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

In the 1980s, two remarkably different men visited the Southeast Asian island of Borneo. Both men "had sprung from a group, a tribe, that they didn't feel a part of any longer," yet were motivated by different things: one was fascinated with the "primitive" and the other was seeking his fortune. Only one would make it out alive.

In The Last Wild Men of Borneo, Carl Hoffman (Savage Harvest) follows the footsteps of Bruno Manser and Michael Palmieri, both of whom had significant effects on the indigenous people of Borneo. Manser, a Swiss environmental activist, slight in build but larger than life, immediately fell in love with the nomadic Penan tribe's way of life, learning their language and immersing himself in their customs. As a result, he would fight to help these people survive the onslaught of modernity. On the other hand, the American Michael Palmieri would introduce their culture to the greater world. A dashing playboy and raconteur, he traveled Borneo's interior, collecting items both mundane and sacred, making millions in the process. With an unquenchable thirst for artifacts, he supplied private collectors and museums with intriguing art and relics from the little-known culture.

While Palmieri retired comfortably, Manser disappeared in Sarawak after being labeled an "enemy of the state." Hoffman considers theories about what happened to Manser, but explores more deeply thorny issues, like colonialism and exploitation, that both men exposed. They each sought adventure, from different viewpoints--and with different results. --Frank Brasile, librarian

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