STRANGER IN THE FOREST: On Foot Across Borneo by Eric Hansen
Kirkus Star


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Travel-adventure writing in the grand tradition as this first-time author and long-time American expatriate in Asia hoofs it through the Borneo jungle. Equipped with little more than a change of clothes, a bed sheet, and a knapsack crammed with shotgun shells, beads, and other trade goods, Hansen--who had led a life of singular nonconformity (goldsmith, buffalo catcher, barber in Mother Teresa's Home for the Destitute Dying)--was intent on Sharing the life of the former headhunters who inhabit the rain forests of the partly unmapped island interior. Part of the fascination in Hansen's story lies in the bizarre hybrids that have resulted from contact between Borneo's native and Western cultures. Midway through his narrative, for example, he tells of an encounter with a group of tribesmen returning to their village carrying, among other items, an ancient Singer sewing machine, a Johnson outboard motor, and a pair of rainbow-colored golfing umbrellas. There is also a shrine that consists of a pink plastic suitcase filled with pig livers (sure-fire prophesiers of the future) and balai rumah tinggi, the animistic spirit who must be appeased with blood sacrifices before construction can be begun on high-rise buildings. Hansen writes with sensitivity about the people he meets, and captures in resonant details the look and feel of the land. If a note of self-congratulation creeps in occasionally, it is soon balanced by an even greater sense of self-mockery. As a bonus, Hansen provides a number of travel tips not often found in more conventional guidebooks. He reveals, for instance, how to get around by air with several live chickens in tow--tie their feet together with airline baggage tags and stash them under your seat as ""carry-on"" luggage. A rousing read.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin