'I have a vision of the Songlines stretching across the continents and ages; that wherever men have trodden they have left a trail of song; and that these trails must reach back, in time and space, to an isolated pocket in the African savannah, where the First Man shouted the opening stanza to the World Song, "I am!"'
"Extraordinary...a remarkable and satisfying book" - Thomas Keneally, The Observer
"The Songlines emerge as invisible pathways connecting 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" - Sunday Telegraph
"This is a stunning work. From the author of In Patagonia, it is...a personal quest into the nature of knowledge. Totally absorbing and stimulating" - The Good Book Guide
"He is such a fine and original writer. A white nomad himself, Chatwin's affinity with the footloose tribes of the endless outback yields one of the most affecionate portraits yet of a race ravaged by the alcohol that so many other Australians privately hope will become a self-administered final solution" - Daily Mail
"Chatwin is not simply describing another culture; he is also making cautious assertions about humna nature. Towards the end of his life Sartre wondered why people still write novels; had he read Chatwin's he would have found new excitement in the genre" - Edmund White, The Sunday Times
"The poetry of Chatwin's remarkable pages flitters quietly about, steering a course between William Blake and Dr Johnson...a masterpiece" - John Bayley, London Review of Books
About the Author:
In 1968 Bruce Chatwin began his study of nomads, travelling widely from Afghanistan to Maurentania. He was co-organizer in 1979 of an exhibition called 'The Animal Style' at the Asia Society in New York. From 1972 to 1975 he worked as a journalist for the Sunday Times. His first book was In Patagonia, which won for its author the 1978 Hawthornden Prize and the 1979 E.M. Forster Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
In Alice Springs - a grid of scorching streets where men in long white socks were forever getting in and out of Land Cruisers - I met a Russian who was mapping the sacred sites of the Aboriginals.
His name was Arkady Volchok. He was an Australian citizen. He was thirty-three years old.
His father, Ivan Volchok, was a Cossack from a village near Rostov-on-Don, who, in 1942, was arrested and sent with a trainload of other Ostarbeiter to work in a German factory. One night, somewhere in the Ukraine, he jumped from the cattle-cart into a field of sunflowers. Soldiers in grey uniforms hunted him up and down the long lines of sunflowers, but he gave them the slip. Somewhere else, lost between murdering armies, he met a girl from Kiev and married her. Together they drifted to a forgetful Adelaide suburb, where he rigged up a vodka still and fathered three sturdy sons.
The youngest of these was Arkady.
From the Picador paperback edition, 1988.
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Last modified: April 18, 2001.