1. Books about explorers, adventurers, and extreme risk-takers
like Jon Krakauer's Eiger Dreams and Into the
Wild, Caroline Alexander's The Endurance, Joe
Simpson's Touching the Void, Nathaniel Philbrick's In
the Heart of the Sea, Sebastian Junger's A Perfect
Storm, and many others, have become extremely popular in
recent years. What are the appeals of such books? What qualities
does The Lost City of Z share with books of this
kind? In what ways does it differ from them?
2. After time away from the jungle, Fawcett wrote:
"Inexplicably-amazingly-I knew I loved that hell. Its fiendish
grasp had captured me, and I wanted to see it again" [p. 116]. What
drove Fawcett to plunge himself again and again into the dangers of
the Amazon? What is the main force that drives him-obsession with
finding the lost city, desire to prove himself against his
competitors, a need to escape the confines of civilization, a
3. In what ways is Fawcett a symbolic figure? What values does
he embody? In what ways does he represent many of both the best and
worst qualities of the British Empire?
4. Grann notes that some anthropologists and historians consider
Fawcett's view of the Indians enlightened for his era while others
saw him as unable to transcend the prevailing racism of his own
culture. How does he regard the Indians he encounters? How does he
5. How do Fawcett's expeditions affect his wife Nina? How does
she see her role in relation to him? In what ways does she succumb
to his obsessions?
6. In what ways does The Lost City of Z
challenge conventional views of the Amazon? What does it suggest
about the current state of archeological research in the
7. What are some of the most fascinating and/or dreadful
features of the Amazon jungle revealed in The Lost City of
Z? How has the jungle been changed since Europeans first
made contact with it?
8. What does The Lost City of Z reveal about
the power of obsession? In what ways does Fawcett's obsession draw
others into its deadly gravitational pull?
9. By what means does Grann maintain such a high level of
suspense throughout the book? What does the interweaving of his own
story-the story of his search for the truth about what happened to
Fawcett and the story of his writing of the book itself-add to the
total effect of The Lost City of Z?
10. After witnessing the mass carnage of World War I, Fawcett
exclaims: "Civilization! Ye gods! To see what one has seen the word
is an absurdity. It has been an insane explosion of the lowest
human emotions" [p. 189]. In what ways does The Lost City
of Z call into question conventional notions of
civilization? What does it suggest about the supposed differences
between advanced and primitive cultures?
11. What are Percy Harrison's Fawcett's most admirable
qualities? What aspects of his character prove most troubling? Was
James Murray right in accusing Fawcett of all but murdering him?
12. Near the end of the book, Grann writes about how biographers
are often driven mad by the inability to fully comprehend their
subjects. Of his own quest he says: "The finished story of Fawcett
seemed to reside eternally beyond the horizon: a hidden metropolis
of words and paragraphs, my own Z" [p. 303]. How well does Grann
succeed in discovering and revealing the truth of Percy
13. Does Grann's meeting with the anthropologist Michael
Heckenberger in Kurikulo village confirm Fawcett's belief in a lost
ancient civilization? Is Fawcett's search vindicated at last?
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