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In this gripping first-person account of adventure and survival, The Unconquered tells the extraordinary story of a journey into the deepest recesses of the Amazon to track one of the planet's last uncontacted indigenous tribes. Author Scott Wallace follows a 34-man team into a land both wondrous and horrifying, where untrammeled nature holds sway in a land of permanent twilight. Danger lurks at every step as the expedition moves ever closer to a possible encounter with the mysterious flecheiros—the "People of ...
In this gripping first-person account of adventure and survival, The Unconquered tells the extraordinary story of a journey into the deepest recesses of the Amazon to track one of the planet's last uncontacted indigenous tribes. Author Scott Wallace follows a 34-man team into a land both wondrous and horrifying, where untrammeled nature holds sway in a land of permanent twilight. Danger lurks at every step as the expedition moves ever closer to a possible encounter with the mysterious flecheiros—the "People of the Arrow"—a seldom-glimpsed tribe of deft archers known to defend their lands with showers of deadly arrows before melting back into the forest shadows.
Laced with anthropological insight and offering a fresh perspective on the Amazon’s own convulsed history, The Unconquered boasts a Conradian cast of unforgettable characters—all driven by a passion to preserve the wild, but also wracked by fear, suspicion, and the desperate need to make it home alive. Wallace takes the reader into the very depths of the Amazon in this page-turning tale of adventure, revealing this critical battleground as it has rarely been seen before.
Piece by piece, Wallace uncovers clues as to who the Arrow People might be, how they have managed to endure as one of the last unconquered tribes, and why so much about them must remain shrouded in mystery if they – and the rainforest on which all of depend– are to survive. Evoking an era of exploration and derring-do that has all but vanished from the Earth, The Unconquered will change the way you see the world and your place in it.
A photographer, journalist and first-time author joins a celebrated Brazilian Indian rights activist on an expedition in search of an isolated Amazon tribe.
Brazil's dense forests are known to shelter some 400,000 Indians from 270 tribes. But there are reportedly many more indigenous people who have not made contact with modern civilization. As head of Brazil's Department of Isolated Indians, wilderness scout Sydney Possuelo, 62, had already confirmed the existence of 17 uncontacted tribes by 2002, when the author was assigned byNational Geographicto cover Possuelo's attempt to find yet another group said to be living deep in the Amazon: theflecheiros, or "People of the Arrow." Wallace's book is a detailed, overlong account of the three-month land-and-water journey, in which Possuelo and his 34 men sought facts about the Arrow People's existence—but deliberately made no contact with the tribe. The "no-contact" policy, set by Possuelo, was intended to protect wild Indians from the diseases of white men. Unfortunately, it robs readers of the traditional payoff of a journey of discovery. Even the author yearned for the knowledge that contact would bring. But Possuelo's goal was to quietly observe that the Arrow People are thriving, then leave, preserving the tribe's isolation. "The best thing we can do is to stay out of their lives," he says. Only later, on a flight retracing the expedition's route, did Wallace glimpse members of the tribe, scurrying about like ants, then "staring up at us in a trance." Wallace provides a good sense of deep-jungle travel and dining (piranha stew, boiled monkey, etc.), and portrays Possuelo as a great explorer dedicated to saving Brazil's Indians. He notes that Possuelo was later fired after criticizing his boss's remark that Indians were claiming too much land. By then, Possuelo had protected 365,000 square miles of indigenous lands from logging, mining and other development.
A well-reported but somewhat disappointing adventure story.
"Wallace's foreboding is matched by his sense of wonder." – New York Times Book Review
"Astonishing." – The London Sunday Times
"A rousing adventure tale." –Wall Street Journal
"Wallace's gripping account takes us upriver to a place very few outsiders have ever seen." – The Boston Globe
"What a great book! An adventure story worthy of Joseph Conrad or Peter Matthiessen." – The Oregonian
“Rousing.” – TIME
"Startlingly novelistic." – Salon.com
“It’s easy to picture The Unconquered being made into a movie.” – Washington Post Express
"Masterful...positively cinematic." – Yale Alumni Magazine
“An eye-opening read…one of the most gripping pieces of non-fiction around…. You’ll swear you are reading a thriller novel.” – Guernica
“Dream assignment or nightmare? An editor from National Geographic asked journalist Scott Wallace to join an expedition into the deepest wilds of the Amazon jungle to find the mysterious ‘People of the Arrow.' While the experience was pretty much a nightmare, it’s a blessing for readers of Wallace's fascinating book.” — Associated Press
“Echoing Amazonia’s earliest European explorers, Wallace crafts a tale that is part gripping adventure story, part window into the unexpected complexities of a developing country where uncontacted tribes stand between a resource-hungry economy and an area abounding in natural wealth.” – Indian Country Today
“Rife with poachers, drug smugglers, illegal gold miners and violent tribes already acquainted with the dangers of modern life…Wallace describes the trek in vivid, if unsettling, terms.” – Maclean’s
“Wallace joins the tribe of jungle-besotted literary types led by Redmond O'Hanlon and David Grann and presents a credibly incredible tale about his voyage past the edge of modernity.” – Huffington Post
"A gripping tale of adventure." – Washingtonian
“While it’s hard to imagine that ‘stone-age’ tribes still persist in a world of cell phones, satellites and social media, it’s even harder to understand how difficult it is to police these isolated regions, to keep them free of outsiders who could endanger a way of life that has nearly disappeared…Wallace’s narrative is apt and penetrating.” – SEJournal
In an age when there is little left in the world that can be said to be still "virgin," contemporary travel literature has come to seem increasingly derivative, even farcical. The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes is a rare exception, an original that works on several levels. Scott Wallace has sensitively documented the immensity, history, the terror, and the beauty of one of the world's last true wildernesses and the people who live within it. This is a wonderful book: deeply moving, riveting by turns, laced with finely wrought passages.
