Monographic Course - The Songlines - Page five

In this section, I'm going to try to write an essay on "The Songlines" by Bruce Chatwin, 1988 Penguin Books.

"Music", said Arkady,"is a memory bank for finding one's way about the world".

  • Initiation and Transformation
    Chatwin transformation occurred when he quit the auction world. From "smootherboy" or "art smuggler" he transformed into the writer. He didn't like to be considered a travel writer. Therefore he managed to find himself in the abyss of his wanderings, writing along the way fantastic books like In Patagonia, Utz, The Viceroy of Ouidah, finally accomplishing the creation of "the wretched book" about nomads, The Songlines. Just before writing it though, he gave the impression to be succumbing to the challenge of restlessness, when he wrote On the Black Hill, a book about two twin brothers who never made it past they're shire borders.

    Aboriginals transform when they go walkabout. They gather momentum and keep singing their songs, perfectly managing the outback abyss. Or when they succumb to the modern world. The latter is a rather sad outcome, as it transforms them into aimless and lost human beings. I would occasionally cross some in the outskirts of Darwin or Alice Springs. They inspired pity in me, they looked so clumsy and unfitting. They would sit in the middle of the road, and act strangely. Some australian friends told me that when doing so they might be mourning the slain of a songline, asking for forgiveness to the Sky-Dwellers.

Go back to > Page 4 or on to Page 6