Friday, 3 February 2017

Brazilian adventures: The Lost City of Z and Peter Fleming

Fans of the work of Ian Fleming's brother, Peter, might be interested in an upcoming film, The Lost City of Z, which tells the true story of the explorer Colonel Fawcett, who, in 1925, led an expedition deep into the Amazonian jungle to search for a fabled city of a lost civilisation. Fawcett and the rest of the expedition were never seen again, and Fawcett's fate was soon shrouded in mystery.
Poster for The Lost City of Z, exclusively revealed by Empire
If the film proves to be a great success, and there's a clamour for a sequel, then the film-makers would do well to turn to Peter Fleming's 1933 book, Brazilian Adventure, in which Peter recounts the trials and tribulations of his own expedition into the Amazon to discover what had happened to Colonel Fawcett.

Peter and the other members of the expedition got no closer to solving the mystery, and, as if struck by a curse of the earlier explorer, saw more than their fair share of hardships and disaster. Along the way, they stumbled into a revolution in São Paulo, fell out with the expedition leader, Captain John Holman (largely identified as Major George Pingle in Peter's book), who had little interest in the search for Fawcett, hacked their way through impenetrable jungle, had so few provisions that they survived mainly on what they could hunt and forage, encountered alligators and piranhas, organised the evacuation of an expedition member who went down with blood poisoning, and, on deciding that they could go no further, faced a thousand-mile trek back to civilisation, all the time racing against Holman, who had the money and boat tickets.

Brazilian Adventure (Cape, 1933)
As for what happened to Colonel Fawcett (spoiler alert), Peter accepted that Fawcett is likely to have died at the hands of the Suyá tribe, and if by some remote chance he had been alive at the time of Peter's expedition, he must have gone mad.

Peter Fleming's Brazilian adventure is every bit as thrilling as Fawcett's own, and is compelling, hilarious, and wonderfully evocative of the land and the people Peter met. If any cinema-goer, having watched The Lost City of Z (released in March), is wondering what happened next, I recommend they pick up a copy of Peter's book. And you never know, it might be coming to a cinema near you.

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