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Discover this remarkable account of twenty-one years in remote Kenya with a troop of Savannah baboons from the New York Times bestselling author of Behave.
'One of the best scientist-writers of our time' Oliver Sacks
Brooklyn-born Robert Sapolsky grew up wishing he could live in the primate diorama in the Museum of Natural History. At school he wrote fan letters to primatologists and even taught himself Swahili, all with the hope of one day joining his primate brethren in Africa. But when, at the age of twenty-one, Sapolky's dream finally comes true he discovers that the African bush bears little resemblance to the tranquillity of a museum.
This is the story of the next twenty-one years as Sapolsky slowly infiltrates and befriends a troop of Savannah baboons. Alone in the middle of the Serengeti with no electricity, running water or telephone, and surviving countless scams, culinary atrocities and a surreal kidnapping, Sapolsky becomes ever more enamoured with his adopted baboon troop - unique and compelling characters in their own right - and he returns to them summer after summer, until tragedy finally prevails.
'A Primate's Memoir is the closest the baboon is likely to come - and it's plenty close enough - to having its own Iliad' New York Times Review of Books
Exhilarating, hilarious and poignant, A Primate's Memoir is a uniquely honest window into the coming-of-age of one of our greatest scientific minds.
Few would relish a job requiring proficiency with a blowgun as well as a willingness to put up with parching heat, low pay and copious amounts of baboon shit. But for Sapolsky (The Trouble with Testosterone), a Stanford professor and MacArthur grant recipient, it was literally a dream come true. As a boy in New York City, he'd wanted to live in one of the African dioramas at the Museum of Natural History. One week after graduating from Harvard in the mid-1970s, he got his chance: he went to Kenya to study social behavior in baboons. Hilariously unprepared for the challenges of living in the bush, the na ve grad student learned to deal with supply and transportation snafus, army ants and giant cockroaches, safari tourists, dinners of canned spaghetti coated with a mixture of sugar and rancid camel's milk, and surreal government bureaucracies. He developed great fondness for "his" baboons, whose behavior seemed uncannily like that of a bunch of quarrelsome human adolescents, and discovered that their interactions didn't necessarily conform to accepted theories. While Sapolsky's primate observations are always fascinating, his thoughts on Africa and Africans are even more compelling. As funny and irreverent as a good ol' boy regaling his friends with vacation-from-hell stories, Sapolsky can also be disarmingly emotional as in his clear-headed tribute to late gorilla researcher Dian Fossey, and his final chapters, which reveal his rage and impotence as he watched his baboons succumb to a horrific plague. Filled with cynicism and awe, passion and humor, this memoir is both an absorbing account of a young man's growing maturity and a tribute to the continent that, despite its troubles and extremes, held him in its thrall.