Brazil That Never Was is a beautifully written book about exploration and about the allure of the unknown, and about disappointing realities. Being neither focused on research nor Clinical Neurology, it is not the most obvious choice for this journal’s book review corner. However, its author, Andrew Lees, is amongst the most distinguished and prolific British Neurologists and insights into Andrew’s mind are bound to be useful to a Neurologist in training! In addition, in times when we are mostly limited within the confines of our homes, this book may serve as a gateway to a world of adventure.
In the book we follow two journeys: the journey of Colonel Percy Fawcett, and that of Andrew himself. Colonel Fawcett was a soldier and later explorer of the jungles and rivers of Brazil. In 1925, he disappeared during an expedition to search for a lost city in the Amazon, never to be seen again. Fuelled by “Exploration Fawcett”, a book written by Fawcett’s son detailing his adventures and suggested to him by his own father, Andrew became fascinated with Colonel Fawcett’s depictions of Amazonia – dangerous and exotic. And in Brazil That Never Was, we follow Andrew’s research into his childhood hero, from the vividly described exotic landscapes, to awe-inspiring adventures, to theosophy and the occult, and finally to the disillusionment and nostalgia of returning to reality.
This book has few ties to Neurology, other than its author, but Andrew’s methodical, tenacious and thorough research into the life and deeds of Colonel Percy Fawcett is a lesson to the rigorous review and inquisitive spirit to which Clinical Neurologists in training, and all scholars of Neuroscience, should aspire.
But most of all, Brazil That Never Was is a tale of exploration. I have never been to Brazil myself, but could see the untouched, magical and inviting Amazonia through Andrew’s young eyes as well as the bustling, modern Manaus, beautiful yet disappointing. Even after reading the truth behind the myth of Colonel Fawcett in the book, I have ordered my copy of “Exploration Fawcett”, longing to join Andrew in his wonder of the dangerous, unexplored world, even if the reality never was.