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I've just read 'the lost city of Z' by david grann

Posted by spursfan , 26 October 2012 · 419 views

I thought i'd write about this book which i have just read.

The lost city of Z by david grann is about the 19th/20th century explorer percy harrison fawcett. Fawcett, with his son jack and his son's friend raleigh rimmel, went missing in the amazon jungle in 1925, whilst searching for a lost ciy, which he named 'z'. Fawcett believed a lost civilization existed in the amazon rain forest and was determined to find it.

Grann writes both about fawcett's life and search and also about his own mission to find out what happened to fawcett, which entails grann mounting his own expedition into the jungle to find him.

Fawcett was in the british army before taking a course at London's royal geography society (RGS) to become an explorer (such courses did exist !). Fawcett, who whilst in the army had spent time in sri lanka. was sent by the RGS to map frontiers in the amazon. Fawcett became hooked on the amazon and the notion of a lost city or civilization, despite the insistence of academics that the amazon could not have sustained a large, advanced civilization.

Fawcett was a determined and principled explorer. He believed that the rights of the native indians should be respected and that, even when under attack, violence in self defence should be the very last resort.

Fawcett's explorations were curtailed by the first world war, in which he served in france. After the war though fawcett returned to exploration.

Grann describes fawcett's activities and his own as he writes about his research into fawcett's life, by visiting the royal geographical society , relative's of fawcetts and dusty documents lying in a rio library. I found this combination of biography and quest to be a good one.

Grann describes the influence of helena blavatsky's 'religion' of theosophy, which fused many different strands of wisdom from around the world together. We learn about the native tribes and conquistadores searching for eldorado, i found the descriptions of the flora and fauna of the amazon fascinating, from giant snakes to piranhas, and parasitic maggots which live in human skin. Injury and death never seems far away in the jungle.

Grann relates what became fawcett's last expedition to find z with his son and his son's best friend. The 3 were supposed to be away for 2 years but never returned, though fawcett's wife nina never gave up hope that they would come back. Theories about their disappearance include

1. They were killed by hostile indians
2. They 'went native' and lived with an indian tribe
3. They were kidnapped and held hostage
4. They became lost and starved to death

I enjoyed grann's description of his own expedition to the jungle. He describes how deforestation has changed the land and he follows fawcett's route into the depths of the jungle and meets with indians, one of whom is an old woman who actually remembers seeing the explorers.

Many expeditions went into the jungle to search for fawcett and themselves went missing, some came back with vague sightings of white men who may have gone native, or signs carved into trees, but no concrete eveidence emerges from these missions.

Grann ends the book with his own conclusions.

I found this book very enjoyable and it opened my mind to the question of whether lost cities are lying abandoned, reclaimed by the jungle. The fate of fawcett is also a fascinating tale. Grann writes engagingly and well and its not a heavy book at all.
Its an enjoyable read.