The Lost City of Z (book)
First edition cover design
|Media type||Print, e-book|
|LC Class||F2546 .G747 2009|
|Followed by||The Devil and Sherlock Holmes|
The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon (2009) is the debut non-fiction book by American author David Grann. It tells the story of the British explorer Percy Fawcett who, in 1925, disappeared with his son in the Amazon while looking for an ancient lost city. For decades, explorers and scientists have tried to find evidence of his party and the Lost City of Z. Perhaps as many as 100 people perished or disappeared searching for Fawcett over the years. Grann made his own journey into the Amazon, revealing new evidence about how Fawcett died and showing that Z may have really existed right under his feet.
First in his 2005 article "The Lost City of Z" and later in his full book of the same title, David Grann reported that archaeologist Michael Heckenberger was unearthing a site in the Amazon Xingu region that might be the mysterious lost city. The city was surrounded by not merely a single moat but several in concentric circles, and had palisades much as several nearby tribes described in their folklore. What was more, Heckenberger found evidence of wooden structures and roads that cut through the jungle. There was black Indian earth which showed evidence of people making the infertile soil of the Amazon rich for planting.
Perhaps most intriguing were the direct parallels between the site, referred to as Kuhikugu, and tribes of the area. Pottery methods were still nearly identical, and the tribes followed a diet that prohibited several sources of food—striking considering the long-held belief that such prohibitions would mean death in the harsh rain forest. Even the villages were still laid out in patterns similar to the sites of the ancient cities.
Kuhikugu encompasses more than 20 settlements, each supporting as many as 5,000 people with a remarkable sense of engineering. Though made of wood instead of stone, the society flourished from approximately 200 A.D. until around 1600 according to carbon dating data obtained from the moats and pottery. They built bridges across some of the great rivers of the Amazon, and though they refrained from pyramid structures like the Mayan or Inca, they appear to have preferred to build horizontal monuments.
These people overlapped with the coming of the Europeans to the New World, and in only a few years were so devastated by disease that they virtually died out. The earliest conquistadors saw glimpses of their civilization, but by the time they were able to penetrate the rain forest again the people were all but gone and the jungle was quickly reclaiming the land.
Published in February 2009, The Lost City of Z was reviewed in the Sunday New York Times Book Review by Rich Cohen, who called it "a powerful narrative, stiff lipped and Victorian at the center, trippy at the edges, as if one of those stern men of Conrad had found himself trapped in a novel by García Márquez." The New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani named it one of the ten best books of 2009. In her review, Kakutani wrote that it "is at once a biography, a detective story and a wonderfully vivid piece of travel writing that combines Bruce Chatwinesque powers of observation with a Waugh-like sense of the absurd. Mr. Grann treats us to a harrowing reconstruction of Fawcett’s forays into the Amazonian jungle, as well as an evocative rendering of the vanished age of exploration. . . . Suspenseful. . . Rollicking . . . Fascinating . . . It reads with all the pace and excitement of a movie thriller and all the verisimilitude and detail of firsthand reportage.” The Washington Post called it "a thrill ride from start to finish." It was also reviewed by author Simon Winchester in The Wall Street Journal, who called the book "captivating." The book was named to countless best and notable books of the year lists, including Entertainment Weekly, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Publisher's Weekly, Sunday New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Bloomberg, Providence Journal, Globe and Mail, Evening Standard, Amazon, and McClatchy Newspapers. Barnes & Noble named The Lost City of Z the single best nonfiction book of 2009.
Awards and honors
- New York Times bestseller (Nonfiction, 2009)
- Samuel Johnson Prize, shortlist (2009)
- Amazon's Best Books of the Year (#58, 2009)
- Publishers Weekly’s Top 10 Best Books: 2009
- Publishers Weekly's Best Books: 2009
- New York Times Notable Book of the Year (Nonfiction, 2009)
- ALA Notable Books for Adults (2010)
- Indies Choice Book Award (Adult Non-fiction, 2010)
- Globe and Mail Best Book (Travel 2009)
- The Essential Man's Library: 50 Non-Fiction Adventure Books
- Christian Science Monitor Best Book (Nonfiction, 2009)
The Lost City of Z was optioned by Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company and Paramount Pictures in 2010. The adaptation will be directed by James Gray, who also wrote the screenplay. The movie is currently filming, with Charlie Hunnam as Percy Fawcett, Sienna Miller as Fawcett's wife, and Robert Pattinson as Henry Costin.
- Grann, David (2009). The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-51353-1. A paperback edition was released in January 2010.
- The Lost City of Z has been translated into more than 25 languages.
- Brazilian Adventure (1933), by Peter Fleming, travel literature about a search for Fawcett
- Road to Zanzibar (1941), movie loosely based on the search for Fawcett
- Indiana Jones and the Seven Veils (1991), Indiana Jones novel with a plot to find Fawcett.
- Lost City of Z pp. 270–72
- Biello, David. (August 28, 2008). "Ancient Amazon Actually Highly Urbanized." Scientific American.
- Cohen, Rich. (February 26, 2009)."On the Road to El Dorado." The New York Times.
- Kakutani, Michiko. (November 26, 2009). "Michiko Kakutani's Top 10 Books of 2009." The New York Times.
- Kakutani, Michiko. (March 16, 2009). "An Explorer Drawn to, and Eventually Swallowed by, the Amazon." The New York Times.
- Arana, Marie. (March 6, 2009). "Lost in the Jungle." Washington Post.
- Winchester, Simon. (February 27, 2009). "The Endless Alure of El Dorado." Wall Street Journal.
- Dockterman, Eliana (February 4, 2015). "Charlie Hunnam Replaces Benedict Cumberbatch in The Lost City of Z". Retrieved May 3, 2015.
- "Lost City of Z", The New Yorker, September 15, 2005. Original article that led to the book.
- Lost City of Z, official book website.
- The Lost City of Z, Chapter 1, book excerpt, The Wall Street Journal
- "The search for a mythical lost city", NPR interview with David Grann
- Anonymous. Manuscript 512 (1754), about the first expedition to The Lost City (Portuguese).
- (Video) The Lost City of Z, author interview on Fora.tv