Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Where the Spirits Dwell

An Odyssey in the New Guinea Jungle

by Tobias Schneebaum

“A travelogue exotic enough to captivate even reluctant armchair travelers.” –Los Angeles Times

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 240
  • Publication Date March 01, 1989
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3166-9
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00

About The Book

The author of the classic Keep the River on Your Right here tells the remarkable story of his four years among the Asmat of New Guinea, a jungle-dwelling people rumored to have killed Michael Rockefeller. Instead of ferocious cannibals, Schneebaum found a regal, loving, gentle people who freely accepted him and initiated him into a way of life no outsider had ever seen before. Adopted into an Asmat family in the village whose people were said to have killed Rockefeller, he crossed the boundaries into another culture and another age, learning secrets no other outsider had been allowed to see before. But it wasn’t until Schneebaum met Akatpitsjin, a handsome married man with five children, that he entered the erotic world of the Asmat, when the two became “exchange friends’ and lovers, a practice basic to the sexual life of the village.

Schneebaum’s encounter with the Asmat ultimately became something more intimate and liberating for him than the mere discovery of tribal secrets. He confronted himself. His odyssey is as much the record of a journey into himself as it is a unique and sensitively observed account of a vanishing society, written with a shimmering sensuality that has no equal in the literature of anthropology or self-confession.


“Exhilarating and unforgettable. An excellent book.” –James Purdy

“Tobias Schneebaum’s frank and stunning memoir illuminates the mysteries of a distant culture while it reminds us of the universality of loneliness and desire.” –Hilma Wolitzer

“Humane, loving, precise in detail, and profound in understanding, Where the Spirits Dwell is a beautifully written account of personal engagement, during four years, with what must be the most remarkable environment in the world. Everyone should read it.” –Hayden Carruth

“A travelogue exotic enough to captivate even reluctant armchair travelers.” –Los Angeles Times

“An unforgettable portrait of a vanishing world.” –San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle

“Once in a great while a truly original person like Tobias Schneebaum comes along. Everyone, including the primitive peoples he lives among, recognizes it instantly.” –Edward Field, author of A Frieze for a Temple of Love