cover image The Songlines

The Songlines

Bruce Chatwin. Viking Books, $18.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-670-80605-8

In his new book, Chatwin (In Patagonia, etc.) explores the area around Alice Springs, in central Australia, where he ponders the source and meaning of nomadism, the origins of human violence and the emergence of mankind amid arid conditions. Searching for ""Songlines''the invisible pathways along which aboriginal Australians travel to perform their central cultural activitiesChatwin is accompanied by Arkady Volchok, a native Australian and tireless bushwalker who is helping the aboriginals protect their sacred sites through the provisions of the Land Rights Act. Chatwin's description of his adventures in the bush forms the most entertaining part of the book, but he also includes long quotations from other writersanthropologists, biologists, even poets. These secondary materials provide a resonant backdrop for the author's reflections on the distinctions between settled people and wanderers, between human aggression and pacifism. First serial to the New York Review of Books. (August 17)