Bruce Chatwin on Nomadic Lifestyles

Bruce Chatwin by Lord Snowdon

Bruce Chatwin by Lord Snowdon

“Gradually the idea for a book began to take shape. It was to be a wildly ambitious and intolerant work, a kind of ‘Anatomy of Restlessness’ that would enlarge on Pascal’s dictum about the man sitting quietly in a room. The argument, roughly, was as follows: that in becoming human, man had acquired, together with his straight legs and striding walk, a migratory ‘drive’ or instinct to walk long distances through the seasons; that this ‘drive’ was inseparable from his central nervous system; and, that, when warped in conditions of settlement, it found outlets in violence, greed, status-seeking or a mania for the new. This would explain why mobile societies such as the gypsies were egalitarian, thing-free and resistant to change; also why, to re-establish the harmony of the First State, all the great teachers – Buddha, Lao-tse, St Francis – had set the perpetual pilgrimage at the heart of their message and told their disciples, literally, to follow The Way.”

Bruce Chatwin, Anatomy of Restlessness: Selected Writings, 1969-1989