"From across the river, out of the distant darkness, the wind carried the Iticoteri's laughter...The voice rustled through the ancient trees, then vanished, like the silvery ripples on thewater."
So writes Florinda Donner in this truly remarkable book. Like "The Children of Sanchez" by Oscar Lewis, "Shabono" breaks new ground in revealing the life of another culture by drawing the reader into its strange and unique world. Ms. Donner, an anthropologist, traveled into the deep jungle between Venezuela and Brazil to study the "curing," or witchcraft practices, of certain Indian tribes.
is the story of her total immersion in a primitive society and its exotic way of life.For days Florinda Donner follows an old Indian woman and her son into the steamy undergrowth totheir village, or
. As day becomes night and night day, time loses all meaning, and her sojourn among the people she calls the Iticoteri extends to a year. Adopted by a native couple, shegoes beyond observation; she begins to absorb their totems and taboos as her own.Behind the hardness of life in the jungle is an exquisite magic, a world in which the Iticoteri are born, undergo grueling rites of passage, marry, make war, and die. A world where they feast on ripe plantain and fresh fish. Where there are ceremonies in which men sniff
and dance wildly incostumes made from the feathers of exotic birds to become
or witch doctors. Theirs is acivilization in which illness is cured by the rhythmic chanting of
where fire releases thesoul from the body, and the soul rises to the house of thunder.With amazing warmth the Iticoteri accept Florinda Donner as one of their own, gently teaching her their religion, their customs, even their language. Reluctantly they guide her to the edge of the jungle at the end of her year with them.In prose that is enchanting, almost sensual, Florinda Donner combines the storytelling appeal of anovel with the very real facts of her stay in the
The result is as unusual as it is irresistible,a book that will fascinate equally readers of fiction and nonfiction.FLORINDA DONNER is an anthropologist whose specialty is the study of Indian tribes.Jacket design and illustration copyright © 1982 by Judith Leeds"There is no doubt in my mind that
is a masterpiece. For me, it is at once art, magic, andsocial science, and so skillfully balanced that I cannot assess which takes the lead."It is superb social science because with an unerring sense of choice in describing her experiencesamong the Indians of the Venezuelan jungle, Florinda Donner literally plummets the reader into anunknown but very real world. The ethnographic data are there but presented in a rich, alive, andfunctional way."At the same time the author's haunting arid utterly powerful narrative succeeds in communicatingto the reader a most peculiar sense of awe. Thus,
is sheer magic because it sustains, all theway through, the overpowering and forbidden aura of a mysterious and enchanting world."And finally
is art because of a masterly arrangement of words and ideas. FlorindaDonner's artistry is to strike with words; to create fleeting images of supreme poignancy and thenstring them and connect them until they achieve a final result: a catharsis of feeling."