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I had to read Bruce Chatwin's The Songlines last month for my travel writing course. This is my first experience with Chatwin's writing and with this form of travel literature. I wasn't sure what to expect going into it, so I opted for not expecting anything, which turned out well in the end.
Since I didn't go into this novel with a set idea about what it was doing, I found that I was able enjoy the simple aspects of reading it, like how much it made me want to travel to Australia and learn more about the creation myths of the aboriginals there.
The Songlines had a really interesting focus, which kept me engaged even though it was pretty dead plot-wise. I'm not sure how much of it is based on fact and how much of it is fictionalized, but I found the aboriginal creation stories surrounding the Songlines really interesting, though I cannot for the life of me give a simple description of what the Songlines are.
I also really loved the focus on nomadic tribes in general, and the correlation between movement and happiness in these cultures. Reading this book, felt like a really unique springboard that made me consider and want to learn more about things that I hadn't thought of before.
The value that I gained from this book comes primarily from the information and inspiration to learn that it imbued in me, and not so much from its status as a piece of literature. Though, the writing was well crafted and at times even beautiful, I couldn't fully identify my experience with this book as a literary one. I feel like I would have had a very similar experience if this were a documentary that I watched. The value truly was in the information and intellectual discussion surrounding nomadism.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in creation myths and travelling to Australia. I really think that it's a great starting point if you are interested in aboriginal mythologies or nomadic mythologies and don't know where to start.