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A Primate's Memoir: A…

A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among… (edition 2002)

by Robert M. Sapolsky

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Title:A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons
Authors:Robert M. Sapolsky
Info:Scribner (2002), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 304 pages
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A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons by Robert M. Sapolsky


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A Primate's Memoir (2001) follows that well worn path of the bumbling westerner in the third world who finds sardonic humor in every situation. In this case with a twist, he is a Jewish kid from New York who is studying baboons in Kenya. Sapolsky tries too hard to be funny at every turn - it felt like a script from Jerry Seinfeld. Nothing wrong with that, he actually is funny sometimes. He becomes more authentic and interesting in the last few chapters when his armor of humor is taken off and real feelings and an original voice emerge. ( )
  Stbalbach | Oct 29, 2015 |
Sapolsky studied baboons in Kenya for decades. This well-written, occasionally profane memoir is only partly about baboon behavior, and largely about Sapolsky’s experiences as an initially sheltered New York Jew traveling through a number of African countries, written with wry awareness of his outsider status. He and similarly situated white animal researchers in some ways replaced and in some ways displaced the previous white hunters, and his interactions with Africans are always shaped by that history. When it serves his interests (or those of his baboons), he either participates in or fights against Kenya’s pervasive corruption; the end, in which he tries to save the troop he’s studying from a TB outbreak, is heartbreaking and infuriating. ( )
1 vote rivkat | Aug 18, 2015 |
Robert M. Sapolsky, Professor für Biologie und Neurologie an der berühmten Stanford-Universität in Kalifornien, erzählt u.a. von seinem Leben mit und zwischen den Pavianen. Bereits als Kind begeistert von Affen, wünschte er sich sehnlichst ein Berggorilla zu sein, doch letzten Endes reichte es 'nur' zu einem Platz als rangniederes Mitglied einer Pavianhorde. Er schildert, wie er als 20jähriger zum ersten Mal nach Afrika kam, 'seine' Horde kennenlernte und sich nach und nach mit den Sitten, den Menschen und Tieren Kenias vertraut machte. Zweifellos sind die Geschichten mit und über die Paviane das Hauptthema des Buches, doch es bleibt genügend Raum um einen guten Einblick in das Drumherum zu erhalten. So schildert er das Dilemma der Wildhüter, die einerseits die Tiere schützen sollen, andererseits aber auch etwas zu essen brauchen um ihre Familien zu ernähren - denn das Gehalt behält der Chef. Seinen Versuch, eine Zebrakeule essbar zuzubereiten. Die alltägliche Korruption aber ebenso die allgegenwärtige Gastfreundschaft. Seine Reise in ein Krisengebiet. Undundund... Er beschreibt, informiert, kritisiert, philosophiert - dieses Buch unterhält nicht nur hervorragend, sondern man lernt so ganz nebenbei auch Einiges (nicht nur) über Afrika.

Sapolsky erzählt auf eine ungemein amüsante, unterhaltsame Art und Weise, die auch Selbstironie nicht scheut. Er kam in dieses Land um wissenschaftlich zu arbeiten, doch in erster Linie ist er Mensch geblieben. Man spürt das ganze Buch hindurch die große Sympathie und Zuneigung, die er für diese Region mit seinen Menschen und Tieren empfindet. Aber auch wie es ihn innerlich fast zerreisst angesichts all der Widersprüchlichkeiten, mit denen er während seines Aufenthaltes zurechtkommen muss.

Christoph Waltz liest dieses Buch in einem Tonfall, der auf den ersten 'Blick' immer gleich klingen mag, aber beim genaueren Hinhören wunderbar zwischen Resignation, Freude, Ironie usw. wechselt. Alles in allem ein wirkliches Hörerlebnis! ( )
  Xirxe | Dec 2, 2014 |
this book was right up my alley. and i loved it. easily the best book i've read in a long while. ( )
  elisa.saphier | Apr 2, 2013 |
This memoir was a well written and thoughtful history of the author's visits to Africa to study a troop of baboons. Thoroughly enjoyable. ( )
  gbelik | Sep 20, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743202414, Paperback)

Robert Sapolsky, the author of Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers and other popular books on animal and human behavior, decided early in life to become a primatologist, volunteering at the American Museum of Natural History and badgering his high school principal to let him study Swahili to prepare for travel in Africa. When he set out to conduct fieldwork as a young graduate student, though, Sapolsky found that life among a Kenyan baboon troop was markedly different from his earlier bookish studies. Among other things, he confesses, he had to become a master of shooting anesthetic darts into his subjects with a blowgun to take blood samples, a mastery that required him to become "a leering slinky silent quicksilver baboon terror." He also had to learn how to negotiate the complexities of baboon politics, endure the difficulties of life in the bush, and subsist on cases of canned mackerel and beans.

His memoir is, in the main, quite humorous, although Sapolsky flings a few darts along the way at the late activist Dian Fossey--who, he hints, may have indirectly caused the deaths of her beloved mountain gorillas by her unstable, irrational dealings with local people--and at local bureaucrats whose interests did not often coincide with those of Sapolsky's wild charges. It is also full of good information on primates and primatology, a subject whose practitioners, it seems, are constantly fighting to save species and ecosystems. "Every primatologist I know is losing that battle," he writes. "They make me think of someone whose unlikely job would be to collect snowflakes, to rush into a warm room and observe the unique pattern under a microscope before it melts and is never seen again." --Gregory McNamee

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:23 -0400)

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The author offers a memoir of his two decades in the field studying Kenyan baboons as he describes the members of the baboon troop and their behavior and his interaction with the neighboring Masai tribe.

(summary from another edition)

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