The Cannibal Spirit by Harry Whitehead

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The Cannibal Spirit is, on one level at least, about miscommunication and misunderstanding. The book, like the characters who people it, attempts to inhabit two worlds at once, striving for a synthesis that remains — agonizingly — just out of reach.
-National Post arts

Synopsis

The year is 1900. George Hunt has a white father and a native mother. A shaman and chieftain among his people, the Kwagiulth, helplessly he has watched them die-from disease, warfare, alcohol, despair-as their world is besieged by the encroachments of the young country that is Canada. Yet he is also an assistant to the famous anthropologist Franz Boas, and a collector of native artefacts for the white man's museums. Hunt inhabits both worlds but can find no peace in either. A bear of a man, daunting in physique and intellect, he is prone to fits of wild rage.

When his son dies of tuberculosis, and he insists on performing the funeral rites of his mother's people, Hunt provokes the fury of the missionaries and the Indian agents, setting in motion a chain of events that will force him to defend what is most important to him, not only with blade and rifle in the remote fastness of the northern British Columbia coastline, but also with his wits and precarious dignity in a Vancouver courtroom.

Based on the life of the real historical figure George Hunt, this astonishing evocation of the fog-wrapped forests of the northwest coast, and the heedless bustle of the arrival of modernity in the midst of an older, beleaguered way of life, tells the story of the grappling of two civilizations in the life of one man.

 

About Harry Whitehead

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Harry Whitehead was born in London . He lived in the Far East for several years in his twenties. Back in London, he worked as a location manager in the film business while studying for degrees in anthropology and a Ph.D. in creative writing, a subject he now teaches at the University of Leicester . He has published short stories and non-fiction in a variety on genres. The Cannibal Spirit is his first novel.
 
Published October 11, 2011 by Hamish Hamilton. 304 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Cannibal Spirit
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National Post arts

Below average
Reviewed by Steven W. Beattie on Jan 06 2012

The book, like the characters who people it, attempts to inhabit two worlds at once, striving for a synthesis that remains — agonizingly — just out of reach.

Read Full Review of The Cannibal Spirit | See more reviews from National Post arts

National Post arts

Below average
Reviewed by Steven W. Beattie on Jan 06 2012

The Cannibal Spirit is, on one level at least, about miscommunication and misunderstanding. The book, like the characters who people it, attempts to inhabit two worlds at once, striving for a synthesis that remains — agonizingly — just out of reach.

Read Full Review of The Cannibal Spirit | See more reviews from National Post arts

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