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Mad White Giant - Benedict Allen (Book cover)

OUT OF PRINT – not available at present

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Mad White Giant – a journey to the heart of the Amazon jungle (1985)

Both a thrilling account of a perilous journey between the mouth of the Orinoco and the Amazon, but also a veiled exploration of the threat posed to the Rain Forest by the "Mad White Giants," i.e. us. A light, pacey tale of gutsy survival.

Recommended for: those wanting a gripping holiday read; older children also seem to love it.

Most exciting moment: having been attacked by goldminers, having to walk out of the forest to survive. Based on Benedict's diary account at the time, the climax comes when Benedict famously had to decide whether he should kill his dog to eat and therefore survive.

Benedict's comment: my first book, and written with a freshness which I can sadly never hope to recapture. Those expecting a conventional travel-book may well be disappointed. As the satirical and whimsical sketches were meant to indicate, this book was unreliable when it came to factual detail (I also envisaged it being published without photos, though the first publisher sneaked them in while I was occupied elsewhere – actually trapped in New Guinea, undergoing the male initiation ceremony featured in the next book). Although the journey very much happened, and along the lines described, I was still in my early twenties and had decided (perhaps rather too ambitiously) that I would break from the conventional travelogue genre (which seemed to me, in my arrogance, tired) and not simply recount the story of a journey, but place equal if not greater weight to the exploration of the themes that occurred along my way – those of betrayal, loyalty, and encounters with exotic, threatened and threatening peoples as witnessed by a young confused traveller passing through. Almost unbelievably, two RSPCA inspectors came to visit me in Hampshire after the journey, to enquire about the welfare of our family pet dogs. (Out of interest, it was to be the first of a quartet of books, each deliberately written in a different mood - this was the "fiery" one of the four).

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