cover image In the Eye of the Wild

In the Eye of the Wild

Nastassja Martin, trans. from the French by Sophie R. Lewis. New York Review Books, $14.95 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-68137-585-4

French anthropologist Martin makes her U.S. debut with this stunning reflection on her self-discovery in the wake of a bear attack she suffered in Siberia. During a 2015 research trip that took her from northern Alaska to the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia, Martin was mauled by bear, an attack that shattered parts of her skull and left her to explore her body as a place of anthropological inquiry. Her recovery began in an operating room in Russia, but much of the reconstructive surgery was redone when she returned home in France, her jaw “the scene of a Franco-Russian medical cold war” (the doctor, Martin writes, said that “it would be risky to leave an ex-Soviet plate in my jaw”). Post-op, she began to contend with the “inexpressible violence” within herself that she’d also recognized in the bear, not that when “our bodies were commingled, there was that incomprehensible us.” After realizing that the only way to heal was to go back to Kamchatka, she returned to the place where her body and anthropological practice were transformed. With exquisite prose and sharp observations, Martin reveals how curiosity can uncover the most vivid aspects of the human condition. This is a profound look at the violence and beauty of life. (Nov.)