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The Scramble for the Amazon and the Lost Paradise of Euclides Da Cunha by Susanna B. Hecht

The Scramble for the Amazon and the Lost Paradise of Euclides Da Cunha


The Scramble for the Amazon and the Lost Paradise of Euclides Da Cunha by Susanna B. Hecht

The fortunes of the late nineteenth century's imperial and industrial powers depended on a single raw material - rubber - with only one source: the Amazon basin. And so began the scramble for the Amazon, a decades-long conflict that found Britain, France, Belgium, and the United States fighting with and against the new nations of Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil for the forest's riches. In the midst of this struggle, Euclides da Cunha, engineer, journalist, geographer, political theorist, and one of Brazil's most celebrated writers, led a survey expedition to the farthest reaches of the river, among the world's most valuable, dangerous, and little-known landscapes. The Scramble for the Amazon tells the story of da Cunha's terrifying journey, the unfinished novel born from it, and the global strife that formed the backdrop for both. Haunted by his broken marriage, da Cunha trekked through a beautiful region thrown into chaos by guerrilla warfare, starving migrants, and native slavery. All the while, he worked on his masterpiece, a nationalist synthesis of geography, philosophy, biology, and journalism he named the Lost Paradise . Da Cunha intended his epic to unveil the Amazon's explorers, spies, natives, and brutal geopolitics, but, as Susanna B. Hecht recounts, he never completed it - his wife's lover shot him dead upon his return. At once the biography of an extraordinary writer, a masterly chronicle of the social, political, and environmental history of the Amazon, and a superb translation of the remaining pieces of da Cunha's project, The Scramble for the Amazon is a work of thrilling intellectual ambition.


Hecht's wonderfully ambitious book unveils an unknown chapter in the history of the Amazon - indeed, the history of the world. It would be important if it merely showed how da Cunha, almost unknown to Americans but one of Latin America's greatest writers, was also a significant figure in political and environmental history. But it uses da Cunha and his unfinished masterwork to show how Amazonia played a central role in global politics a century before rock stars began staging 'save the rain forest
concerts. As a bonus to readers, her translations of da Cunha

's brilliant Amazonian writings are excellent, and the sadly moving love story at the center of his life - key to understanding his work - is artfully woven into the rest of the material. (Charles C. Mann, author of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus)'

About the Author

Susanna B. Hecht is professor in the School of Public Affairs and the Institute of the Environment at the University of California, Los Angeles, and coauthor, with Alexander Cockburn, of The Fate of the Forest: Developers, Destroyers, and Defenders of the Amazon.

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Book Info

Publication date

4th June 2013


Susanna B. Hecht

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University of Chicago Press an imprint of The University of Chicago Press


600 pages


History of the Americas
Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900



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