. The concept of singing the land into existence is a wonderful one. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
It engages the full range of the author's passions: his obsession with travel; his love of nomads and the nomadic way of life; his horror at the vulgarity and exploitativeness of the modern world; his hunger to understand man's origins and essential nature and so find some source of hope for the future. Part adventure-story, part novel-of-ideas, part satire on the follies of ''progress,'' part spiritual autobiography, part passionate plea for a return to simplicity of being and behavior, ''The Songlines'' is a seething gallimaufry of a book, a great Burtonian galimatias of anecdote and speculation and description, fascinating, moving, infuriating, incoherent, all at once
added by John_Vaughan | editNY Times, Andrew Harvey (Jul 12, 1987)
 
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In Alice Springs - a grid of scorching streets where men in long white socks were forever getting in and out of Land Cruisers - I met a Russian who was mapping the sacred sites of the Aboriginals.
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Das Lächeln, sagte ich, sei wie eine Botschaft aus dem Goldenen Zeitalter. Es habe mich gelehrt, alle Argumente, die für die Schlechtigkeit der menschlichen Natur sprächen, unverzüglich zurückzuweisen. Der gedanke, zu einer "ursprünglichen Einfachheit" zurückzukehren, sei nicht naiv oder unwissenschaftlich oder realitätsfremd.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140094296, Paperback)

The late Bruce Chatwin carved out a literary career as unique as any writer's in this century: his books included In Patagonia, a fabulist travel narrative, The Viceroy of Ouidah, a mock-historical tale of a Brazilian slave-trader in 19th century Africa, and The Songlines, his beautiful, elegiac, comic account of following the invisible pathways traced by the Australian aborigines. Chatwin was nothing if not erudite, and the vast, eclectic body of literature that underlies this tale of trekking across the outback gives it a resonance found in few other recent travel books. A poignancy, as well, since Chatwin's untimely death made The Songlines one of his last books.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:27 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The late Bruce Chatwin carved out a literary career as unique as any writer's in this century: his books included In Patagonia, a fabulist travel narrative, The Viceroy of Ouidah, a mock-historical tale of a Brazilian slave-trader in 19th century Africa, and The Songlines, his beautiful, elegiac, comic account of following the invisible pathways traced by the Australian aborigines. Chatwin was nothing if not erudite, and the vast, eclectic body of literature that underlies this tale of trekking across the outback gives it a resonance found in few other recent travel books. A poignancy, as well, since Chatwin's untimely death made The Songlines one of his last books.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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