A natural wonder

<strong>Wild: An Elemental Journey</strong>

Jay Griffiths <em>Hamish Hamilton, 384pp, £20</em>


For anyone living in a city or stuck in front of a computer, Wild ought to come with a health warning. The epic physical and emotional journeys that Griffiths recounts might leave readers wondering whether they have been alive at all these past years.

This book is the result of Griffiths’s long journeys among the world’s indigenous peoples. Driven by a desire to understand the connection between humanity and wild lands, Griffiths travels deep into the clicking and cawing heart of the Amazon, across the crunchy expanse of the Arctic and beyond. She meets cannibals, sea gypsies, freedom fighters, shamans, aboriginal elders, heroes and villains, and writes notes by the light of a firefly that a guide attaches to the end of her pen.

But Wild is more than a tale of romantic adventure. Through the exploration of indigenous thought, Griffiths challenges the dominant global culture. She rejects the distinction between the “civilised” west and the “savage” indigenous world, and argues that wildness is essential to our well-being. It is a passionate and poetic evocation of the beauty of nature, of sensuality, life, death and humanity, of how wilderness and language are entwined, and of how living truly wild is also an exploration of the greatest of all uncharted lands – the mind.

This article first appeared in the 11 June 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Russia: The beggar becomes the belligerent