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At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig


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About the Author

John Gimlette is a regular contributor of travel articles and photographs to Conde Nast Traveller, as well as numerous journals and newspapers in England. He is a practicing attorney in London, where he lives with his family. This is his first book.


How can one describe Paraguay? How many people actually know where Paraguay is? Whatever the answer to the second question, Gimlette, a regular contributor to Conde Nast Traveller and other journals and newspapers, does a masterly job with the first. Here we find the exploits of dictators, opportunists, and just general folk on the lam that would make Central American strongmen blush. Gimlette travels from one end of Paraguay to the other in search of Mennonites, Japanese, indigenous tribes, and the stray Nazi. A good part of the book covers the rise and fall of Francisco Lopez (1826-70) and his Irish mistress, Eliza Lynch. Lopez almost single-handedly razed his country by waging war with Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. In Gimlette's own words, "Francisco Solano Lopez's promise to die with his country came not a moment too soon. Had he left it any longer, there might have been no country left to die with." A fantastically written book about a neglected part of the world, this is recommended for all libraries.-Lee Arnold, Historical Soc. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Over the past 500 years, Paraguay has been invaded by successive waves of conquistadors, missionaries, Mennonites, Australian socialists, fugitive Nazis and, perhaps most improbably, Islamic extremists. "An island surrounded by land," bordered by vast deserts and impenetrable jungles, Paraguay is a country uniquely suited for those seeking to drop out of sight or, like Gimlette, find themselves. The author was 18 when he first traveled to Paraguay more than two decades ago; return visits only deepened his appreciation for the nation and its tragicomic past. Gimlette seems to have gone everywhere and talked to everyone. He boats down piranha-infested rivers, hobnobs with Anglo-Paraguayan socialites and hunts down the former hiding place of notorious Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele. Gimlette, a travel writer and lawyer in London, proves a chatty, amiable guide to local institutions like the national railway (which has no running trains) and native wildlife, like the fierce, raccoon-like coatimundis (who, Gimlette writes, "make up for their absence of pity with fistfuls of dagger-like claws"). Yet he doesn't shirk from the nastier aspects of Paraguay's bloody history. Gimlette describes in horrific detail, for example, the rape and conquest of the Guarani Indians as well as the brutally repressive regime of Don Alfredo Stroessner (whose U.S.-backed dictatorship lasted longer than any other in the Western Hemisphere). Gimlette could have used some judicious editing-the narrative drags in parts, and its scattered chronology can be confusing-but he never fails to impress with his ingenuity, sincerity and sense of humor. 16 pages of color and b&w photos, not seen by PW. (Jan. 13) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"Colorful and meandering, by turns hilarious and horrifying, often delightful. . .and very, very odd. . . . An entirely faithful reflection of its subject." --The New York Times Book Review

"[Gimlette's] account is so rich in anecdotes, so suffused in color and dialect that we are left with a sense of having somehow inhaled all this Paraguayan history and then experienced it through a nightmare or a dream. Gimlette has given us a cast of characters as vivid as any by Dickens or Waugh."-- The New York Times

"Gimlette knows his subject cold, and it's a subject bound to have something for everyone . . . Charming and vivid. . . crammed full of a wild cast of characters and incredible experiences." --San Francisco Chronicle

"A hilarious, informed anti-travelogue . . . with generous detail grounded in the author's personal experiences, this is a travel book of the mind."--The Boston Globe "Blends travelogue, history and flights of descriptive whimsy to highly tonic effect. . . . For all his mastery of Paraguayan history, it's Gimlette's extravagant prose and unhinged enthusiasm that make the book. . . . You couldn't ask for a more entertaining guide." --The Seattle Times "Hilarious. . . . What keeps you reading about Paraguay, maybe in spite of yourself, is Gimlette's marvelous wit and eye for character." --Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "Reading the book is like watching a Komodo dragon eat a tethered goat. Paraguay, as Gimlette portrays it, is . . . completely bizarre. . . . Conquistadores and Nazis, whores and cannibals, all of them rather awful, all of them splendidly rendered. . . . Graham Greene would have approved." --National Geographic Adventure

"A glorious travel book . . . in which the country's craziness is portrayed with humor, insight and considerable deftness of touch. . . . As a historian of the absurd [Gimlette] is superlative." --The Sunday Times (London) "A wildly entertaining read: a raucous blend of history, travelogue, and guide." --Conde Nast Traveler "At The Tomb of the Inflatable Pig should be ranked among the very best explorations of its kind: at once a history and a guide to one of the least hospitable nations on earth." --The Washington Times "Irreverent and rambunctious. . . . [A] superior travel book." --Foreign Affairs

"An extraordinary book, part history, part travelogue . . . so vivid that nobody reading it is ever likely to forget the country. . . . A book that sheds fascinating light on a forgotten corner of Latin America'" --The Daily Telegraph (London) "A richly detailed catalog of oddities and horrors, the kind of eccentricities that flourish in isolation. . . . [Gimlette] spills Paraguay's cruelest, most shameful secrets, but his admiration for the forlorn middle country is real on every page." --Outside "Howlingly entertaining. . . . There [is] no resisting Gimlette's rollicking account." --San Diego Union-Tribune "A truly wonderful exploration of one of the world's most captivating countries ... Brilliant." --Sunday Express "[A] wonderful, wacky book. . . . Filled with the offbeat and the bizarre. Gimlette's narrative attempts to flesh out a country that is as difficult to define as nailing Jell-O to a wall. Vivid, riotous, fascinating and never dull, his book is wildly entertaining." --The Tucson Citizen "Compelling. . . . Blackly comical. . . . Spicy, exuberant prose." --Mail on Sunday (London) "Eccentric and richly descriptive. . . . The best travel writers are those with both a sense of history and a sense of humor, and Gimlette qualifies on both counts." --Richmond Times-Dispatch

"[Gimlette] has a firm grasp of the country's intriguing past, and a watchful eye on its perplexing present." --Literary Review "Terrifically funny. . . . A great book in the noble tradition of British travel writing." --Hartford Advocate "Perceptive and entertaining." --The Times Literary Supplement (London)

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