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19+ quotes from The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin

Quotes from The Songlines

Bruce Chatwin ·  304 pages

Rating: (7.6K votes)


“As a general rule of biology, migratory species are less 'aggressive' than sedentary ones.

There is one obvious reason why this should be so. The migration itself, like the pilgrimage, is the hard journey: a 'leveller' on which the 'fit' survive and stragglers fall by the wayside.

The journey thus pre-empts the need for hierarchies and shows of dominance. The 'dictators' of the animal kingdom are those who live in an ambience of plenty. The anarchists, as always, are the 'gentlemen of the road'.”
― Bruce Chatwin, quote from The Songlines


“Sluggish and sedentary peoples, such as the Ancient Egyptians-- with their concept of an afterlife journey through the Field of Reeds-- project on to the next world the journeys they failed to make in this one.”
― Bruce Chatwin, quote from The Songlines


“If this were so; if the desert were 'home'; if our instincts were forged in the desert; to survive the rigours of the desert - then it is easier to understand why greener pastures pall on us; why possessions exhaust us, and why Pascal's imaginary man found his comfortable lodgings a prison.”
― Bruce Chatwin, quote from The Songlines


“A journey is a fragment of Hell.”
― Bruce Chatwin, quote from The Songlines


“Sometimes, I overheard my aunts discussing these blighted destinies; and Aunt Ruth would hug me, as if to forestall my following in their footsteps. Yet, from the way she lingered over such words as 'Xanadu' or 'Samarkand' or the 'wine-dark sea,' I think she also felt the trouble of the 'wanderer in her soul.”
― Bruce Chatwin, quote from The Songlines


“Richard Lee calculated that a Bushman child will be carried a distance of 4,900 miles before he begins to walk on his own. Since, during this rhythmic phase, he will be forever naming the contents of his territory, it is impossible he will not become a poet.”
― Bruce Chatwin, quote from The Songlines


“Proust, more perspicaciously than any other writer, reminds us that the 'walks' of childhood form the raw material of our intelligence.”
― Bruce Chatwin, quote from The Songlines


Fino a quando, Signore, fino a quando?... "Finché non siano devastate le città...". I Profeti confidavano in un Giorno della Restaurazione, in cui gli Ebrei sarebbero ritornati al frugale ascetismo della vita nomade.”
― Bruce Chatwin, quote from The Songlines


“[...] la selezione naturale ci ha foggiati - dalla struttura delle cellule cerebrali alla struttura dell'alluce - per una vita di viaggi stagionali a piedi in una torrida distesa di rovi o di deserto.
Se era così, se la "patria" era il deserto, se i nostri istinti si erano forgiati nel deserto, per sopravvivere ai suoi rigori - allora era facile capire perché i pascoli più verdi ci vengono a noia, perché le ricchezze ci logorano e perchè l'immaginario uomo di Pascal considerava i suoi confortevoli alloggi una prigione.”
― Bruce Chatwin, quote from The Songlines


“Quali sono, quindi le prime impressioni che un bimbo nomade ha del mondo? Un capezzolo dondolante e una cascata d'oro.”
― Bruce Chatwin, quote from The Songlines


“Al termine di una notte di luna un cane ulula e poi ammutolisce. La luce del fuoco tremola e la sentinella sbadiglia. Un uomo vecchissimo passa silenzioso davanti alle tende, e saggia il terreno con un bastone per accertarsi di non inciampare nelle corde tese. Poi prosegue. La sua gente si trasferisce in una regione più verde. Mosè si reca all'appuntamento con gli sciacalli e gli avvoltoi.”
― Bruce Chatwin, quote from The Songlines


“Un marabutto smise di pregare per interrogarmi.
"Esiste un popolo chiamato mericani?" chiese.
"Sì".
"Dicono che hanno visitato la luna".
"E' vero".
"Sono blasfemi".”
― Bruce Chatwin, quote from The Songlines


“Senza costrizione non si potrebbe fondare nessun insediamento. [...]”
― Bruce Chatwin, quote from The Songlines


“Pascal, in one of his gloomier pensées, gave it as his opinion that all our miseries stemmed from a single cause: our inability to remain quietly in a room. Why, he asked, must a man with sufficient to live on feel drawn to divert himself on long sea voyages? To dwell in another town? To go off in search of a peppercorn? Or go off to war and break skulls? Later, on further reflection, having discovered the cause of our misfortunes, he wished to understand the reason for them, he found one very good reason: namely, the natural unhappiness of our weak mortal condition; so unhappy that when we gave to it all our attention, nothing could console us. One thing alone could alleviate our despair, and that was ‘distraction’ (divertissement): yet this was the worst of our misfortunes, for in distraction we were prevented from thinking about ourselves and were gradually brought to ruin.”
― Bruce Chatwin, quote from The Songlines


“Life is a bridge. Cross over it, but build no house on it.”
― Bruce Chatwin, quote from The Songlines


“What am I doing here? Rimbaud writing home from Ethiopia”
― Bruce Chatwin, quote from The Songlines


“I think I would be happy in that place I happen not to be, and this question of moving house is the subject of a perpetual dialogue I have with my soul. Baudelaire, ‘Any Where Out of this World!”
― Bruce Chatwin, quote from The Songlines


“Poetry proper is never merely a higher mode (melos) of everyday language. It is rather the reverse: everyday language is a forgotten and therefore used-up poem, from which there hardly resounds a call any longer. Martin Heidegger, ‘Language”
― Bruce Chatwin, quote from The Songlines


“Our fatal flaw, or Fall, he insisted, was to have developed ‘artificial weapons’ instead of natural ones. As a species, we thus lacked the instinctive inhibitions which prevented the ‘professional carnivores’ from murdering their fellows.”
― Bruce Chatwin, quote from The Songlines


About the author

Bruce Chatwin
Born place: in Sheffield, The United Kingdom
Born date May 13, 1940
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