Haven to Nazis, smugglers’ paradise, home to some of the earth’s oddest wildlife and most baroquely awful dictatorships, Paraguay is a nation waiting for the right chronicler. In John Gimlette, at last it has one. With an adventurer’s sang-froid, a historian’s erudition, and a sense of irony so keen you could cut a finger on it, Gimlette celebrates the beauty, horror and–yes–charm of South America’s obscure and remote “island surrounded by land.”
He takes readers from genteel drawing rooms in Asuncion–where ladies still gossip about the nineteenth-century Irish adventuress who became Paraguay’s Empress to the “Green Hell” of the Chaco, a vast, inhospitable tract populated by aging Mennonites and discouraged Indians. Replete with eccentrics and scoundrels, ecologically minded cannibals and utopians from every corner of the earth, At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig is a madly entertaining book.