“Perhaps the finest and most profound account of ethnographic fieldwork and discovery that has ever entered the anthropological literature.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“If you want to experience a profoundly different culture without the exhausting travel (to say nothing of the cost), this is an excellent choice.”
—The Washington Post
One of Time’s 32 Books You Need to Read This Summer * One of National Geographic’s Best Travel Books of Summer
As a young anthropologist, Don Kulick went to the tiny village of Gapun in New Guinea to document the death of the native language, Tayap. He arrived knowing that you can’t study a language without understanding the daily lives of the people who speak it: how they talk to their children, how they argue, how they gossip, how they joke. Over the course of thirty years, as he returned again and again to document the vanishing language, he found himself inexorably drawn into the lives and world of the Gapuners, and implicated in their destiny.
In A Death in the Rainforest, Kulick takes us inside the village as he came to know it, revealing what it is like to live in a difficult-to-get-to village of two hundred people, carved out like a cleft in the middle of a tropical rainforest. And in doing so, he also gives us a brilliant interrogation of what it means to study a culture, an illuminating look at the impact of Western culture on the farthest reaches of the globe—and, ultimately, the story of why this anthropologist realized that he had to give up his study of this language and this village.