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About the book
  • Published: 4 September 1998
  • ISBN: 9780099769910
  • Imprint: Vintage Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $14.99
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The Songlines




'Extraordinary - a remarkable and satisfying book' Observer

'Songlines' or 'Dreaming Tracks' are what all Europeans call the labyrinth of invisible pathways that meander all over Australia. To Aboriginals, they are the 'Footprints of the Ancestors'; they are both intricate sources of personal identity and territorial markers. From such ancient line, Bruce Chatwin has been able to trace a great deal about an Aboriginal culture as complex as it is different from our own. The conflict between the two ways of life mirrors that within 'civilised' man himself. Disputes over the right to excavate land that is sacred to wandering tribes highlight the importance of myth and instinct in the human psyche. What might in other hands seem theatrically picaresque, Bruce Chatwin transforms into something approaching the scale of Greek tragedy. . .

  • Pub date: 4 September 1998
  • ISBN: 9780099769910
  • Imprint: Vintage Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $14.99

About the Author

Bruce Chatwin

Bruce Chatwin was born in Sheffield in 1940. After attending Marlborough School he began work as a porter at Sotheby's. Eight years later, having become one of Sotheby's youngest directors, he abandoned his job to pursue his passion for world travel. Between 1972 and 1975 he worked for the Sunday Times, before announcing his next departure in a telegram: 'Gone to Patagonia for six months.' This trip inspired the first of Chatwin's books, In Patagonia, which won the Hawthornden Prize and the E.M. Forster Award and launched his writing career. Two of his books have been made into feature films: The Viceroy of Ouidah (retitled Cobra Verde), directed by Werner Herzog, and Andrew Grieve's On the Black Hill. On publication The Songlines went straight to Number 1 in the Sunday Times bestseller list and remained in the top ten for nine months. On the Black Hill won the Whitbread First Novel Award while his novel Utz was nominated for the 1988 Booker Prize. He died in January 1989, aged forty-eight.

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Praise for The Songlines

“That Chatwin is one of the most distinct and original writers we have is confirmed by the publication of another quite remarkable book”

Nicholas Shakespeare

“The songlines emerge as invisible pathways connecting up all over Australia: ancient tracks made of songs which tell of the creation of the land. The Aboriginals' religious duty is ritually to travel the land, singing the Ancestors' songs: singing the world into being afresh. The Songlines is one man's impassioned song”

David Sexton, Sunday Telegraph

“Chatwin is not simply describing another culture; he is also making cautious assertions about human nature. Towards the end of his life Sartre wondered why people still write novels; had he read Chatwin's he might have found new excitement in the genre”

Edmund White, Sunday Times


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