DON FERNANDO by Fernand Fournier-Aubry


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They don't hardly make them like Don Fernando any more. Adventurer, wanderer, ""pioneer"" and ""husband"" to scores of native women who seemingly can't resist his panache. You believe him when he says he likes the blacks and Indians and half-castes among whom he's spent most of his adult life in Gabon, the Cameroons, the Amazon, and wherever white-skinned freebooters go to extract booty from the jungle. Contraband, gold, cattle, sharks' livers, but mostly timber was his metier -- felled by native labor gangs whom he has an aptitude for recruiting. Whether they're cannibals or Campa Indians Don Fernando is their adoptive kinsman. Nothing is denied him, neither the cedar and mahogany of the jungle, nor the sacred tribal amulets, nor the eager women. The witch doctor in one amiable African tribe beseeches him to impregnate a different ""fertile night companion"" for the length of his sojourn among them. . . .Poisonous snakes, head-hunters, malaria he takes in his stride though he's been laid tow a dozen times by broken limbs and mysterious fevers. Now-and then he returns to France, his birthplace, to luxuriate in fancy cars and hotels and fill up on caviar and champagne, throwing his loot around like a drunken sailor and proud of it. But Europe is decadent -- ""there was no spirit, no enterprise, no boldness"" -- and the lure of the wilderness is irresistible even when it means feasting on native delicacies (""we were served grilled rat. . . and big white worms that are eaten alive by way of desert"") and losing his cash as fast as he makes it. Dauntless and terrifically likable, Don Fernando has little in common with the paternalistic colonials moved by duty or greed. Brazen, irreverent, unrepentant, he's his own man and damned good company.

Pub Date: March 5th, 1974
Publisher: Putnam