I’ve never been to Brazil, and to tell the truth I’m not much interested in going. Even reading about South America doesn’t thrill me. I’m not sure why this should be since I found Central America fascinating, and I’m happy to read anything going about the Maya, but Brazil is one of those blank spots in my personal sphere of curiosity.
On the face of it, Peter Fleming’s Brazilian Adventure offers no strong argument – in fact no argument of any kind – for correcting my prejudice. I have no doubt that Fleming would have been horrified at any suggestion that it did. On the evidence presented, he considers Brazil a place to be avoided, not merely because it isn’t interesting but because it’s painfully boring, dangerous, corrupt and generally unhealthy. But of course that’s the point.
Brazilian Adventure is one of the best examples ever written of a type of book that could be described as a saga of deliberate suffering – discomfort, anyway – recounted with dry wit and verbal elegance. Fleming himself is responsible for a couple of others nearly as good (One’s Company and News from Tartary), while a more recent candidate might be Redmond O’Hanlon’s Into the Heart of Borneo, although in my opinion it can’t match Fleming.
It was in the spring of 1932 that he came upon a note in the Agony Column of The Times soliciting membership (‘room two more guns’) in an ‘exploring and sporting expedition’ heading for the Matto Grosso. ‘Exploring and sporting’ were only part of the draw, however. A further, if improbably romantic, aim was to discover what had happened to Colonel Fawcett. This gentleman, an odd, obsessed fortune-hunter, had gone into the Brazilian jungle several years before in search of an enormously rich lost city and was never heard from again. Exactly what happened to him was a mystery. A relief expedition drew a blank, but there was no lack of speculati
The full version of this article is only available to subscribers to Slightly Foxed: The Real Reader’s Quarterly. To continue reading, please sign in or take out a subscription to the quarterly magazine for yourself or as a gift for a fellow booklover. Both gift givers and gift recipients receive access to the full online archive of articles along with many other benefits, such as preferential prices for all books and goods in our online shop and offers from a number of like-minded organizations. Find out more on our subscriptions page.Subscribe now or Sign in