Reviewer Donald Dale Jackson is a frequent Smithsonian contributor.
Lines in the Water
University of California Press, $19.95
Anthropologist Ben Orlove’s memoir of his work in the highlands of Peru amounts very nearly to a love story, a scientist’s paean to villagers who for centuries have preserved their culture. For nearly 30 years, Orlove, now a faculty member at the University of California at Davis, has studied life in the remote fishing villages that lie on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the vast and ancient body of water set high in the Andes.
It is, he writes, a "place of sustenance and memory." Orlove arrived in the early ’70s to begin documenting the traditions of families who, for hundreds of years, have dropped "lines in the water" to haul in their catch.
Along the way, Orlove found himself bound in a network of friendships that changed and enriched his life. It was the villagers themselves, their "elaborate sense of dignity and justice," their "capacity for storytelling and for humor" that became his primary subject. He has succeeded in creating an eloquent addition to the literature of travel and a compelling profile of an anthropologist immersed in his work.
Reviewer Paul Trachtman is a former science editor at Smithsonian.
W. W. Norton, $26.95