Saturday, January 22

In the Eye of the Wild by Nastassja Martin Review – Life After Being “Kissed” by a Bear | Autobiography and memoirs

WWith her second book, the French anthropologist Nastassja Martin seeks to tell us what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. In August 2015, when I was living among the Even the people From the Russian peninsula of Kamchatka, she, the immovable object: a stubborn and combative woman, encountered the unstoppable force of a large brown bear.

For starters, his story is simple and wonderfully gruesome. She writes about “the bear’s kiss on my face, its teeth closing on me, my jaw cracking, my skull cracking,” but, impaled by a well-placed ice ax, changes her mind, walks away and leaves her with “features.” subsumed under the abysses opened in my face, covered with internal tissue ”. And so this short but chewy book becomes a stew of memoirs, drama, anthropology, and metaphysics, or how the immovable object moved and changed.

This change is in a literal sense: not just the physical legacy of the bear attack after Martin’s miraculous survival, but her sense that she is what the locals call medka, that is, “marked by the bear” in such a way that it is half human, half bear. But the more we read, the more we can see that Martin always had something wild in his spirit.

They take her to the hospital; the scenes that follow are sometimes hilarious – Russian authorities want to know if she is “a highly trained secret agent sent by France (or worse still, the United States)” – and sometimes horrible: a replacement jaw plate leads to an antibiotic-resistant infection. She is not a model patient: not yet fully recovered, she returns to Kamchatka, to the origin of her suffering. He quotes Pascal Quignard: “Free ourselves not from the existence of the past but from its ties: this is the strange and regrettable task that we must undertake.”

Nastassja Martin
Nastassja Martin: ‘does not seek the sympathy of the reader’. Photography: philippe bretelle and gallimard

This time, she is less to study others than to learn about herself, and what appears repeatedly is Martin’s contradiction, his refusal to fit in: “I have never sought to bring peace to my life, much less to my encounters with others. . “Upon returning to the peninsula, where she medka Status sees her rejected by some – she wants to “stop thinking,” but that’s not her way. And so we get a fascinating and ambitious exploration of animism, the boundary between human and animal, and how she views her encounter with the bear as a manifestation of a breakdown. “I’m backwards.”

The book represents both a collapse and a reconstruction. The language, in the elegant translation of Sophie R Lewis, is often seductive (“The water is rising, the docks are flooded, we must raise the anchor, tie the hatches; we have everything we need to face the ocean; goodbye, we we go to the sea “), although sometimes he struggles to achieve an epigrammatic effect:” Life pushes us out of the stomach, but bears go underground to dream. ” Martin, however, does not seek the sympathy of the reader; you just want us to share your attempts to understand what has happened to you. What more could we ask from a book?

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