Oliver Balch

From the Mersey to Manaus

Brazil That Never Was


Notting Hill Editions 138pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

To the modern mind, the search for El Dorado, Amazonia’s fabled city of gold, has come to symbolise the ultimate fool’s errand, even more than dredging Loch Ness for a cryptozoological monster or looking for Elvis in far-flung locations. El Dorado is the quintessential fantasy.

Andrew Lees grew up blissfully besotted nonetheless. As a bookish child in postwar Merseyside, the idea of a gilded metropolis hidden deep in the Brazilian rainforest gripped his imagination. Responsibility for this boyhood fascination fell to a certain Lieutenant Colonel Percy Fawcett. During one of their regular library visits, Lees’s father unearthed a copy of Exploration Fawcett and handed it to his son. ‘You’ll enjoy this,’ he told him. ‘It’s about an explorer who vanished without a trace in the Amazon.’

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