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Henry Ford's utopian adventure in the Brazilian rain forest

June 24, 2009 | 10:02 am

Fordlandia Historian Greg Grandin has taken what heretofore seemed a marginal event -- Henry Ford's failed attempt to establish a gigantic agricultural-industrial complex in the heart of Brazil's Amazon Basin -- and turned it into a fascinating historical narrative that illuminates the auto industry's contemporary crisis, the problems of globalization and the contradictions of contemporary consumerism.

For all of that, this is not, however, history freighted with political pedantry. Grandin is one of a blessedly expanding group of gifted American historians who assume that whatever moral the story of the past may yield, it must be a story well told.

"Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City" is precisely that -- a genuinely readable history recounted with a novelist's sense of pace and an eye for character. It's a significant contribution to our understanding of ourselves and engrossingly enjoyable.

Read the rest of Tim Rutten's review of Greg Grandin's book Fordlandia.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City