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review 2017-01-18 01:08
The Songlines - Bruce Chatwin

Bruce Chatwin’s book has much to offer readers of multiple disciplines…the historian, the travel reader, readers of literature and those who simply enjoy the personal anecdotes of memoirs and autobiographies. 

 

One of the reasons why Chatwin’s book can have such a broad interest is his writing style. Chatwin’s writing is highly personable and readily engaging. It captivates and holds the reader’s interest, while conveying various facts and truths. The style is never preachy, yet he masterfully conveys a sense of biting satirical wit through some of his observations, especially in regard to potential methods of exploitation against the Aboriginal people. Yet, his own depiction of the Aborigines does not shy away from stark realism—a portrayal that in a way reflects the Australian landscape.

 

His writing is visual. He adeptly portrays his surroundings and the various characteristics and mannerisms of the people with whom he interacts, allowing the reader to obtain a complete picture within the mind’s eye. Through his rendering, the Aboriginal songlines, or dreaming tracks that represent the footpaths and journeys taken by the totemic beings of the creation myths, become vibrantly alive. The positioning of various elements—land, wind, light, water—work together to help you visualize or “read” the movement of, for example an ancestral lizard, as described in one of these dreamings. The land itself may be stark and harsh, yet it is teeming with a lifelike expression that’s full of majestic beauty and wonder. 

 

As Chatwin notes, these dreamings are highly personal—an essential part of the self in Aboriginal culture. Their essence becomes a study of origins and nature—a study that Chatwin readily takes to heart. The latter part of the book draws on Chatwin’s own personal experiences and past interactions that hold similarities to the aboriginal journeys he has described. Chatwin’s reflections on origin and self, and the many journeys and experiences he has faced become a personal songline that he has come to gradually cultivate over time…an illustrative story full of personal highs and lows, paired with a kind of personal struggle of self-expression evident in his prose. Yet in the end, his “songline” reflects a kind of hope in this quest for knowledge and understanding of self in relation to one’s surroundings—a hope based upon the basic fundamentals of human nature.

 

Copy provided by NetGalley

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review 2016-09-10 17:09
Chatwin's wanderlusting
What Am I Doing Here? - Bruce Chatwin

This rather eclectic collection of Chatwin's writings is simply a great read and a suitable homage to his craft. The breadth of his travel and experience is made to seem almost ordinary, when clearly the writer was anything but. This was my first reading of Chatwin and was purely by chance that the book came my way, but what a feast of language to savour. Must be serendipity.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1521145124
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review 2016-07-01 00:00
Pod słońcem. Listy
Pod słońcem. Listy - Bruce Chatwin 3,5 stars, rounded up. I consider teaching Songlines, and, unwilling to spend money on Nicholas Shakespeare's biography of Chatwin, picked up this collection instead. It turned out to be a good resource, tracing the development of Chatwin's ideas, especially On the Black Hill and Songlines (the latter was, as it turns out, an incarnation of Chatwin's earlier unpublished project on nomadism).

Since my first exposure to Chatwin, I have failed to see the romance in nomadic lifestyle - one I found easy to champion by a bisexual, childless male. Yet Chatwin's letters told me he also frequently professed hatred for England, didn't want to come out as a bisexual to his parents and brother, and seemed to suffer genuine discomfort whenever he stayed anywhere longer than a month - a condition that could have been traced back to his wartime childhood.

On the whole, I was surprised by how the letters, with their natural dramaturgy, affected me: Chatwin's descriptions of the art world, which, in the seventies, looked positively like Wild West to me; his puzzling approach to art objects, especially towards the end of his life, when his health declined, due to a rare fungal infection AIDS, and his behaviour grew increasingly erratic; his unorthodox, long-distance marriage to his wife, Elizabeth (they would meet for brief spells of time in remote corners of the world - and he would try to postpone these meetings most of the time).

I wasn't bothered by the things which irritated other readers: the selection could have been more careful, I admit, as Chatwin, responding to his letters in batches, frequently used the same phrases to refer to the same situations, but I think this was natural. Shakespeare's commentary provided the much-needed background. I know people some readers referred to Elizabeth's comments as resentful - but she would have to be an oblivious saint in order to feel none.
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review 2016-06-23 00:00
Anatomia niepokoju, pisma wybrane 1969-1989
Anatomia niepokoju, pisma wybrane 1969-1989 - Bruce Chatwin It left me lukewarm, compared to Chatwin's collected letters, which are more informative and consistently rather amusing.

The first section, Horreur du domicile, is OK; the second, Stories, quite unremarkable; the third, The Nomadic Alternative, quite redundant if you know the letters; Reviews - might be useful to some, but not many; and the final section, Art and the Image-breaker forms an interesting analysis of Chatwin's attitude to art, possessions, and nomadism.
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review 2015-11-11 22:35
The local spirit in the outsider's eyes
The Viceroy of Ouidah (Vintage Classics) - Bruce Chatwin

This was a surprising little thing. It was was a beautifully written account of the history of a family, of a time, of two places, of tragedy on the heels of fortune or more tragedy.

 

Beyond the exquisite evocative quality, what came as a surprise was how it reminded me of  Latin-american writing in general and Gabriel García Marquez in particular.

 

Like "100 años de Soledad"'s opening:

 

"Muchos años después, frente al pelotón de fusilamiento, el coronel Aureliano Buendía había derecordar aquella tarde remota en que su padre lo llevó a conocer el hielo"

 

Then, we have a paragraph down the middle in Chatwin's that's eerie in it's similar air.

 

I admit I had to stop for  bit and try to find more about the history of this book then. I don't yet know more about a deliberate attempt at homage.

 

There was also the twisting-in-time narrative, the magic-realism feel of the whole, the overblown characteristics of the places and people. I'd never thought I'd find such writing from a foreigner. Then again, he did write an insightful book about my Patagonia, so maybe he's got a very permeable soul.

 

At any rate, It was awesome.

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