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The Songlines Hardcover – 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 2010
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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Folio Society; First Edition Thus edition (2010)
  • ASIN: B004QDGNV2
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.4 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,874,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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By A Customer on 19 July 1999
Format: Paperback
The songlines criss cross Australia; the paths taken by the first men as they sang creation into being. Each Aborigine tends his section of the line, and must regularly sing the songs that keep creation new.
Chatwin's wanderings took him to Australia's red centre to explore the origins of these lines, as part of a project he was toying with (but never completed, so far as I'm aware) exploring the roots of man's incessant need to travel.
His prose is as sparse and dusty as the landscape itself as he meets the native and European Australians who inhabit the vast emptiness of the outback. The result is as beautiful and strange as the outback itself.
The book uncovers a little about the Aborigines, a group who have not been often explored in mainstream wirting before, as well as the racism felt by many Australians towards them.
But its main success is opening up the dusty interior itself - a place on a scale that is unimaginable to Europeans. Chatwin's triumph is to reveal the magic that pervades Australia - that a stagnant pond can be as important a spiritual site as Ayers Rock.
For anyone with an interest in Australia, Aboriginal culture or the nature of man's wanderlust, this is an essential read. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
This is a unique and unclassifiable book, part novel, part travel book, part notebook full of quotations and speculations. Chatwin focuses on the notion that language and human thought began in songs that sang the landscape and living things into existence. Aboriginal culture continues this tradition in songlines which are explored as living entities, maps, boundaries, calendars, catalogues, survival systems, myths. Chatwin says the ultimate question he is asking is, why are humans so restless? He argues that this is the ultimate human quality. We are nomadic in our core. He quotes a European tramp: "It's like the tides were pulling you along the highway. I'm like the Arctic tern, guv'nor...what flies from the North Pole to the South Pole and back again." This book doesn't provide answers. Indeed it plunges into even wider speculations about war, prehistory, mythology and culture. But it goes far beyond the predictable "Aboriginal wisdom for the westerner" that I expected. A fascinating, difficult, but intriguing book.
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Format: Paperback
I was recommended this book by several different people, if you are interested in the 'aboriginal' culture/travelling or you think you might be then this book is for you. Although it is classically written & occasionally quite heavy I found it very interesting. Bruce Chatwin goes on a journey to study the songlines and on the way he ponders the origin of man, presenting evidence that man was originally Nomadic & also writes 3/4 chapters worth of short passages taken from all over the globe to give atmosphere to this claim, one of the most amazing facts was that an aboriginal in the far north can understand an aboriginal from the far south without understanding his language, he translates the melodies of his songs & therefore knows which path he is walking & therefore where he is from, this book has been a great help in understanding more about the ancients in OZ for me, personal accounts of cultures are always more informative than text books I find & this book is no exception :-)
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Format: Paperback
This story is not really an edited book, rather a conversation with a dusty traveller whom you have met on an isolated rural railway station, somewhere far away, with two days until the next train. It starts as something to pass the time, but becomes a tale of the global history of Man, revealing many reasons for doing what we do - or having done what we have done. It makes us question the values that our civilisation has socialised us into believing in, not because we envy the squalid freedom of the aborigines, but because we must envy that they still understand the nature of Nature, and the nature of Man, and also of Man in Nature.. Sometimes it asks questions and answers them, and sometimes it gives an answer and you are left searching for the question. A book to be read alone, without distraction, when you have time to read it without laying it down. An memorable book which can be used to find some answers to many problems in the world today, whether they be related to religious divergence, racism, ethnic conflict, suppression of minorities, environmental conflicts, etc., etc., etc..
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Format: Paperback
This book by Bruce Chatwin is a rare pleasure, written by a man truly interested in all the peoples of the world including their culture, language, arts and metaphysics. This time Chatwin went to Australia to attempt to understand the very complex system of Aboriginal religious structures called songlines. As far as I can see from this book songlines are the connections in song of one part of the country to another part, each practised by the people who live there with neighbours sharing the "song". Not only does this define their religion but it in fact recreates their land as well, a kind of pure ideality in the philosophcal sense.

The first parts of this book concentrate on Chatwin's experiences with the people of outback Australia be they Aboriginal or white. He seems to find truly remarkable people, each unique and even wild in their own way. Typical of Australia, it is full of people from all over the world, such as his friend Arkady of Russian extraction. Chatwin has a fascinating background with his experiences of other cultures often allowing him access to other, more conservative, people who are suspicious of the outsider. Using this technique he breaks down their resistance and writes with compassion and depth of his experiences. Unfortunately, two aspects come to light which I believe are not advantageous to the reading of the book. The first is his tendency to both promote and justify the practise of travelling or the nomadic lifestyle which he himself practises. The second is the habit of filling out the rest of the book with too many quotations from others rather than making use of his experiences with their beauty and uniqueness due to the meeting of people as he travels and the sense of the land which formed the backbone and pure joy of the earlier parts of the book.

Nonetheless an exceptional book and a joy to read. A very human book.
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