Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art Hardcover – Deckle Edge, 8 May 2014
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“[Hoffman’s] reporting takes hold, drawing a vivid portrait of the world of the Asmat people, hunter-gatherers who lived in isolation until the mid-20th century. Gripping.” (New York Times Book Review)
“In an expertly told tale that is begging for a film adaptation, Hoffman crafts a remarkable, balanced examination of this sensational case. . . . [He] deserves much credit for this riveting, multilayered tale.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“With urgency boarding on obsession, Carl Hoffman retraces Rockefeller’s perilous footsteps. The result is a hypnotic journey into otherness, a wild detective story amid cannibals and headhunters. A thrilling, one-of-a-kind tale -I couldn’t stop reading.” (Andrew McCarthy, The Longest Way Home: One Man's Quest for the Courage to Settle Down)
“A bare-knuckle, adventure-filled journey in search of the answer to a half-century-old cold case: Whatever happened to Nelson Rockefeller’s son, Michael? . . . A searching, discomfiting journey yields an elegant, memorable report.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“A tremendous accomplishment-easily one of the best books I read this year. Carl Hoffman’s acute eye for detail is something to envy. And that closing passage will stick with me for a long, long time.” (Brendan I. Keorner, The Skies Belong To Us: Love and Terror in the Golden age of Hijacking)
“Not only has Carl Hoffman helped solve one of the great mysteries of the last 50 years, he has also written a page turner. An instant classic.” (Scott Wallace, The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribe)
“A gripping whodunit. . . . a powerful book that succeeds in solving a half-century-old mystery.” (Wall Street Journal)
“Terrific . . . What’s surprising about this book is not the revelation of Rockefeller’s fate but rather the author’s portrayal of a unique cultural encounter.” (Washington Post)
“Hoffman is an intelligent writer…. [the]best kind of non-fiction writing.” (The Globe and Mail)
“Compelling. Intoxicating. Sensational. Savage Harvest is a great read, as long as you’re not eating lunch.” (Newsweek)
“A gripping read … he’s erected a solid foundation of reporting that goes far beyond what the rest of us did and is likely to make this the definitive account.” (Tim Sohn, Slate)
“Richly detailed …. nail-biting exposé…Savage Harvest fascinates for the mystery it aims to solve as well as its portrait of an isolated but changing way of life.” (Chicago Tribune)
From the Back Cover
The mysterious disappearance of Michael Rockefeller in remote New Guinea in 1961 has kept the world, and even Michael's powerful, influential family, guessing for years. Now, Carl Hoffman uncovers startling new evidence that finally tells the full, astonishing story.
On November 21, 1961, Michael C. Rockefeller, the twenty-three-year-old son of New York governor Nelson Rockefeller, vanished off the coast of southwest New Guinea when his catamaran capsized while crossing a turbulent river mouth. He was on an expedition to collect art for the Museum of Primitive Art, which his father had founded in 1957, and his expedition partner—who stayed with the boat and was later rescued—shared Michael's final words as he swam for help: "I think I can make it."
Despite exhaustive searches by air, ground, and sea, no trace of Michael was ever found. Soon after his disappearance, rumors surfaced that he'd made it to shore, where he was then killed and eaten by the local Asmat—a native tribe of warriors whose complex culture was built around sacred, reciprocal violence, headhunting, and ritual cannibalism. The Dutch government and the Rockefeller family vehemently denied the story, and Michael's death was officially ruled a drowning.
While the cause of death was accepted publicly, doubts lingered and sensational stories circulated, fueling speculation and intrigue for decades. The real story has long waited to be told—until now.
Retracing Michael's steps, award-winning journalist Carl Hoffman traveled to the jungles of New Guinea, immersing himself in a world of former headhunters and cannibals, secret spirits and customs, and getting to know generations of Asmat. Through exhaustive archival research, he uncovered hundreds of pages of never-before-seen original documents and located witnesses willing to speak publicly for the first time in fifty years.
In Savage Harvest Hoffman finally solves this decades-old mystery and illuminates a culture transformed by years of colonial rule, whose people continue to be shaped by ancient customs and lore. Combining history, art, colonialism, adventure, and ethnography, Savage Harvest is at once a mesmerizing whodunit and a fascinating portrait of the clash between two civilizations that resulted in the death of one of America's richest and most powerful scions.See all Product description
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My only complaint in an otherwise stellar book was Mr Hoffman's presentation of the Asmat in what I perceived to be far too empathetic a light, considering that one cannot excuse away murder owning to cultural differences. Still, it was a fascinating read that carried me away into the world of this primitive tribe.
Thank you for reading my review.
An engaging, fast-paced page-turner, Savage Harvest provides not only closure on a captivating mystery but also provides great insight into the devastating impression that the intrusion of civilisation can leave in its wake.
A great read.
Interesting story but uneven execution. I found some parts difficult to read because clumsy prose made it heavy-going in places.
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