On restlessness and patience: reading desire in Bruce Chatwin's narratives of travel
This article develops a post-structuralist analysis of Bruce Chatwin's famous travel narrative The Songlines (1987). This narrative is compelling because Chatwin positions his narrator as the cosmopolitan traveller moved by a strong desire to know the world in its difference. The desire that informs travel and travel writing is rarely theorized within the sociological literature on tourism, and yet desire is a fundamental social relation that structures encounters between self and other/difference. By analysing the different trajectories of desire within Chatwin's travel narrative we can begin to unravel the social processes that transform the western subject and mediate the embodied experience of time (as lived temporality). Within The Songlines travel is characterized by a constant tension between the western subject's experience of restlessness and patience as these embody quite distinctly different notions of time. Drawing on insights from contemporary phenomenology, psychoanalytic theory and French feminism, I analyse the temporal nature of Chatwin's journeys in order to theorize the desire that mediates his ambivalent relationship between home and away. Home is a complex signifier of the feminine (and heterosexual identity) for Chatwin that is also associated with stasis and death as they figure in an oppositional relation to travel as an imagined freedom. This freedom is produced through a particularly nostalgic relation to Aboriginal culture as the otherness that provides the materiality and background for Chatwin's quest for truth and self certainty as a western subject.