Monday, August 21, 2017

Lost City of the Monkey God

I just finished reading The Lost City of the Monkey God, by Douglas Preston.  It is a wide-reaching account of the National Geographic-funded expedition to rediscover the remains of a major civilization in the dense jungle of the Mosquitia region in Honduras.  Wide-reaching because the author deftly goes into recent, colonial-era, and pre-Hispanic history of the region, as well as offering detailed considerations of archeological practice and even human epidemiology.

Early on in the book there are a few more predictable passages of Preston's first impressions of a country he's never been to and is linguistically and culturally unequipped to understand.  The mundane details of modern Tegucigalpa read as exotic landscape, rife with poverty and pollution and violence that seems sometimes more informed by a lurid imagination than by what's in front of him.  It doesn't help that his initial guides are often hucksters that want to play up their own derring-do and heroism by spinning tall tales about how rough everything is in Honduras, and by extension how tough they are for surviving it.  Those of us who have spent a lot of time as expats in developing countries have surely seen this a fair amount, and perhaps been tempted to ourselves partake in the trend, swapping stories of how badass we are for coolly confronting the exagerrated dangers of our adopted homes.

But it is to Preston's credit that, as he the person becomes more familiar with the nuance of the country he's visiting, his narrative becomes less wide-eyed and sensationalist, and you feel that he is really picking up on a lot of the essence of what he's seeing. 

Anyway, here's a better review of the book that should give you an idea of if you want to read it for yourself.

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