The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin

Into the Wild

Read The Songlines Online Free - In this extraordinary book, Bruce Chatwin has adapted a literary form common until the eighteenth century though rare in ours; a story of ideas in which two companions, traveling and talking together, explore the hopes and dreams that animate both them and the people they encounter. Set in almost uninhabitable regions of Central Australia, The Songlines asks and tries to answer these questions: Why is man the most restless, dissatisfied of animals? Why do wandering people conceive the world as perfect whereas sedentary ones always try to change it? Why have the great teachers—Christ or the Buddha—recommended the Road as the way. to salvation? Do we agree with Pascal that all man's troubles stem from his inability to sit quietly in a room?

We do not often ask these questions today for we commonly assume that living in a house is normal and that the wandering life is aberrant. But for more than twenty years Chatwin has mulled over the possibility that the reverse might be the case.

Pre-colonial Australia was the last landmass on earth peopled not by herdsmen, farmers, or city dwellers, but by hunter-gatherers. Their labyrinths of invisible pathways across the continent are known to us as Songlines or Dreaming Tracks, but to the Aboriginals as the tracks of their ancestors—the Way of the Law. Along these "roads" they travel in order to perform all those activities that are distinctively human—song, dance, marriage, exchange of ideas, and arrangements of territorial boundaries by agreement rather than force.

In Chatwin's search for the Songlines, Arkady is an ideal friend and guide: Australian by birth, the son of a Cossack exile, with all the strength and warmth of his inheritance. Whether hunting kangaroo from a Land Cruiser, talking to the diminutive Rolf in his book-crammed trailer, buying drinks for a bigoted policeman (and would-be writer), cheering as Arkady's true love declares herself (part of The Songlines is a romantic comedy), Chatwin turns this almost implausible picaresque adventure into something approaching the scale of a Greek tragedy.

The life of the Aboriginals stands in vivid contrast, of course, to the prevailing cultures of our time. And The Songlines presents unforgettable details about the kinds of disputes we know all too well from less traumatic confrontations: over sacred lands invaded by railroads, mines, and construction sites, over the laws and rights of a poor people versus a wealthy invasive one. To Chatwin these are but recent, local examples of an eternal basic distinction between settlers and wanderers. His book, devoted to the latter, is a brilliant evocation of this profound optimism: that man is by nature not a bellicose aggressor but a pacific, song-creating, adaptive species whose destiny is to quest for the truth.



Title : The Songlines
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 0140094296
Edition Language : English
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 304 pages


Reviews


Trevor rated it ★★★★☆

December 20, 2007

This is a book that is a personal response to whatever it is for white people to think about nomadic peoples with layers of meanings. It seemed to me to be a very honest book - the person telling the story does not try to make himself seem better than he is. I had never heard of songlines before r...


Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it ★★☆☆☆

February 26, 2013

There was plenty in this book that irritated me, and at times, yes things that fascinated me. Indeed, this book is saved from a one star rating for the simple reason that I found what was conveyed about Australian Aborigine culture and their “Songlines” fascinating. When Chatwin kept to his perso...


Beth rated it ★★☆☆☆

August 14, 2008

As I wandered through some special place no one else ever gets to see, I passed a beautiful woman wearing a sheer top that revealed her round breasts and small, pert nipples. She looked seductively at me and licked her lips. I nodded politely, making my way toward a tall man standing by himself....


Robyn rated it ★★★★★

July 29, 2007

The Songlines is, on the surface, an auto-biographical travel narrative. Under the surface, it's none of these things and so much more. The door in is that the "Bruce" of the book may or may not be the Bruce who is writing. The narrative Bruce's clumsy attempts to interrogate the Australian abori...


Terri rated it ★★★★☆

April 03, 2014

Bruce Chatwin is an Englishman who has traveled widely, and he has especially studied nomads and tribes. In this book he travels to Australia to study the Aboriginals. In Australia, the nomadic Aboriginals have songs related to almost every feature in the landscapes they travel through. To learn...


Shovelmonkey1 rated it ★★★★★

February 14, 2012

I am picky when it comes to travel literature. The curious thing about my pickiness when it comes to travel books is that I don't like to use travel literature as a way of broadening my horizons - I like to read it to narrow my world view and back up what I already know. To clarify, because I sus...


Marc rated it ★☆☆☆☆

June 24, 2017

I had great expectations about this book, it is one of the favorites of my wife and for years it stood temptingly staring at me in our library. But I'm afraid it turned out to be a disappointment. As in "In Patagonia" Chatwin reports about one of his journeys, a meandering quest, not in Fireland...


Annette rated it ★★★★★

March 16, 2009

If I was given a choice of 3 people to invite for dinner from any age, Bruce Chatwin would be one. I only wish I could sit down (probably in a pub) and watch him drink a pint and tell stories of his travels. He writes in such a compassionate way about the people he comes across in his travels, he...


Maria rated it ★★★★★

April 18, 2016

Un po' romanzo, un po' saggio, un po' autobiografia, un po' libro di appunti e riflessioni. Attraverso il contatto, privo di pregiudizi e completamente disinvolto, con gli aborigeni australiani Chatwin ripensa allo sviluppo dell'uomo moderno, ne definisce le tappe, ne riconosce l'aggressività e gl...


Matthew rated it ★★★★☆

January 10, 2009

I'm curious that Chatwin considered this book fiction; perhaps by today's standards we'd brand it "creative nonfiction" the "creative" part being perhaps invented or doctored dialogue, some bending of facts to get at a more truthful narrative, etc. As a travel document, though, it maintains Chatw...





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