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Brazil That Never Was by A. J. Lees

A famed British neurologist embarks on an expedition in Brazil to follow the trail of Percy Fawcett, an occult-obsessed explorer who went missing in the Amazon rainforest and was the subject of the 2016 film The Lost City of Z. This unique travel book detailing the unexplored Brazil follows Lee's acclaimed Mentored by a Madman: The William Burroughs Experiment.

This is a book about daydreams, melancholy and nostalgia in the very best sense. It is also dramatic travelogue, from boyhood fantasy about an imagined Brazil to its flawed but life-transforming reality.

Andrew Hussey

As a boy growing up near Liverpool in the 1950s, Andrew Lees would visit the docks with his father to watch the ships from Brazil unload their exotic cargo of coffee, cotton bales, molasses, cocoa.

One day, his father gave him a dog-eared book called Exploration Fawcett. The book told the true story of Colonel Percy Fawcett, a British explorer who in 1925 had gone in search of a lost city in the Amazon, and never returned. The riveting story of Fawcett’s encounters with hostile tribes, his mission to discover an Atlantean civilization, and the many who lost their own lives when they went in search of him, inspired the young Lees to believe that there were still earthly places where one could ‘fall off the edge’.

Years later, after becoming a successful neurologist, Lees set off in search of the mysterious figure of Fawcett. What he found exceeded his wildest imaginings. With access to the cache of ‘Secret Papers’ Lees discovered that Fawcett’s quest was far stranger than searching for a lost city. There was a ‘greater mission’, one that involved the occult, and a belief in a community of evolved beings living in a hidden parallel plane in the Mato Grosso.

Lees travelled to Manaus in Fawcett’s footsteps. After a psychedelic experience in the forest, he understood that his yearning for the imaginary Brazil of his boyhood, like Fawcett’s search for an earthly paradise, was a nostalgia for what never was. Part travelogue, part memoir, Lees paints a portrait of an elusive Brazil, and a flawed explorer whose doomed mission ruined lives.


Andrew Lees is a Professor of Neurology at The National Hospital, London. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the American Academy of Neurology Lifetime Achievement Award. Lees’ articles have appeared in New York Review of Books, The Literary Review, Brain’s Dorsal Column, and the Dublin Review of Books. His books include Ray of Hope; The Silent Plague; and the NHE bestselling Mentored by a Madman: The William Burroughs Experiment.

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