The Cultural Contradictions of Modern Science   /   Fall 2016   /    Book Reviews

The Quest for Total Information

Joseph E. Davis

Strong Dream, 1929, by Paul Klee (1879–1940); private collection, © Christie’s Images/Bridgeman Images.

The rise and fall of the Primary Records collection.

In my dream I was single. Everything in the village was just like when I was a little boy. My companions are boyhood friends. A nice lady came straight to where we are. She was dressed in Hopi dress and look nice.”

Thus begins dream 211, recorded on January 1, 1945, by a legendary Hopi by the name of Don Talayesva. His “autobiography,” Sun Chief—as told to, paid for, and assembled by anthropologist Leo Simmons—had already appeared, in 1942, but the recording and documenting continued for another two decades, resulting, in time in “the most complete record of any preliterate available.” That observation, made in 1959, came from Dorothy Eggan, who published dream 211 and others in a 1949 article in American Anthropologist. Talayesva’s dreams are highly detailed and deeply personal, full of romantic longings, jealous husbands, worries about what “people are saying,” and hints about and references to “white friends.”

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