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Candace Slater takes us on a journey into the Amazon that will forever change our ideas about one of the most written-about, filmed, and fought-over areas in the world. In this book she deftly traces a rich and marvelous legacy of stories and images of the Amazon that reflects the influence of widely different groups of people--conquistadors, corporate executives, subsistence farmers --over the centuries. A careful, passionate consideration of one of the most powerful environmental icons of our time, Entangled Edens makes clear that we cannot defend the Amazon's dazzling array of plants and animals without comprehending its equally astonishing human and cultural diversity.
Early explorers describe encounters with fearsome warrior women and tell of golden cities complete with twenty-four-carat kings. Contemporary miners talk about a living, breathing gold. TV documentaries decry deforestation and mercury poisoning. How do these disparate visions of the Amazon relate to one another? As she fits the pieces of the puzzle together, Slater shows how today's widespread portrayal of the region as a fragile rain forest on the brink of annihilation is every bit as likely as earlier depictions to obscure important aspects of this immense and complicated region.
In this book, Slater draws on her fifteen years of experience collecting stories and oral histories among many different groups of people in the Amazon. Throughout Entangled Edens, the voices of contemporary Amazonians mingle with the analyses of such writers as Claude Lévi-Strauss, Theodore Roosevelt, and nineteenth-century naturalist Henry Walter Bates. Slater convinces us that these stories and ideas, together with an understanding of their origins and ongoing impact, are as critical as scientific analyses in the fight to preserve the rain forest.
Candace Slater is Marian E. Koshland Distinguished Professor and director of the Townsend Center for the Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Dance of the Dolphin: Transformation and Disenchantment in the Amazonian Imagination (1994) and Stories on a String: The Brazilian Literatura de Cordel (California, 1989).
"The skill with which [Slater] combines various levels and modalities of narrative, utilizing her personal experience as a colorful unifying thread, is truly remarkable."—Antonio Candido, author of Antonio Candido: On Literature and Society (Howard S. Becker, editor)
"A very important book, that quite gracefully, elegantly, and persuasively moves beyond the usual 'myth and history' format to put at its center stories about the Amazon and the people who tell them. Entangled Edens persuasively argues that the Amazon can only be grasped, understood, and come to terms with through its myths and stories. It addresses a very real failing of modern environmentalism, which for all its virtues, tends to dehumanize and metaphorically depopulate, when it does not villainize, populations that do share its concerns or share them in very different ways. Instead of forcing us to choose between land and people, Slater uses the stories and the people who tell them to rethink human relations with nature and each other."—Richard White, author of The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River
"Elegant, erudite, profoundly serious, Entangled Edens is a source of inspiration and knowledge for the reader interested in the Amazon. Without the cultural tradition and the life experience of Amazonia’s people, any analysis of the Amazon risks becoming inconsequential or opportunistic. This is one of the powerful messages of this important reflection on the Amazon, whose greatest riches are ultimately its people. Candace Slater has written a book that will last."—Milton Hatoum, author of The Tree of the Seventh Heaven(1994) and The Brothers (2002)