The King of the World in the Land of the Pygmies
“[A] fine book, a carefully considered character study that quickly turns into a psychological page-turner.”—Boston Book Review. “The engrossing story of a true eccentric who fled his family of prominent Bostonians to set up a little kingdom in colonial Africa.”—Publishers Weekly. “An enthralling blend of biography and travel writing.”—Booklist. “Chronicles the erratic saga of this charismatic man.”—New York Times Book Review. “Compelling . . . like a grand guignol novel.”—Anthropos. “An intelligent biography of a quixotic American.”—Kirkus Reviews.
Joan Mark offers an interpretive biography of Patrick Tracy Lowell Putnam (1904–53), who spent twenty-five years living among the Bambuti pygmies of the Ituri Forest in what is now Zaire. On the Epulu River he constructed Camp Putnam as a harmonious multiracial community. He modeled his camp on the “dude ranches” of the American West, taking in paying guests while running a medical clinic and occasionally offering legal aid to the local people, and assumed the role of intermediary between locals and visitors, including Colin M. Turnbull, author of the classic Forest People. Mark describes Putnam’s mercurial relations with family and with his African and American wives—and follows him to his sad and violent end. She places Patrick Putnam within the context of three different anthropological traditions and examines his contribution as an expert on pygmies.
Joan Mark is an associate in the history of anthropology at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University. She is the author of A Stranger in Her Native Land: Alice Fletcher and the American Indians (Nebraska 1988).