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Keep the River on Your Right
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Keep the River on Your Right

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  246 ratings  ·  35 reviews
In 1955, armed with a penknife and instructions to keep the river on his right, Brooklyn-born artist Tobias Schneebaum set off into the jungles of Peru in search of a tribe of cannibals. Forgoing all contact with civilization, he lived as a brother with the Akaramas –– shaving and painting his body, hunting with Stone Age weapons, sleeping in the warmth of the body-pile.
Paperback, 184 pages
Published January 12th 1994 by Grove Press
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Completely dissatisfied with the 1999 documentary of the same name, I decided to pick up Tobias Schneebaum's book "Keep the River on Your Right" to learn more about his experiences in Peru myself.

In the mid-1950's Schneebaum walked into the jungle in search of acceptance and became a member of a tribe of cannibals. He lived amongst them, naked, painted and yes, eating flesh from their dead enemies, for more than seven months before he turned around and walked back out to civilization.

The book is
Bryn Hammond
Dec 01, 2014 Bryn Hammond rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Bryn by: Steve Evans
I’m sure the story of his journey is a little fictionalised, but as one who believes fiction can tell truths better, I in no way object to that. A couple of pages late in the piece had a Biblical resonance, like an Old Testament lament (King James of course). He makes a big deal of his encounter with cannibalism – which he also makes symbolic. He doesn’t judge, and nor is this a ‘heart of darkness’ situation, since what he seeks and finds is beauty and love. Alienated from his own society,
The one thing Tobias Schneebaum never reveals in this slight yet totally absorbing and unique book is the Why? of his journey into an unexplored and dangerous jungle environment. It was almost as if he had absolutely Nothing to lose.

The chance he took paid off in his being accepted into the Life of a "savage" tribe ie. one UNtouched by Western "civilisation" which did eventually intrude in its search for timber and minerals and exterminated them.

I read this in the 1970's and at least twice more
Christopher Roth
As mind-blowing as it had promised to be. Tobias Schneebaum went into the Amazon as a painter but with an open heart and an open mind (and his fly was open too, incidentally). In so doing, he has made a greater contribution to the understanding of human nature than a randomly selected 50 new monographs by academic anthropologists put together. I'm wondering what the latest comparative scholarship on cannibalism has to say on his startling revelations about the conceptual and ceremonial relations ...more
Martin Brant
Unnerving, beautiful, bold, disturbing, unforgettable ... just a few of the words you might use to describe this 1955 sojourn into the jungles of Peru in search of a tribe of cannibals. Risking life and limb, even his sanity, Tobias Schneebaum not only finds Akaramas tribe, he lives with them for months, eating and sleeping with them, hunting, bathing, and all but becoming one of them, including a night of terror when he witnesses the raid on a neighboring village, human slaughter and the ritual ...more
Tobias Schneebaum’s book feels elemental in the way that a society’s core texts do. His book is about the essentials of human experience: how communities survive, regenerate themselves, and die. There is an authenticity to the writing that extends far beyond the story. The story, in fact, might not be authentic. Controversy swirled around his description of cannibalism: had it really happened? The issue wasn’t resolved during Schneebaum’s life. Perhaps the author’s intent was not to write a fact ...more
slow going at first but you really should read it before you see the movie.

obviously there's nothing to spoil; the man ventures into the jungle, becomes a cannibal for a brief time, returns to new york. it says so on the jacket.

buuuuutttt, reading is an ultra-romantic experience and schneebaum is ultra-romantic in his rendering and you have to fully appreciate that so you don't totally dismiss it when you see the film. his romanticism for the cannibal culture--the choices he makes in classifying
Elisabeth Rehn
One of my very favorite books. Picked this up at a Goodwill when I was in graduate school and I remember feeling as though reading this was like taking a vacation. I felt like I was transported on a tropical vacation and viewing different cultures. Highly reccommended to those with flexible thinking. Probably not for traditional or conservative types.
New York Jew goes to the Amazon jungle and explores primitive cultures, especially the men. Much talk about Schneebaum and this book focus on the cannibal episode, but there are many other worthwhile moments about Catholocism, wildness, and homosociality.

There are some moments where the reality of what is happening to Schneebaum is concealed by his poetic language. Obfuscation technique or tight, poetic, stylistic writing?

