Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wanderlust

What is this strange madness, Petrarch asked of his young secretary, this mania for sleeping each night in a different bed?
What am I doing here? (Rimbaud writing home from Ethiopia)
Somehow, with Chatwin's Songlines in my hands, this trip to Australia does not seem that abortive. Even though, the Australia that I am seeing is poles apart from the one he has written about - the distance runs in centuries, perhaps even worlds apart. I cannot reconcile the two images as I walk the street. But flying over this land, which is such a large desert, I thought I actually saw those songlines on the ground below.

The quotes above are from the chapter "From the Notebooks" - lovely chapter. And a wonderful book, that I will place far above his 'In Patagonia'

Somewhere in the book there is a dialog (here being Australia):
"Pity we didn't get here first"
"We, the Russians?"
"Not only Russians", he shook his head, "Slavs, Hungarians, Germans even. Any people who could cope with wide horizons. Too much of this country went to islanders. They never understood it. They're afraid of space."
Perhaps that is why everyone has huddled themselves in a few pockets and the land stands on its own. Awkward with its expanse?

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