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29Nov

In the Eye of the Wild by Nastassja Martin review – life after being ‘kissed’ by a bear

A close escape from the jaws of a bear leads to an exploration of trauma and survival in the French anthropologist’s funny and horrifying memoir

With her second book, French anthropologist Nastassja Martin seeks to tell us what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. In August 2015, when living among the Even people of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, she – the immovable object: a headstrong, combative woman – met the unstoppable force of a large brown bear.

Her story to begin with is simple, and beautifully gruesome. She writes of “the bear’s kiss on my face, his teeth closing over me, my jaw cracking, my skull cracking” – but, impaled by a well-placed ice axe, he changes his mind, departs, and leaves her with “features subsumed beneath the open gulfs in my face, slicked over with internal tissue”. And so this short but chewy book thickens up into a stew of memoir, drama, anthropology and metaphysics – or how the immovable object moved, and changed.

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