Chatwin, Bruce

‘Songlines’ or ‘Dreaming Tracks’ are what all Europeans call the labyrinth of invisible pathways that criss-cross Australia, tracks connecting communities and following ancient boundaries.   To Aboriginals, they are the ‘Footprints of the Ancestors’;  they are both intricate sources of personal identity and territorial markers.   Bruce Chatwin provides a fascinating background to indigenous Australian life.

Along these lines, Aboriginals passed the songs which revealed the creation of the land and the secrets of its past.  In this magical account, Chatwin recalls his travels across the length and breadth of Australia seeking to find the truth about the songs and unravel the mysteries of their stories.   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.

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Vintage Arrow, 1998.  304 pages, paperback.