After enduring a vicious bear attack in the Russian Far East's Kamchatka Peninsula, a French anthropologist undergoes a physical and spiritual transformation that forces her to confront the tenuous distinction between animal and human.
[A] haunting, genre-defying memoir ... Though in Sophie R. Lewis’s elegant translation from the French, it becomes clear that 'memoir' is another word that doesn’t quite fit this slender yet expansive book. Martin writes as an anthropologist ... She writes about philosophy, too, noticing that everyone around her tries to find a reason for what happened because 'it is hard to leave sense unmade.' She questions the human propensity to try to assimilate everything into familiar terms ... What Martin describes in this book isn’t so much a search for meaning as an acceptance of its undoing.
[Martin's] story to begin with is simple, and beautifully gruesome ... this short but chewy book thickens up into a stew of memoir, drama, anthropology and metaphysics – or how the immovable object moved, and changed ... we get a fascinating, ambitious exploration of animism – the border between human and animal – and how she sees her encounter with the bear as a manifestation of a breakdown ... The book represents both a collapse and a rebuilding. The language, in Sophie R Lewis’s elegant translation, is often seductive ... Martin, however, doesn’t seek sympathy from the reader; she simply wants us to share in her attempts to understand what has happened to her. What more could we ask for from a book?
[A] slim, stirring book ... Despite the harrowing experience at its core, In the Eye of the Wild couldn’t be further from a conventional survival memoir. Less intrepid and life-affirming than frank and brooding, it neither revels in the sensational violence of the bear attack nor offers a palatable narrative of recovery and redemption. Instead, Martin sets out to transcend familiar modes in order to let the terrible strangeness of her experience speak ... In the Eye of the Wild thus takes its place within the tradition of philosophical attempts to destabilize the human/animal binary and rethink the relation.