Monday 27 January 2020

The Songlines

Finished January 26
The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin, illustrations by Simon Pemberton

I've had this one on my shelf for a while, but Australia being in the news lately made my pick it up. It was a relatively easy read, with most of the book being a fictionalized version of the author's short time in the Australian outback among aboriginal people and those working with them. In particular it features a man whose parents emigrated from Russia, and who is working with aboriginal people to identify sacred places so the railway they are building can avoid causing more damage than it naturally will just by existing.
The idea of songlines as a birthright and a responsibility is made very clear, and I liked the way that the people were shown to be intelligent and with real character, not stereotypes. There was recognition of the struggles they are facing, and the harms done to them.
As the book progresses, when Bruce spends some time alone in a small outback town, stranded by the rain, he delves into his journals and notebooks and pulls out a bunch of quotes, anecdotes, and other passages that look at man's relationship to the world, to animals, to nature, to the idea of moving around as a way of life. This was also interesting, but these sections took more time to separate ideas and make connections.
My edition also had a very useful introduction by Nicholas Shakespeare that gave me background and context for the book, that made my reading more meaningful.

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