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Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art (Englisch) Taschenbuch – Rauer Buchschnitt, 18. März 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)


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.

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73 von 76 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
An audacious and brilliant book 20. März 2014
Von Ben F Noviello - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
"Savage Harvest" is about much more than the 1961 disappearance of Michael Rockefeller in Papau, New Guinea. This brilliant book also contains elements of exploration, adventure, anthropology, politics, and personal introspection. My only complaint is that the book is too short. Any of these themes could justify far more words than are presented.

Much like Carl Hoffman's previous book, "The Lunatic Express," everything about "Savage Harvest" is audacious: the physical and financial risks of his two trips, the belief that after so long there was still something new to uncover, the challenge of being accepted by the indigenous Asmat people with whom Hoffman lives, and even the notion that a marketable book could be created from a story in which headhunting and cannibalism are central concepts. Even the structure of the book, in which first-person contemporary reporting is combined with detailed, if plausible and well-documented, recreations of historical events indicates a writer who doesn't like to play it safe.

Now, this is not a breezy read. Any book that begins with a graphic account of one man being killed and ritually eaten by other men requires a certain commitment from the reader. This is a book that I read in small sections, thus allowing me to fully process the many implications of the text. "Savage Harvest" demands, and rewards, a lot of thought. The most powerful message presented by "Savage Harvest" is that the Asmat live in a world profoundly different from the one occupied by those who are likely to read this book. Asmat values, Asmat social expectations, and even the relationship between the Asmat and "reality" can be fundamentally alien to a modern, western mind.

Indeed, the most impressive accomplishment of this book is its complex treatment of the Asmat. "Savage Harvest" avoids reducing the Asmat to simple stereotypes such as Noble Savages or Oppressed Victims, or Uncivilized Heathens. Hoffman describes the good, the bad, and certainly the ugly, with brutal honesty. And he does so using evocative prose that frequently becomes poetic. My favorite example is when Hoffman writes, "There are people who don't like hanging out with spiders and dirt and naked men in pig grease, but Michael Rockefeller wasn't one of them."

As for the truth behind the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller? I finished the book completely convinced of what Hoffman argues. However, there are still some aspects that seem mysteriously ambiguous. Things that we might never fully understand. And perhaps this is as it should be.
84 von 97 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Finally a "campy" but Definitive Answer ... 23. März 2014
Von Herbert L Calhoun - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
As I was entering my sophomore year of college, Michael Rockefeller, the son of the then Governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller, was reported missing when the catamaran he and a friend were sailing on collapsed. This had happened near a remote island off the southwest coast of New Guinea, deep in the Pacific Ocean. What was reported in the newspapers at the time is that his friend chose to wait on floating debris and was rescued, but Michael chose to try to swim the five miles to the island in question, in a rather desperate personal search for primitive artifacts for his museum featuring items form the Asmat people. The Asmat tribe was a small group of pre-stone Age people, having little or no contact with the outside world.

At first it seemed it would just be a matter of days before Michael would be found and reported alive -- after all he was a Rockefeller. But as the time stretched out, the chances that he would be discovered at all, dimmed. The conventional wisdom had it that undoubtedly he had drown. And then the reports petered out altogether ...

Over the years, intermittent reports trickled-in but became more and more speculative and more and more macabre, until there were only a rash of unconfirmed reports of a death due to cannibalism? Those reports were received with equal measures of tantalizing shock and incredulity; and as often as not, were dismissed.

Now with this book, it seems that after nearly 50 years, we do finally get the full story of what happened to him. And if this story can be trusted, and I believe many parts of it can, it is indeed a story worthy of the long wait.

Apparently, Michael did not drown as many had speculated, but did indeed manage to swim to the Dutch island in question safely. Only to then be quickly captured, summarily executed and "ceremoniously cooked" and eaten by a local Armat tribe, apparently still in search of revenge for an earlier attack by the guns of white men who had shot and killed several of them three years before. Thus, the story reported here is that Michael was a victim of tribal revenge due to the earlier shooting.

