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The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke

June 26, 2016


Hugh Glass was an American trapper, trader, hunter and explorer who lived from 1783-1833. His story has been told again and again, most recently in the acclaimed 2015 Alejandro Iñárritu film, The Revenant, with Leonardo DiCaprio. Including that film and this book, on which the film is based, Glass’s story has been told in book or film at least eight times, going back to the 1915 epic poem “The Song of Hugh Glass” by John G Neihardt.  Before that, it was told time and again on as a frontier legend, and while some facts pin the story to historical truth, much of it has been exaggerated and morphed by the echoes of legend. It’s prime source material: In 1823, Hugh Glass was mauled by a bear and left for dead in the wilderness, only to crawl 80 (or 100, or 200, depending on which version of the tale you believe) miles across the land to confront the men who deserted him.


Hugh Glass

The story is incredible in itself, and Punke’s attention to detail and knowledge of frontier life give it an added layer of intrigue. But for the most part, it’s a survival story that moves along at a good clip with simple, straightforward prose, as Glass hunts down his betrayers. The most interesting part, narratively, is a somewhat postmodern moment toward the end when a character tells Glass that in life not all loose ends are tied up so neatly. He is giving the reader a warning as well—this will not end as one might expect.

As interesting as the story, is the author’s bio. From Wikipedia:

Michael Punke is an American writer, novelist, professor, policy analyst, policy consultant, attorney and currently the Deputy United States Trade Representative and US Ambassador to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. He is best known for writing The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge (2002), which was adapted into film…

Because of Punke’s current government position, he’s been unable to give interviews, comment on or publicly enjoy any of the benefits of the novel’s recent success. Still, not bad for a side gig.

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