The Lost City of Z:
A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon
ABOUT THE BOOK
A grand mystery reaching back centuries. A sensational disappearance that made headlines around the world. A quest for truth that leads to death, madness or disappearance for those who seek to solve it. The Lost City of Z is a blockbuster adventure narrative about what lies beneath the impenetrable jungle canopy of the Amazon.
After stumbling upon a hidden trove of diaries, acclaimed New Yorker writer David Grann set out to solve “the greatest exploration mystery of the twentieth century”: What happened to the British explorer Percy Fawcett and his quest for the Lost City of Z?
In 1925 Fawcett ventured into the Amazon to find an ancient civilization, hoping to make one of the most important discoveries in history. For centuries Europeans believed the world’s largest jungle concealed the glittering kingdom of El Dorado. Thousands had died looking for it, leaving many scientists convinced that the Amazon was truly inimical to humankind. But Fawcett, whose daring expeditions helped inspire Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, had spent years building his scientific case. Captivating the imagination of millions around the globe, Fawcett embarked with his twenty-one-year-old son, determined to prove that this ancient civilization—which he dubbed “Z”—existed. Then he and his expedition vanished.
Fawcett’s fate—and the tantalizing clues he left behind about “Z”—became an obsession for hundreds who followed him into the uncharted wilderness. For decades scientists and adventurers have searched for evidence of Fawcett’s party and the lost City of Z. Countless have perished, been captured by tribes, or gone mad. As David Grann delved ever deeper into the mystery surrounding Fawcett’s quest, and the greater mystery of what lies within the Amazon, he found himself, like the generations who preceded him, being irresistibly drawn into the jungle’s “green hell.” His quest for the truth and his stunning discoveries about Fawcett’s fate and “Z” form the heart of this complex, enthralling narrative. (Publisher summary)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
DAVID GRANN is a longtime staff writer at The New Yorker. He has written about everything from New York City’s antiquated water tunnels to the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, from the hunt for the giant squid to the mysterious death of the world’s greatest Sherlock Holmes expert. His stories have appeared in several Best American writing anthologies, and he has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic. A collection of his stories, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, has just been published this month of January 2011.
REVIEWS BY OTHERS
“Suspenseful. . . . Rollicking. . . . Reads with all the pace and excitement of a movie thriller. . . . The Lost City of Z is at once a biography, a detective story and a wonderfully vivid piece of travel writing that combines Bruce Chatwinesque powers of observation with a Waugh-like sense of the absurd. Mr. Grann treats us to a harrowing reconstruction of Fawcett’s forays into the Amazonian jungle, as well as an evocative rendering of the vanished age of exploration.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Breathtaking. . . . Grann brings Fawcett’s remarkable story to a beautifully written, perfectly paced fruition. . . . Any writer who can breathe life into letters written by scientists in the early 1900s deserves more than a hat tip.”
—The Los Angeles Times
“Brilliant. . . . Impressively researched and skillfully crafted. . . . Grann makes abundantly clear in this fascinating, epic story of exploration and obsession, [that] the lethal attraction of the Amazon mystery remains strong.”
—The Boston Globe
MY OWN THOUGHTS
This is an amazing book, very well researched and crafted. How more can you research on your hero, I consider Fawcett as a hero, than go where he went, at the risk of your own life and sanity? Grann had of course modern means and safety nets that Fawcett did not have, but still, not anyone is ready to leave for the Amazon region.
The book combines geography, history (we are talking here 1000 to 2000 years ago), archaeology, mystery, adventure tales, or tales of madness. The author goes back and forth between Fawcett’s fate, as well as all those who tried to find him afterward, and his own trip. He is superb at describing the crazy survival conditions of the Amazon river and area.
He also debunks what scientists had been thinking at one point, and some may still today, about the native populations of these places.
It is quite fascinating to see where an idea can lead you once it becomes an obsession.
This masterpiece is an irresistible page turner. I learned a lot about these ancient civilizations, and I want to read more about them now. On p.273, Grann mentions his meeting with Heckenberger, an archeologist who spent so much time in that region that the local chief has even had a hut built near his own in the Indian village. In 2004, Heckenberger published the fruit of his research in a book that sounds very fascinating: The Ecology of Power: Culture, Place and Personhood in the Southern Amazon, AD 1000-2000. Needless to say, this is now on my TBR.
I pulled the map from my back pocket. It was wet and crumpled, the lines I had raced to highlight my route now faded. I stared at my markings, hoping that they might lead me out of the Amazon, rather than deeper into it
For a moment, I could see this vanished world as if it were right in front of me. Z.
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