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Anthropological "pensees" leave you wanting more story
am 27. März 1999
This book starts out with a kind of nice, floating narrative about a meandering trip through Australia's outback. You get a candid look at Aborigines and their land rights movement in a way that's not at all preachy but rather funny. Unfortunately, just as I was starting to care about where the characters were going and what would happen to them, Chatwin treats us to page after page of "pensees," his own and others', on the subjects of nomadism and other topics in cultural and physical anthropology. I was an anthropology major, so I enjoyed many of his ideas, but found some of his main premises to be preposterous... For example, pastoral peoples are notoriously anything but pastoral, being extremely xenophobic and violent as a rule. Chatwin seems to be trying to convince us that the Aboriginals are peaceful and sweet because they roam around a lot... well, maybe. But I don't know that I needed fifteen pages of one-paragraph "thoughts" to state the point. Honestly, I couldn't help skipping pages to get back to the narrative. I understand where Chatwin was coming from with his "pensees" format, but Pascal he is not. Still, if you want a little food for thought, you might enjoy it. If you're looking for a narrative, forget it. Unlike the aborigines, whose travels have purpose and wonderful stories, Chatwin's narrative just kind of ambles around in the dust.