Monday, July 12, 2010

The Songlines

When the weather is good, I like to sit out and feel the warm sun on my arms. We get so few good days in this country that you have to make the most of every single one of them.

As I can't really paint in our backgarden (I've got too many accessories I need around me, and the wind ends up ruining everything.), I read more. Which means that I now have 4 books I need to review here. A lot of catching up!

The first of these is The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin, an account of his travels in the red centre of Australia, and his encounters with aboriginals and their way of life. The songlines are basically a mapping of the country and the creation mythology (the dreaming) associated with it, done through song, as it takes aboriginals across the land.

It's a book of two halves. The first is a modern travelogue, where Bruce meets white and native Australians on his travels and entertains us with stories about these encounters. In the second part of the book, Chatwin explores various nomadic cultures he came across through his travels and develops a theory of how humanity's nomadic origins explain some of our current traits - for instance why a child will be soothed when his cot is rocked rythmically (or will fall asleep as soon as the pram hits the road), or why children have this ingrained fear of the monster coming to get them in the middle of the night. Quite interesting stuff actually, and he does tie it all together eventually. But I did find some that latter section a bit tiring at times.

Interesting, also, to see the connection with Eileen Gray in the wikipedia article: "In 1972, Chatwin interviewed the 93-year-old architect and designer Eileen Gray in her Paris salon, where he noticed a map of the area of South America called Patagonia, which she had painted. "I've always wanted to go there," Bruce told her. "So have I," she replied, "go there for me." Two years later in November 1974, Chatwin flew out to Lima in Peru, and reached Patagonia a month later"

I think the Songlines will be a book I'll pick up again in a few years' time. Maybe a book to pick up now and then and read in small bursts rather than in one long session.

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