Bruce Chatwin

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'The Songlines': A Penguin Classic

It's heartwarming to see that Penguin have decided to issue The Songlines as a Penguin Classic; the novel joins Chatwin's other key work, In Patagonia, in being awarded that honour. The introduction for the edition is by Rory Stewart, and an abbreviated version of his essay is now online at The New York Review of Books. Stewart writes of the coherence of Chatwin's vision of the world:

'In his facts and in his fiction (he once observed that he didn’t think there was a distinction), the world is intricate but not opaque. Everything, from Aboriginal myths to childhood memories and adult encounters, is fixed, placed, and overdetermined. The connections between his darting brief images may be omitted, but they are not ambiguous, and the reader can only draw one conclusion from his parables.'

At present – and this is true of the Penguin In Patagonia – this edition of the The Songlines is a Penguin U.S. publication, which seems both surprising and disappointing given Chatwin's nationality.