CANNIBAL by Michael & Alfred Meyer Harner


Email this review


A squirmingly authentic (though anthropologically iffy) read about cannibalism and rites of human sacrifice among the Aztecs in the time of Cortez. Marcos de Medina, an aristocrat, is sent to Yucatan by his patron Cardinal Guilio of Florence (the Medicis are being supported by Spanish gold). Marcos' job: to bring back the head of Martin Braga, a renegade Spaniard who has been organizing Indian tribes in European military techniques and leading them successfully in repulsing gold-seeking Spanish captains. His ploy is to join up with Cortez, then stage a mock desertion and be accepted by the Indians and led to Braga. So Marcos goes on a few skirmishes with Cortez, joins up with Jose Perez (an Italian wastrel masquerading as a Spaniard), and both are then captured and taken cross-country to Tenochtitlan--where Emperor Moctezuma awaits with great interest in these ""deer-men"" (horse soldiers). Slowly Marcos and Jose become aware of the eating habits of their captors, who have a nightly stew of human flesh, salt, and tomatoes. And bit by bit the reader discovers the anthropology of Aztec cannibalism (lifted from Marvin Harris' controversial Cannibals and Kings): Mexico is ravaged by an enormous and endless food-shortage while trying to support an estimated 25 million inhabitants; and a warrior caste has developed which not only eats its prisoners after sacrificing them to the Sun God but also expects its own members to be sacrificed and eaten when captured. Marcos himself is soon being fattened up, speculating on the parallels between Catholic communion and this far more visceral priestly ritual. Vivid--but only for those with strong stomachs and suggestible natures.

Pub Date: Aug. 24th, 1979
Publisher: Morrow