Invented Eden: The Elusive, Disputed History of the Tasaday
In 1971, a band of twenty-six "Stone Age" rain-forest dwellers was discovered living in total isolation by Manuel Elizalde, a Philippine government minister with a dubious background. The tribe was soon featured in nightly American newscasts and graced the cover of National Geographic. They were visited by such celebrities as Charles Lindbergh and Gina Lollobrigida. But after a series of aborted anthropological forays, the 45,000-acre Tasaday Reserve established by Ferdinand Marcos was closed to all visitors, and the tribe vanished from public view.
Fast-forward twelve years. A Swiss reporter hikes into the area and discovers that the Tasaday were actually farmers who had been coerced by Elizalde into dressing in leaves and posing in caves with stone tools. Soon the "anthropological find of the century" has become the "ethnographic hoax of the century."
Or maybe not. Invented Eden tells a story that is more complex than either the hoax proponents or the Tasaday advocates might care to admit. At the center of it is a group of very poor people who have been buffeted by forces beyond their control. Were the Tasaday the creation of gullible journalists, bumbling scientists, and an ego-driven madman, or were they the innocent victims of cynical academics and politicos? In answering that question, Hemley has written a gripping and ultimately tragic tale of innocence found, lost, and found again.
"Besides a terrific story, Invented Eden is a savvy caution." — Harper's Magazine
"Hemley, a thoughtful novelist and memoirist, painstakingly unravels a dense snarl of romantic notions, political agendas, scientific rivalries, thorny personalities, and rampant misperceptions to disclose a far stranger tale." — Booklist
"What's best about the book is Hemley's insistence on ambiguity; the truth, he notes, cannot be known because there is no one truth, but many different, overlapping strategies for interpreting the world.... By staking out a middle ground between Elizalde and the skeptics, Hemley enlarges Invented Eden, turning it into a book not just about one tribe but about the way we consider tribal culture as a whole." — David Ulin, Chicago Tribune
"Robin Hemley's book is a brave and wholly convincing attempt to find the truth concerning the 'anthropological fraud of the century'." — James Hamilton-Paterson, London Review of Books