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Recommended Reads: The Songlines

October 14, 2011

In the first instalment of our new regular feature, in which The Reader Organisation’s staff will share some of their reading recommendations, our Events and Projects Manager Maura Kennedy tells us about The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin

“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.”

So begins the subtle magic of Songlines. Chatwin’s kaleidoscopic style merges history, geography, sorrow, humour, the colloquial, the epic,  into one mesmerizing vision which traces the world’s oldest living civilization from its Dreaming past to its devastated present. This opening sentence, with some aptly placed line breaks, could begin a poem on Australia’s complex past – and Chatwin’s prose is truly poetic in its beauty, scope and precision. The rhythm of “In Alice Springs  — a grid of scorching streets ..” lulls the reader into the mirage of Chatwin’s prose; a dreaminess that is punctuated by his telling contrasts and subtle humour: the ubiquitous men in long white socks haven’t been there “forever”, unlike their aboriginal countrymen – and who is the Russian tracing this ancient history? Songlines is one of the most beautiful and engrossing books I’ve ever read, made all the more precious by Chatwin’s premature death two years after its publication.

If you’re reading anything at the moment that you’d like to share with us then let us know, and maybe we can unearth some hidden literary gems along the way!


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