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Fieldwork

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Fieldwork.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Mischa Berlinski(Author)

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When his girlfriend takes a job as a schoolteacher in northern Thailand, Mischa Berlinski goes along for the ride, working as little as possible for one of Thailand's English-language newspapers. One evening a fellow expatriate tips him off to a story. A charismatic American anthropologist, Martiya van der Leun, has been found dead - a suicide - in the Thai prison where she was serving a fifty-year sentence for murder. Motivated first by simple curiosity, then by deeper and more mysterious feelings, Mischa searches relentlessly to discover the details of Martiya's crime. His search leads him to the origins of modern anthropology - and into the family history of Martiya's victim, a brilliant young missionary whose grandparents left Oklahoma to preach the Word in the 1920s and never went back. Finally, Mischa's obssession takes him into the world of the Thai hill tribes, whose way of life becomes a battleground for two competing, and utterly American, ways of looking at the world. Vivid, passionate, funny, deeply researched, and page-turningly plotted, "Fieldwork" is a novel about fascination and taboo - scientific, religious, and sexual. It announces an assured and captivating new voice in American fiction.

"Mischa Berlinski brings a wealth of vivid detail to his narrative, and writes with real authority. FIELDWORK is as fascinating as an ethnographer's private journal, as entertaining as a finely plotted thriller." --John Wray, author of CANAAN'S TONGUE "The West has long equated exotic peoples with the dark and the wild. It is the strength of Mischa Berlinski's novel to chart those elements in the heart of the anthropology that seeks to explore them. He turns received ideas on their heads, for he makes us unsure about the things we thought we knew while showing us truths that we like to hide from ourselves."--Nigel Barley, author of THE INNOCENT ANTHROPOLOGIST

3.3 (7173)
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Book details

  • PDF | 336 pages
  • Mischa Berlinski(Author)
  • Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc (30 Mar. 2007)
  • English
  • 4
  • Fiction

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Review Text

  • By Phileas Fogg on 24 May 2017

    Quick, great condition, real bargain, exciting read

  • By camac on 12 May 2017

    Interesting - a book set in Thailand dealing with missionaries and anthropologists. That’s how it seemed. But…I didn’t read the author’s notes until the end, when I learned he made up the tribal people he described in such detail. The highlands which run through northern Thailand, Burma, China, Tibet and onwards are home to numerous tribes. Would it have been so difficult to bring one of them to life?The missionaries were unbelievable. We are still people with human virtues, failings, desires whether we try to proselytise our beliefs widely or not. Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible has the feel of reality to it whereas our wonderful Walkers and their angel-attuned ears do not.A lot was made of Martiya’s ‘curiosity’ which began to burn and drive her to the point of insanity. As an anthropologist she began her fieldwork stunningly bored by the Dyalo people she studied, but persisted until finally set alight. Her slow fall into burning curiosity was compared with Malinowski’s earlier experience.Although what Berlinski wrote about her possible anthropological studies was well done, it was done in such a way as to leave me fully aware of a novelist writing a novel, rather than allowing me to live Martiya’s experiences. He - for Berlinski is in his own novel as the investigator - sought information about Martiya through interviews and letters as Martiya herself is dead by the time he begins the investigation. And we are meant to believe that via this route we can know the weather conditions, the conversations she held with the tribal people, her own thoughts and feelings. It would have been far more believable if the author had left allowed Martiya to remain alive in her prison cell and to gradually tell her own story - coaxed from her by Berlinski bit by bit as he expanded his knowledge of her via those interviews and letters. Most of the dramatic story and its dramatic conclusion was told by Martiya’s guide/translator who visited her in prison some years before Berlinski turned up. So what we’re hearing is third hand and yet so unbelievably detailed.But the biggest BUT is the lack of a political context in this book. Martiya was in northern Thailand highlands during and after the Vietnam war. We hear nothing of the refugees which must have been fleeing from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. That part of the world is known as a refuge in painful times. We hear nothing of what the missionaries thought of their fellow Christians committing genocide nextdoor. We hear nothing of how the CIA and military organisations might have sought to use Americans who were familiar with local people and languages, and we hear nothing of how all this affected the tribal people.This could have been a really interesting book, if only…

  • By JoV on 3 June 2008

    I picked up this book because it was about Thailand and the hill tribes. I had wandered as far as Chiang Mai and had always inspired to go beyond the city to the mountains to visit the tribes. I love books which relate two (or three) unseemingly disjointed subjects and concocted them into a juicy, suspense story. What has Anthropology got to do with Christian missionaries? The answer is : A lot! The chapters are segmented into both point of views of the anthropologist and the family of missionaries, without losing sight of leading the readers towards a credible conclusion, every findings is a step closer to why the anthropologist did what she did. Sad, tragic, insightful, hilarious ... all rolled into one. This book is brilliant. If you are tired of trashy, time wasters novels in the market, try reading "fieldwork", the short title may not conjure much imagination, but you will come out both more informed (a book with wealth of research information) and gratified (suspense novel with mystery and family saga). Thumbs up, can't wait to read what Mischa has to write in the future.


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