Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


SERENDIPITY SEEMS to occur whenever I search for a particular book—and find another that I completely forgot I had. So it is with the wonderful humor of Alex Atkinson and slightly skewed art of Ronald Searle.


Escape from the Amazon!, by Alex Atkinson and Ronald Searle, Perpetua Books, 1964. Both and list it.

Atkinson and Searle specialize, tongues firmly in cheek, in elaborate travel tales written and illustrated by those who have never set foot in the place. Two previous volumes, By Rocking Chair Across America and By Rocking Chair Across Russia, had brief mention here ( See also for more of Searle’s artful whimsy directed to oenology and book collecting.

Our pair has never been to the Amazon, but no matter, because Escape from the Amazon! has nothing whatever to do with the Amazon. Its four portions are titled “By Rocking-Chair Across Spain,” “By Rocking-Chair Across Sweden,” “By Rocking-Chair Across France” and “The Adventures of Mrs. Dyson.”


The indomitable Mrs. Dyson. Image from Escape from the Amazon!

Mrs. Dyson is the ample embodiment of the adventuress who’s never actually been there. Or maybe she has.

Notes Atkinson, “I once saw her convert a tribe of fifth-generation headhunters from m’groco [footnote: There is a Glossary. Glossary: a drink made from fermented hats] to iced tea with lemon in a single afternoon; and to watch her smuggling giraffe-necked women through the Liverpool customs is an education in tact and bombast.”

On France: “There are several ways of getting into France, chief glove-producing country in the world and birthplace of Claudette Colbert, and one of the most popular has always been to come roaring uninvited through gallant little Belgium with an army of highly trained infantry.”


“All French towns are alike, which tends to give the traveller the nightmarish feeling that he is going around in circles.” Image from Escape from the Amazon!

On Montmartre in Paris, “Surrealism was started here, not to mention dadasim, impressionism, pointillisme,  cubism, Canasta, one-man-one-vote, Zen, democracy, alcoholism, existentialism, integration, free air, Hemingway, witchcraft, knitting, action painting, seven-card stud and the twelve-tone scale.”

On Sweden: “I found the place to be clean—every mortal thing in Sweden is clean, including the jokes, the coal and the bottoms of birdcages.”


“…I was delighted to be stalked by a young woman whom I took at first to be a close relative of Anita Ekberg, the pride of Malmö…. (Oh, I have my principles, don’t you worry.)” Image from Escape from the Amazon!

On the summer holiday district north of Gothenburg: “Here Swedes of all ages were splashing about in fjords with shrill cries of cautious Nordic abandon. You can’t move far in Sweden without falling into water of one kind or another….”

On Spain: “…although when I reached the Costa Brava I found the doors are marked Señoras or Caballeros plainly enough, it soon became clear that Spanish sanitary refinements beyond that range from the rather amusing to the very early Stone Age.”


Olé! Image from Escape from the Amazon!

On Spanish pride, quoting a local: “As a matter of fact, I am not proud at all, but haughty. We learn it at school, if you must know. You have a choice between Pride, Haughtiness and Differential Calculus.”

Just my luck. I chose Differential Calculus. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2013

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This entry was posted on October 14, 2013 by in I Usta be an Editor Y'Know and tagged , .
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