This book is also interesting because it was published by Barney Rosset's
Despite being written about a world that the majority of its reader will never know I found that I identified with the doubt, self reflection, and questions raised by the author. Of the anthropological books that I have read that recounts time with natives, this one seems to be one of the few in which the narrator actually integrated himself into their culture without his ulterior motives showing. I did not go into this questioning if he really was altruistic and what ethical rules did break by ...more
Chelsea Marlow
One of the more captivating ethnographic works I've had the pleasure of reading.
Jeffrey Crimmel
The idea of this book which, is a true story, was interesting. A man goes off into the Jungles of Peru and hooks up with a tribe of head hunters. I did read about three quarters of the book but I could not keep my focus on the story. It is a short account of the experience, (180 pages) and I wanted to read more than what was written. I cannot explain myself other than I found it difficult to hold my attention to an experience that played out as nothing I could relate to. From an anthropological ...more
A stream-of-consciousness memoir about the author's experiences living with a native tribe in Peru. I didn't expect a scholarly anthropological text, but I found the book to be a little too much about Schneebaum's inner life and not enough about his interaction with the "Akaramas." Despite his declarations of love, the author never individualizes his "brothers," and ultimately they come across as a vehicle for his self-actualization rather than actual human beings.
The producers of Texas Chainsaw Massacre used the Sawney Bean story to claim their movie was "based on a true story", but they could just have easily used Tobias' tribe of inbred, semi-retarded murdering cannibals. Why would anyone want to stay with people who can slaughter their neighbors then stand around laughing and playing with their guts while the victims' families look on and weep? Oh. Because they touched his penis. Well then.
Part of me found this to be unbelievable - who would just go into the jungle, with just about nothing, befriend some cannibals, and live with them for a while? Would the tribe actually react to a stranger by laughing and licking him instead of capturing/killing/eating him?

I have to remember that this was Schneebaum's diary - not a work of researched non-fiction. He wrote this for himself, but I do want to know more.
I have read this book recently and many years ago. It is an adventure, a brave and crazy undertaking making most "adventures" you read about today look like a walk downtown. He didn't just read about, hear about, look at cannibals; he lived with and became one. If the whole world could accept each other as he did the native indians there would be no more war. A profound book I will read again.
Marvelous narrative by a painter who wanders off into the Amazon in search of people not like him. He finds them, lives with them, eats with them, hunts with them, and inadvertently goes to war with them. It probably reads better if you have traveled a bit in South America than if you haven't, but it is a well-written and compelling story nevertheless.
I got about half way through. His writing is pretty nice. It was exciting reading about his discover and envelopment into this wild, completely different culture.

But then he starts in on the slicing open bellies and entrails and eating brains and butt secks. And, I think I'm done with it.

Who know what I was expecting, eh?
I worship these words! I believe this work defies categorization and can only be described as a timeless masterpiece. unbelievable to me how the author could have hidden this work from view until Stonewall made it publishable. truly magical in its untrained exploration and naivete.
Good observation of human nature, and thus nature. An Englishman lived in a Peruvian village for two or three years? (too long since I read it to remember, accurately), and then was away for a couple of decades, before returning to see what had become of everyone that he'd known there.
Tom Schulte
A very detached, atmospheric, dream-like recollection of going native in the Peruvian jungle, this is an easy and engaging read. However, I wish the author has taken the time and effort to record and recall more detail of this experience non pareil.
This book was an opportunity to see a man strip down and get back to a more wild time.

Honest, non-judging, naked, and unpredictable.

Great book. Makes you want to rid yourself of convenience and get back to the excitement of mere survival.

Michelle Commeyras
I read this book after having seen the documentary about Tobias Schneebaum. "Keep the River on Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale (2001)" You can get it from Netflix...He was really a unique interesting person who inspires me to live more fully.
A fascinating narrative about a successful artist in Manhattan who foregoes his comfortable life there for the rigors on the Papua New Guinea jungles. He lives among the tribes and describes incredible adventure and adaptation.
George Patrick
A fascinating true story about a man who journeys into the heart of the Amazon jungle to discover and become a part of a native tribe of people. Ultimately he ends up engaging in cannibalism at least once.
It was slow going at first but persistence really paid off. I was moved to tears by this amazing account of the human experience! I then passed it on to someone who I thought needed motivation to really live!
Aug 10, 2012 David added it
It took me a long time to learn to read as a regular part of my life. Tobias Schneebaum was one of the keys to learning to enjoy reading. Fascinating work.
Interesting. Enjoyed more because I was visiting the area where the book was set. But not sure if I think it was all that believable.
dead letter office
this new yorker runs off to live with a tribe of cannibals in the amazon and ends up assimilating quite nicely. when in rome...
May 06, 2010 !Tæmbuŝu marked it as to-read
Shelves: travel
Reviewed by The Guardian
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Tobias Schneebaum was an American artist, anthropologist, and AIDS activist. He is best known for his experiences living, and traveling among the Harakmbut people of Peru, and the Asmat people of Papua, Western New Guinea, Indonesia then known as Irian Jaya.He was born on Manhattan's Lower East Side and grew up in Brooklyn. In 1939 he graduated from the Stuyvesant High School, moving on to the Cit ...more
More about Tobias Schneebaum...
Where the Spirits Dwell: An Odyssey in the Jungle of New Guinea Wild Man Secret Places: My Life In New York & New Guinea Lá onde o rio te leva Asmat Images From The Collection Of The Asmat Museum Of Culture And Progress: Text, Photographs, And Drawings = Gambaran Asmat, Dari Koleksi Museum Kebudayaan Dan Kemajuan

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