It is based on research and interviews of tribesmen and a careful study of documents and other forensic artifacts, and does go into great detail about the ritual of cannibalism -- so much so that a prudent reader might leave the book as I did, thinking that the author had a particular cannibalism fetish? Or at the very least, will leave one with the idea that he had an undue fascination with the tribal ritual of cannibalism?

That part of the story actually gave me the creeps because it reminded me of a book I had read about six months ago about the revolution in Indonesia, a war that was taking place around the same time as the search for Michael's disappearance was still in full force. As is the case in this book, in that book too, Western reporters seemed to "zero-in" on the several claims of cannibalism on both sides of that conflict -- to the complete exclusion of the war itself!

But in that case, it turned out (rather disappointingly for the cannibalistic thrill-seeking reporters), that the "so-called" incidences of cannibalism, were in fact staged symbolic chest-beating acts of war: mutual mockery of the adversary. A symbolic bite was taken out of the head of the adversary as part of their warrior victory dance.

However, as this author reports it here, it is cannibalism in the flesh (excuse the horrible pun), that is, cannibalism "for real," conducted as a purification ritual that is intended to endow "the consumer" with the best qualities of the head of "those consumed."

But here is this book's "kicker:" the fact that Michael Rockefeller may have been killed and eaten by a primitive tribe, is not the worse part of this story. That distinction must must be reserved for the cowardly Dutch government, which for decades knew the truth. However, since at the time they were the custodians of the islands in question, they were simply too embarrassed, to busy in a global CYA exercise that failed to report the truth of Michael's death.

This book is an interesting read for those who want the author's speculative theories about why Michael was obsessed with collecting the art of primitive tribes, and thus about why he was willing to take the risky chance of swimming five miles to a remote island after his catamaran had collapsed. Although I found the story about what happened to Michael credible, I found the book itself altogether a bit to "campy," too much "inside Harvard baseball" and not enough compassion for Michael's death or hard cold analysis of the facts. Three stars
11 von 11 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Exceptional 29. Mai 2014
Von Brian Weiss - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
As an anthropologist who has spent time in the field, I found Hoffman's book fascinating and well done and very familiar. If you let him, Hoffman will guide you to an understanding of many of the moral/ethical issues involved. Shrug off your preconceived notions and you will understand the role cannibalism played for the Asmat, and why it was no different than any ritual practiced by any contemporary church. And you have to appreciate the irony of it being the Dutch Catholic Church that covered up the report of their own priest who was there and spoke the language because they wanted to maintain a facade of there no longer being head hunting in areas where they were active.

This is ultimately a story of cultural disruption and attempted adaptation. It's also a cautionary tale about what happens when we consider other cultures to be "primitive" and treat them like curios rather than respecting them as equals.

Hoffman also did an extraordinary job of journalistic research. His case for what happened to Michael Rockefeller seems to me pretty much irrefutable. This is ultimately a sad story not about the death of not only Michael Rockefeller but also of a culture that was being radically altered by people who were arrogant enough to think their culture was better.
31 von 38 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
'Savage Harvest' it is: Powerful, Deep, Carefully Developed 20. März 2014
Von David Roy, Ph D - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
In 1961, Michael Rockefeller, son of Nelson Rockefeller disappeared on his second trip hunting for primitive art in Papua New Guinea. Despite intense searches, officially, the cause of his disappearance and presumed death has remained unknown, a mystery, since. The speculations ranged from his going native, drowning at sea, and being killed and eaten by members of the Asmat cannibal headhunters in the region. Recently, author Carl Hoffman set out to find better answers, and this the story of his experiences.

Hoffman chooses to dispense with anything like an introduction. He offers no calm, rational overview of his report on what happened to Michael Rockefeller. Instead, he opens this masterful account with a body slam followed by knockout blow to the jaw: a detailed account, albeit speculative, of how the murder and following rituals of consuming Michael, body and spirit, might have taken place. When you wake up and shake off this stunning blow (never totally), he takes you on an extensive journey into the hearts and spirits of humans who are radically different from those of us in the "civilized" Western European world. Alien and Other, they truly are.

