RETURN TO LAUGHTER by Elenore Smith Bowen


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There is no stranger and more rocky journey than the voyage of self-discovery made over the sea of an alien culture. This is the journey Elenore Smith Bowen, a young American anthropologist, made when she undertook the study of an African tribe. She came to the tribe without its language and learned it as she tried to find the dynamics of tribal life. She became enmeshed in intertribal struggles for power, and learned to play the sides to the advantage of her gleaning; she ultimately had to face her protector, Chief Kako, and prove the efficacy of her knowledge and witchcraft. She discovered the power of witchcraft in the culture and experienced the inefficacy of it when her gentle friend Amara died and accusations did not save her; she saw her friends turn mad when ""water"" was brought into the village -- when a smallpox epidemic raged and age-mate turned against age-mate, brother against brother. She herself escaped during the epidemic to return a few months later, appreciative both of her own background which had made her something forever different in basic outlook from her tribal friends and of their ability to accept their failures and misfortunes, facing them with laughter, a laughter acknowledging reality. Unusual in intent and execution.

Pub Date: April 13th, 1955
ISBN: 0385053126
Publisher: Harper