The Last Wild Men of Borneo: A True Story of Death and Treasure

The Last Wild Men of Borneo: A True Story of Death and Treasure

by Carl Hoffman
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The Last Wild Men of Borneo: A True Story of Death and Treasure by Carl Hoffman

“Adventure travel at its best.” —Kirkus, starred review • “Haunting.” —Booklist, starred review • "Quite a story–exciting, funny, and tragic–and Hoffman tells it extraordinarily well.” —Washington Post

Two modern adventurers sought a treasure possessed by the legendary “Wild Men of Borneo.” One found riches. The other vanished forever into an endless jungle. Had he shed civilization—or lost his mind? Global headlines suspected murder. Lured by these mysteries, New York Times bestselling author Carl Hoffman journeyed to find the truth, discovering that nothing is as it seems in the world’s last Eden, where the lines between sinner and saint blur into one.

In 1984, Swiss traveler Bruno Manser joined an expedition to the Mulu caves on Borneo, the planet’s third largest island. There he slipped into the forest interior to make contact with the Penan, an indigenous tribe of peace-loving nomads living among the Dayak people, the fabled “Headhunters of Borneo.” Bruno lived for years with the Penan, gaining acceptance as a member of the tribe. However, when commercial logging began devouring the Penan’s homeland, Bruno led the tribe against these outside forces, earning him status as an enemy of the state, but also worldwide fame as an environmental hero. He escaped captivity under gunfire twice, but the strain took a psychological toll. Then, in 2000, Bruno disappeared without a trace. Had he become a madman, a hermit, or a martyr?

American Michael Palmieri is, in many ways, Bruno’s opposite. Evading the Vietnam War, the Californian wandered the world, finally settling in Bali in the 1970s. From there, he staged expeditions into the Bornean jungle to acquire astonishing art and artifacts from the Dayaks. He would become one of the world’s most successful tribal-art field collectors, supplying sacred works to prestigious museums and wealthy private collectors. And yet suspicion shadowed this self-styled buccaneer who made his living extracting the treasure of the Dayak: Was he preserving or exploiting native culture?

As Carl Hoffman unravels the deepening riddle of Bruno’s disappearance and seeks answers to the questions surrounding both men, it becomes clear saint and sinner are not so easily defined and Michael and Bruno are, in a sense, two parts of one whole: each spent his life in pursuit of the sacred fire of indigenous people. The Last Wild Men of Borneo is the product of Hoffman’s extensive travels to the region, guided by Penan through jungle paths traveled by Bruno and by Palmieri himself up rivers to remote villages. Hoffman also draws on exclusive interviews with Manser’s family and colleagues, and rare access to his letters and journals. Here is a peerless adventure propelled by the entwined lives of two singular, enigmatic men whose stories reveal both the grandeur and the precarious fate of the wildest place on earth.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062439024
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/06/2018
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 97,637
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Carl Hoffman is the author of the New York Times bestseller Savage Harvest, hailed as a “masterpiece” by Outside and named a New York Times editors’ choice and one of the Washington Post’s 50 notable works of nonfiction for 2014, as well as The Lunatic Express. He is a former contributing editor to National Geographic Traveler and Wired, and has traveled on assignment to eighty countries.

Table of Contents

Author's Note xiii

Map xiv

Prologue: A Ghost Story 1

Part I Rupture 21

Part II Immersion 101

Part III Return 277

Acknowledgments 437

Notes 441

Select Bibliography 473

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The Last Wild Men of Borneo: A True Story of Death and Treasure 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Karen-M 11 months ago
ou’ve probably heard of the decimation of the rain forests of South America but have you heard of Borneo? The decimation is not just rain forest but a way of life for people who lived their primitive existence with minor intrusion from outside until the rampant destruction of the rain forest. Two men, each in their own way attempted to preserve something of the history and traditions of the indigent people of Borneo. Michael Palmieri left the USA with thoughts of travel, pleasure and making his fortune and he traveled through Europe and Asia doing just that but finally ended up in Indonesia. A fortune could be with primitive carvings, textiles and jewelry but he had to be careful because there were so many fakes. He gradually became an expert but he also came to fall in love with the objects he obtained from the indigenous people, people he made friends with and appreciated on his travels through the rain forest. During this same time period another man left Switzerland for adventure and he too ended up in Indonesia but rather than looking for his fortune he searched for knowledge of how the local people survived in the forests. One people, the Penan, he became obsessed with and devoted his life to trying to protect them and the rain forest. Sadly, this was not to be but Bruno Manser himself became a hero, a legend and a man of mystery who finally disappeared in his beloved rain forest. The contrast between these two men is great but each in their own way tried to preserve the traditions of the people of Borneo. I enjoyed reading this book which is filled with information about the people of Borneo and their struggle to survive in modern times. This book was supplied to me by William Morrow/HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.