I am in love with the structure of this book; initially, it describes a series of encounters with black and white Australians living in the nearly uninhabitable Central Australia. Chatwin's guide on this journey is an Australian of Russian descent, one of the many striking figures we meet - and I must add here that Chatwin was accused of the same sin as Kapuściński, apparently taking too much liberty with the degree of 'literariness' of his reportages.
Chatwin quite delicately (at least to my eyes) approaches the description of the Aboriginals (although they frequently come across as eluding understanding, before Chatwin starts to comment on his narrative). He does not mention the crimes perpetrated by white Australians on the blacks - the massacres, the unpunished killings, the taking away of children to 'reeducate' them. The whites he describes are a strange mix, representing a variety of attitudes toward the Aboriginals - sometimes greed, exasperation, and cruelty, but he mostly focuses on those who offer them nearly unconditional friendship and support.
The eponymous Songlines allow the book's 'surface level' to point to the connection between nomadism, land, language and mythology - all the scenes Chatwin recorded featuring the Aboriginals and their traditions serve to present them as a present-day model of the original nomadic society, which we fully comprehend later on: at some point, when the protagonist's/Chatwin's guide disappears for a few days, Chatwin turns to discuss the relation between people and the space they're in, people and predators, the nature of humans and human families, and the fears, needs, and coping mechanism we inherit from our distant ancestors. Chapter 30 alone - his musings on nomadism and human aggression - makes the book worth reading.