PETER ROBB NEATLY disarms any critics of his Brazilian travelogue with his choice of subtitle. 'You can put anything into a book of omissions,' reads the epigraph by the nineteenth-century Brazilian novelist Machado de Assis. 'Reading one of these never worries me at all. What I do when I get to the end is close my eyes and think of all the things I didn't find in it. So many great ideas come to me then, really deep thoughts.' There are many things you won't find in this book - nothing on samba or music in general, precious little on voodoo, and zilch on the Amazon. But to be fair to the author, Brazil is a vast country, cut off &m the rest of Latin America by a different language and culture - it is a difficult nut to crack. As Robb remarks in the opening chapter, 'for the world there was something dispersive in Brazil's hugeness, something that made it hard to focus on'.
The author chooses to focus on politics, history and food (he is particularly good on the last), and narrows his travelogue to the impoverished North East of Brazil, journeying from Recife to Salvador. 'Like everyone I went to Brazil to get away,' he confesses. To get away from what? We