On the one hand, The Unconquered is the account of a nightmarish three-month expedition into the Amazon jungle in 2002 led by the irascible Brazilian wilderness explorer Sydney Possuelo, a legendary defender of the region's last uncontacted Indians. Rife through with moments of danger, loneliness, and hunger, as well as the testosterone-fuelled dramas that seem peculiar to groups of men undergoing hard times together, The Unconquered makes a spellbinding tale of real-life high-adventure.
This is also the account of an equally fascinating inward journey taken by its author, the American journalist Scott Wallace, who originally joined Possuelo on his trek in order to write about his journey for National Geographic. In this book, Wallace, who renders memorable portraits of his fellow expeditionaries (the cook, Mauro, haunted by nightmares about monkeys who castrate him; Soldado the backwoods scout, who refuses to return home and see his aging mother) is also brutally honest about himself. Recently divorced, Wallace sets off into the jungle just shy of his forty-eighth birthday; he is out-of-shape, guilt-ridden for not having said goodbye to his three young sons, and fretful about the implications of a prolonged separation with his new girlfriend.
The main character of The Unconquered, however, is Sydney Possuelo, a larger-than-life figure who emerges as a kind of Indian Jones- meets latter-day Bartolome de las Casas. Some years before Wallace met him, Possuelo, Brazil's best-known sertanista, or "agent of contact" with the Amazon's isolated indigenous people, had undergone a crisis of conscience about the destruction wrought by his life's work. He had become instead the main proponent of a no-contact policy for the Amazon's remaining "uncontacted" tribes. He had lobbied for and secured the designation of a vast Maine-sized tract of Amazonian wilderness called the Javari Valley Indigenous Land, to be closed off to all outsiders in perpetuity. It was the refuge of several uncontacted tribes hostile to outsiders, including the implacable flecheiros, the Arrow People, whose territory Possuelo planned to explore.
The motives behind Possuelo's 2002 expedition seemed nonetheless obscure, even contradictory. As Possuelo explained it to Wallace, he wished to gather vital information about the flecheiros and to ascertain their wellbeing, but could only do so by penetrating their sanctuary on foot and by dugout canoe with a band of armed men, while at the same time seeking to avoid contact with them. During the journey itself, the inescapable Catch-22 of Possuelo's logic became more and more apparent until the moment, retold dramatically by Wallace, when the expeditionaries blundered inevitably through a flecheiro settlement, spreading panic as they went.
In the end, The Unconquered is the unforgettable story of a troubled journey through a doomed landscape, its characters—the outsiders and the Indians—locked together in an ever-tightening fatal embrace by their respective needs and compulsions.
At one point in the book, Possuelo points to a path they have slashed out of the jungle with their machetes and tells Wallace: "Five years from now, you will never know we were here." But Wallace is unconvinced, and notes ruefully: "It was doubtful the Arrow People would forget us so easily."
—Jon Lee Anderson Guest Review: The Unconquered
Jon Lee Anderson is a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine. His books include: "Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life," "The Fall of Baghdad," and "The Lion's Grave: Dispatches from Afghanistan." Anderson began his reporting career in 1979, in Peru. In 2009, he won an Overseas Press Club Award for his reporting on Rio de Janeiro's gangland.
Posted March 9, 2011
This is going to be a good one. I read the National Geographic article that eventually led to this book, and it was fascinating. Can't wait for the full story. Profound philosophical questions about human culture and indigenous survival, interwoven with environmental investigation, and wrapped in a gripping adventure story.
3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 20, 2012
Scott Wallace's "The Unconquered" is excellent. I generally read fiction, but Mr. Wallace somehow managed to sneak a wealth of information on a topic I knew nothing about (uncontacted tribes in the Amazon) into an emotional, real-life action adventure that left me both sad that I've never had such opportunities to explore the world, and thankful that someone else has and that he has the talent to bring it all back to me in words and pictures. Read it. You won't be disappointed; the story is rich, the photos are hauntingly beautiful, and you may just find yourself viewing the world a bit differently.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 15, 2012
Posted December 22, 2012
I was so excited when I got my hands on this book - for all the new history books, memoirs, biographies, etc., that I've been reading
lately, this book's got it. Real life adventure. Substance. I had truly enjoyed the book
"River of Darkness" about Orellana's voyage down the Amazon and a few others about South American history,
so this book resonated for the concerns about the indigenous tribes, esp the uncontacted, the environment and sheer excitement!!
Posted August 16, 2012
I Also Recommend:
Slightly disappointed by this tale of a FUNAI team exploring the Amazon
jungle to determine the health and living boundaries of an uncontacted
indian tribe. It was more the observations and fears of the writer than
a true adventure story. The team leader seemed rather bipolar. While it
is common for expeditions under adverse conditions to become rather
fractious, it seemed like much of the problems were caused by Possuelo
himself. FUNAI itself reminds me a lot of the UN Peacekeeping team that
was in Rwanda; unable to do anything but try to talk people out of what
they are doing. While the information in the book is good, I was
underwhelmed by the book overall. For an Amazon adventure, I would
instead recommend The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest
Journey by Candice Millard or The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly
Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann. The eBook was formatted well,
with no spelling or grammar errors. There are a couple of maps in the
front, and several photos in the pages.
Posted September 13, 2012
Unconquered is an important book. Wallace enters a world so foreign that its closest approximation come from a science fiction film referenced at the book's end. There were plenty of times when I wished I was in the hands of a better writer, but the sense of urgency is persistent. The book leaves me with a lot of questions--rightfullty so.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 8, 2011
No text was provided for this review.
Posted March 21, 2012
No text was provided for this review.