Don't Sleep, There are Snakes, By Daniel Everett

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

In 1977, young missionary Daniel Everett travelled to the Amazonian jungle to convert the remote Piraha people. He had a few surprises in store. As an anthropological researcher, his long years with the tribe not only uncovered some extraordinary features of their life, culture – and, above all, of a language whose structure seemed to turn almost every tenet of post-Chomsky linguistic theory on its head.

Even more curious: the Piraha converted him. With a language innocent of "recursion" (Everett explains all this with clarity and charm) goes a world-view oblivious to past, future and afterlife: "They don't believe in a heaven above us, or a hell below us, or that any abstract cause is worth dying for". "Going native" has seldom led to a book as challenging and appealing as this memoir.