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His grasp of the history of Paraguay is superlative.
on July 12, 2004
It sure seems that the other reviewers (posted below) read a different Gimlette book than I, but I found this book both extraordinary and a "bloody good read". I read the book while I was traveling through South America by car. I had a week to ten days for Paraguay and brought along Gimlette's travelogue/history.
John Gimlette's writing is engaging. His grasp of the history of Paraguay is superlative. His dry English humor often gives the absurd and macabre balance. Face it, Paraguay has an egregious history and there is no other way to tell it but explicitly. Gimlette does just that well.
John Gimlette is a lawyer practicing law in England who has an infatuation with Paraguay. His writing approach is much like that of a defense lawyer who is stuck with the implacable task of defending a depraved guilty hoodlum. The lawyer, John Gimlette, does his case study and digs up the often dark past of his client - Paraguay (i.e. incompetent, corrupt leaders who started a war that would go down in history as the bloodiest conflicts ever, 80% of all Paraguayans would perished, then there is the genocide, a haven for fugitive Nazis, and a corruption standard that would make Bangladesh look honest). In this book, reading between the lines, you can detect the lawyer in Gimlette. Read carefully and you can hear him pleading his case before the bench, stating "Yes, your honor, Paraguay is guilty, BUT there are mitigating circumstances and I want to set the record straight". The reader must decide whether he succeeds or not.
The book has short comings. It is missing an index and maps (map for a travel book really help John). Both of these would have been a welcome addition to a book filled with people, places and facts. That said, no Paraguay guide in print today will inform you as much about this isolated country as "the Inflatable Pig" does. Nor, will any travel guide in print today entertain you as much as Gimlette's does.
This book made my travel in Paraguay come alive and I believe that every traveler to Paraguay should have a copy, as well as any serious student of South America, Mennonites, Jesuits and post war Nazis. I am looking forward to his next book: Newfoundland. Strongly recommended 4.5 stars