Hoffman speculates that he and Michael Rockefeller were both lured by the opportunity to know first hand these differences, to know them from the inside. The outcome for Hoffman - the experiences that led to this book - is radically different than for Rockefeller's. His was a killing done by those whose world included spirits of their dead who create havoc if not avenged. Hoffman's well-supported speculation is that the Rockefeller scion most likely was a victim of a ritualized murder done to balance the earlier killings of indigenous cannibal headhunters by (white) Dutch soldiers. He would have been the first white man to be killed by these indigenous people; and only after white soldiers in [date] had shot several from the same village as those who killed Rockefeller.

Hoffman's style and approach includes the ability to observe and narrate detail and present it without dramatic interpretation. It seems to blend the best of investigative journalism with a more scholarly style as exemplified by presenting well-documented interpretations and conclusions.

Further, Hoffman goes deep enough into the culture to be able to lift out the very different spirituality and worldview (one in the same) for these people. While their biology, based on their DNA, is the same as any other Homo sapiens, interiorly they seem so difficult to understand, to "know" in the fullest sense possible, as to be truly and fully alien.

Part of my interest in this book stems from a quest to discover a fuller picture of our species' basic nature when it comes to violence, particularly against other people. This is an ancient question: Are we inherently and irrevocably violent? A strongly related issue is to understand better the impact of killing a human being on the killer. For some in our culture, this is deeply unsettling. This can be true even when the killing would be considered justified, as in law enforcement, the military, or in situations of personal danger.

Hoffman emphasizes that the Asmat for countless generations had a worldview that required a ritualized approach to killing in order to avenge those of one's own village killed by those in another village. When I asked if killing for them might be "disturbing" at some deep level, he felt that it would have been instead "emotionally powerful."

Hoffman explained: "It may have been necessary for them; it may have been triumphant; it may have been morally or ethically just, but it's always a powerful act. To kill is to take, possess, take power, consume the other. If it had no power, no importance, it wouldn't happen on purpose, wouldn't have the sacred importance it did. For the Asmat, I think, head hunting and cannibalism was a product of a certain kind of self, a certain kind of stark dualism, one that defined the self via the other."

Yet, in Hoffman's account in the book, shortly after the murder of Rockefeller, several Asmat men approached the area's resident Dutch priest, and allowed themselves to be questioned as to the details of what happened. Why? Were they disturbed and unsettled by what had been done? Or, as Hoffman suggested in an email, was this actually an effort to get the village of the men who killed Rockefeller in trouble (since this group either came from the other village or were related to someone in the village). It could not have been because of any Christian-informed guilt because at that time, their culturally defined spirituality was their controlling worldview.

I am not any clearer on this question at this point. What does make sense to me, and is reinforced by Hoffman's account of the Asmat people, is that we Homo sapiens sapiens are malleable to a significant extent. We are hardwired to kill under a variety of circumstances. Yet we also seem to be hardwired to seek more caring and compassionate responses to others. To survive the next few decades, let along centuries, we are going to have to deliberately choose to cultivate the second position and not the first, something for which Hoffman's extensive work implicitly provides strong support.
5 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Anthropological Thriller 18. Juni 2014
Von C. Ballreich - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
I bought this book because I'd seen a short segment about the Asmat in the Blair brothers' "Ring of Fire" documentary. I wanted to know more about this people and their involvement with Michael Rockefeller. Yes, there's blood and gore and people getting hacked up and eaten in the book. The author gets that out of the way in the first chapter. The real topics of this book are the exploration of the Asmat culture and how it developed completely isolated from any outside influence, and the exploration of western culture's inability to grasp that alternative cultures would be fundamentally different from theirs. I found this contrast to be absolutely fascinating. I literally could not put the book down. The author is unable to answer all of the questions about Rockefeller's disappearance, but the picture he paints of the Asmat and their world is both beautiful and terrifying.

If your only interest is gossip about rich and famous people, this book probably won't be too exciting. But, if you have any interest in other cultures, and don't mind confronting your own prejudices and preconceptions, I highly recommend this book.
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