G Sebald Your own biography of Chatwin paints a compelling portrait of a writer who lived a colourful life. What is it about Bruce Chatwin that interests you, and so many other readers? He was a precursor of the Internet, a connective super highway without boundaries, and with instant access to different cultures. He was a storyteller of bracing prose, at once glass-clear and dense, who offered a brand new way of representing travelling. And he held out in his six books the possibility of something wonderful and unifying, inundating us with information but also with the promise that we will one day get to the root of it. Or was the Chatwin he projects in his books very different to who he was in reality?

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He has come to study the Aboriginal Songlines out of a fascination that began in his childhood with Aboriginal culture and an adult fascination with their similarity to other transient people groups, having studied Bedouins, gypsies, and the writings of several thinkers who believe walking the earth is the way men are best suited to experience it.

His guide as he travels the Outback in search of anyone who will teach him is Arkady Volchok, an Australian-born man of Russian descent. Arkady has befriended Aboriginals since his youth and committed himself to preserving their sacred places and making sure those protections are reflected in the laws that govern all Australia. Arkady takes Chatwin from one Aboriginal settlement to the next, helping him find people, native or otherwise, who can answer his questions and help him better understand the history and experience of this group of people.

Chatwin comes in to each conversation purely to learn the most untainted and historic version of the experiences and traditions of the Aboriginal people. He has an honest enough understanding of their spirituality that he is a student worthy of the respect of the Aboriginals with the most intimate perspectives on the culture.

Chatwin learns about the Aboriginal idea of Songlines, the tracks of music the Aboriginal Ancestors left as they walked from place to place singing creation into existence, naming things and attaching stories to their sacred places. Chatwin is intrigued with the idea that Australian Aboriginals have much in common with other cultures that evolved in far reaches of the globe, as there are common ingredients to the human experience.

Each Aboriginal is associated with an animal, or totemic family, who sang his Songline, and considers that association as even more sacred than the one he has with his blood family.

Some Aboriginals have transferred Songlines to canvases as maps that become art pieces white people buy, as a way of providing a living to the Aboriginals.

Other white people make little effort to get to know or celebrate the Aboriginal culture, and Chatwin encounters both kinds of people. As the story progresses deeper into Aboriginal culture and land, Arkady is asked to settle a dispute between two Aboriginal groups.

The trip to settle the dispute provides Chatwin the opportunity to spend time with Rolf and Wendy, two more intellectuals there to learn from the Aboriginals about their culture and to record his reflections on Aboriginal culture as a human phenomenon.

Chapters contain those musings, including the literary and academic resources he uses to inform his hypotheses. He concludes that men are born to be peaceful wanderers with language based in song, and settling into civilizations and sedentary lifestyles have made us violently territorial and disconnected us from the earth, its rhythms and the songs of our souls.

The story culminates with the return of an Aboriginal man to his totemic conception place and the origin of his Dreaming. The man sings the songs that named that place and sees the landscape as if he has seen it throughout his whole life, having learned its names since birth. The man also meets three of his totemic brothers who are dying in that place. This section contains words approx.

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The Songlines Summary & Study Guide

For the previous half century, travel writing seemed to consist either of grim, extended journeys through desolate landscapes or jokes about foreigners. And the leading figures—such as Wilfred Thesiger or Robert Byron—in their tweed suits were celebrated for neither their prose nor their charm. But Chatwin was as attractive as a person as he was as a writer. Aged twenty, I thought that even his untruths were immensely erudite.


Bruce Chatwin

Start your review of The Songlines Write a review Shelves: favourites-adult , chcc-library , politics-culture-social , fiction-adult , indigenous 4. One by one, he had watched the young men go, or go to pieces. Soon there would be no one: either to sing the songs or to give blood for ceremonies. In aboriginal belief, an unsung land is a dead land: since, if the songs are forgotten, the land itself will die. Bruce Chatwin was a highly regarded English writer and traveller with a deep curiosity about nomadic people. He was fascinated by the idea of songlines around the world that tell the story of the 4. He was fascinated by the idea of songlines around the world that tell the story of the land, and he wrote this book as a fiction, but using his own name as the narrator.

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