The Russian explorer V. K. Arseniev received a hero's welcome when he returned to Moscow from the Far East in 1906, having mapped the unknown corner of Siberia just above what is now North Korea and just east of Manchuria. He could not have done this work alone, Arseniev protested, and the real hero was an indigene who befriended his party. Arseniev then wrote a remarkable memoir devoted to the Goldi trapper, Dersu, who saved his and his men's lives on more than one occasion while showing them the ways of the deep forest. An action-filled memoir of exploration and natural history, Arseniev's record of friendship with Dersu is one of the finest works of amateur ethnography. It is also the basis for Akira Kurosawa
's prize-winning 1976 film Dersu Uzala
From Publishers Weekly
Arseniev, a Russian geographer, ethnographer and geologist who surveyed the Taiga, the vast forest region of eastern Siberia, on three separate occasions between 1902 and 1907, knew the real Dersu Azala for some 19 months. The Dersu that appears here, is actually a composite character, combining the real Dersu with myths about the primitive lifestyle and heroic deeds of "noble savages" in the manner of James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales. All three expeditions described in this memoir entailed life-threatening danger from blizzards, rainstorms, lack of food, wild animals or hostile natives?and all ended with Dersu's instinctive knowledge saving the day. In a stock ending to the meeting of civilized and savage, Arseniev persuaded Dersu to come with him, but his friend could not adapt to restrictions of life indoors, preferring the rigors of is old nomadic existence to the spurious comforts of city life. Burdened by an awkward, outdated translation, this somewhat repetitive memoir still sustains interest as it recounts the adventures of two exceptional friends. Film buffs will also recognize it as the basis for Kurosawa's 1975 Oscar-winning movie, Dersu Azala.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.