A confrontation with the destruction of the Amazon by a writer who moved her life into the heart of the forest.
In lyrical, impassioned prose, Eliane Brum recounts her move from São Paulo to Altamira, a city along the Xingu River that has been devastated by the construction of one of the largest dams in the world. In community with the human and more-than-human world of the Amazon, Brum seeks to ‘reforest’ herself while building relationships with forest peoples who carry both the scars and the resistance of the forest in their bodies.
Weaving together the lived stories of the region and its history of violent corruption and destruction, Banzeiro Òkòtó is a call for radical change, for the creation of a new kind of human being capable of facing the potential extinction of our species. In it, Brum reveals the direct links between structural inequities rooted in gender, race, class, and even species, and the suffering that capitalism and climate breakdown wreak on those who are least responsible for them.
The title Banzeiro Òkòtó features words from two cultural and linguistic traditions: banzeiro is what the Amazon people call the place where the river turns into a fearsome vortex, and òkòtó is the Yoruba word for a shell that spirals outward into infinity. Like the Xingu River, turning as it flows, this book is a fierce document of transformation arguing for the centrality of the Amazon to all our lives.
‘An ululating howl for the Amazon, and all those who live in her. Eliane Brum’s impassioned and powerful book tackles one of the most important subjects in the world today, and her call for anger, change and hope is one we must all get behind.’
— Cal Flyn, author of Islands of Abandonment: Nature Rebounding in the Post-Human Landscape
‘Eliane Brum’s book is an instant classic.’
— Antonio Nobre, scientist & Amazon activist
‘I never tire of saying how great Eliane Brum is.’
— Juma Xipaia, indigenous leader, in attendance at COP26
‘Reading Banzeiro Òkòtó is a way of forging alliances on behalf of human and nonhuman lives, a vital resource as we confront the grim momentum of destruction.’
— Sul 21
‘Eliane calls the Amazon region the centre of the world. In her opinion, this is a political rather than a geographical stance, since this territory is of vast importance to the rest of the world. Given the climate emergency that we are facing, it is fundamental to urgently turn our attention to the region, whether because of its potential to regulate the climate or to understand what faces us tomorrow.’
— Marie Claire
‘I read it in a single sitting, transfixed, terrified, heartbroken and exhilarated. The book’s alive and ablaze; tender, tough, fierce and prophetic, thrumming with urgent and contagious anger. Its importance as an account of the darkness and glory of humans, and the rape and love of a land, is matched only by its importance as a manifesto. If we’re to survive as a species, Brum shows us how it must be done.’
— Charles Foster, author of Cry of the Wild, A Little Brown Sea, Being a Human and Being a Beast
‘Banzeiro Òkòtó is the ultimate guidebook to the Amazon. Not a travel guide, but one that takes you much deeper, right into the forest’s deep soul. The wonder of it, the oneness of the indigenous people with the land, the horror of the genocide they’re still resisting, the corruption and the terrible violence – always inextricably linked – perpetrated by the grileiros and their political allies as they seek to convert one of the world’s greatest treasures into cash.’
— Patrick Alley, Co-Founder of Global Witness and author of Very Bad People
‘A book that distills a lifetime of listening, wild with empathy, and refines it in the fire of unimpeachable political acuity. Written with diamond intelligence, Brum gives the reader the reforested human: impassionate, courageous and complete.’
— Jay Griffiths, author of Wild: An Elemental Journey
‘Eliane Brum went to live in the Amazon. Forever. To be consumed by the Amazon. To know its splendour and savagery, which locals call Banzeiro. “The Amazon leaps inside you like an anaconda striking,” she says. So will this marvellous chronicle. Many books have been written about the Amazon, but this is gut-wrenchingly, mind-expandingly of the Amazon, its joy and tragedy, its violence and beauty. Read it and understand.’
— Fred Pearce, author of The Last Generation: How nature will take her revenge for climate change
‘In this passionate and eloquent dispatch from the Amazon, Eliane Brum creates her own devastating poetry and politics of deforestation.’
— Chloe Aridjis, author of Sea Monsters
‘Beyond reportage, beyond polemic; channeling the many voices – by no means all of them human – that must be heard if the Amazon is to survive and prosper, and fulfill its vital role in ensuring the planet has a future that is habitable for all its occupants.’
— New Internationalist
‘Fierce & fabulous on the Amazon.’
— Robert Macfarlane, author of Landmarks and Underland