Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Anthropologist

I was going to wax lyrical on a quote from Kenneth Goldsmith, "The shipwreck of the singular." In many ways it encompasses what I've been moving towards in trying to see more than what I see in a short story or novel and to try for more than one narrative. But in a used bookstore I found a book (no longer in print and so no links available) from an anthropologist who was exiled during the McCarthy years. 

So it goes. But this one is especially interesting because of the book's content: a lost tribe he found and visited many times in the Congo. No one else ever came in contact with this tribe and it was later claimed that he made it all up. Still, it makes for some great reading:

The tribe was pretty isolated, viewed themselves as the end all be all humans and had developed an interesting agriculture and gift economy. Along with this was an art system so complex as to force this euro-centric man to completely review his views on life. 

Perhaps this is what drove him mad, but as he slowly went native and learned about these people (who were constantly surprised that this pink-skinned man could survive with only flesh for protection from the elements). But then he left when, after a harvest, he found that they were taking those who had contributed the least to the society and making them little better than slaves. Of course, one could always leave the town—if you could survive the jungle on your own. 

This alone seemed to go against the anthropologist's inherent beliefs. When he found that these people were then subject to random attempts at their lives, up to and including sacrifice, he left. 

But back home he found no solace. He could see the same flaws in the town he just left even in his beloved America. That's when he went off the deep end and was soon in and out of jail. His book had sold well enough, but now he was blacklisted and died in penury.

That's it. There's no point to this story except that it seems as I grow older I hear more and more stories like this. Why is that? 

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  1. I'm a bit confused. Is the story real? At what point does the story start and end? Who is the narrator?

    The story of the anthropologist sounds familiar.

  2. Hi, this is a pseudo essay, written under the influence of Borges et al. I could recommend some books if need be. Hope you enjoyed it. If the story sounds familiar, I'd love to hear from what source!


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