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At The Tomb Of The Inflatable Pig: Travels Through Paraguay

3.68  ·  Rating Details  ·  430 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
A wildly humorous account of the author's travels across Paraguay–South America's darkly fabled, little-known "island surrounded by land."

Rarely visited by tourists and barely touched by global village sprawl, Paraguay remains a mystery to outsiders. Think of this small nation and your mind is likely to jump to Nazis, dictators, and soccer. Now, John Gimlette's eye-opening
Paperback, 363 pages
Published by Hutchinson (first published 2003)
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Apr 23, 2015 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Before reading this book, the only thing I knew about Paraguay is Leryn Franco, their female Olympic javelin thrower/model is quite fetching, and Paraguay is located in South America.

Now I know that Paraguay has had more than its share of totalitarian rulers, is land-locked, been home to many failed Utopias, numbers piranha and vampire bats among it’s fauna, is home to groups of Mennonites, suffered under the boot heels of the Spanish conquistadores, had a prostitute as its first lady, was a wa
I knew bupkis about Paraguay before I read this book, and now I have a gained a fair perspective on its unusual history and attractions. There are lots of countries I know little about, but this case is pretty special. Paraguay is so off the beaten track, about a 1,000 miles up the Panana River from its mouth at Buenos Aires, that it presents a sort of experiment in human nature. On the big picture, with its centuries of dictators, the result is a sad drama. But the attraction of the place as a ...more
Ricardo Ribeiro
Dec 09, 2013 Ricardo Ribeiro rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't even know why I read this book. I got it when I had in mind making a trip trough Latin America. The trip was postponed, the book remained in my shelf. So I decided to read it, finally. For no specific reason.

And what a good surprise it was. The author picks something potentially uninteresting, like the history of Paraguay, and he converts it in a fabulous tale. This books is a must to anybody vaguely interesting in this country. John is a story teller by vocation. A great writing style w
Clearly, this is the work of a failed novelist. The first quarter of the book was fragmented and uninteresting. The rest was better, as stories go, but I never learned to like the patchy and chronologically chaotic nature of the book.

I guess the author failed to write a novel about Paraguay, because he couldn't craft a plot that would stay together. For all I know, he can't even hold together a paragraph. Countless times now I've started one with interest, and halfway through the author has lost
Jan 14, 2011 Bart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book transcends its genre, not because travel-writing is somehow unserious or trite, but because this book transcends genre of any kind. This is remarkable a book as has been written in the last 20 years. It is non-fiction as nightmare. Most incredible of all is that it was John Gimlette’s first book.

At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig begins like any other humorous travelogue about a country you’ve never visited. Gimlette is witty and dry and prosaic in his opening descriptions of Paraguay:

Christopher Roth
Feb 28, 2013 Christopher Roth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Did not choose this per se, but got it for free. An astoundingly good read for a first book. Gimlette is a natural writer, and the book is a continuous flow of original language and deft, hilarious description. He should write novels and not, as he mostly does, according to his about-the-author blurb, travel-magazine articles He relishes Paraguay's absurd, tragic, bloody, and literally Voltaireanly picaresque history. Makes me want to go to Paraguay, which is saying something, because he also ma ...more
Jun 02, 2012 Erica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'll pretty much read anything to do with Paraguay because this little land-locked South American country is so dear to my heart and so obscure to the broader world. John Gimlette has an entertaining writing style, and the book is a quick and easy read, but I reached the end feeling like he had turned Paraguay into a freak show. It was all cannibals and Nazis. Granted, if so many weird things exist in one country, maybe that country is a little weird. Paraguay IS a little weird. But I felt like ...more
Alan Mckissock
Aug 29, 2012 Alan Mckissock rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent travel book, but the journey that you're taken on is not so much through the Paraguay of today but through its immensely interesting and often all too violent past. At the end of this book you'll not come out knowing the best places to eat in Asunción but you will come out with a better understanding of the trials and the wars that helped shape a nation and its national character, as well as a few places of interest. Gimlette helps define the undefinable of what it is to be ...more
Jun 16, 2015 Miriam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is very long for very little payoff, none really. The title is clever, but the "tomb of the inflatable pig" is a throwaway line about halfway through the book. The book is not nearly as funny as the title and cover suggest it could be. Unless you like stories that consistently end with "and all the women were given away and ravished and the men killed each other senselessly." There is a strain of misogyny that runs through this; I'm not sure if Gimlette is the problem or Paraguayan cul ...more
Justin Gaynor
Dec 01, 2015 Justin Gaynor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The one takeaway from this review should be: This book is FUNNY. If being funny were easy, more people would do it. Mr. Gimlette has the sort of self-deprecating willingness to go over the top in service of the story that I love. I can remember three simple drives across town, each of which is hilarious in its own way: A lady who drank way too much, a creamy-skinned beauty who likes to drive really fast, and a friend who is blind in one eye and none too attentive with the other. A bullfight, in ...more
Jan 05, 2015 Jennyb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Should you, for whatever reason, decide that you want to read about Paraguay, you will find that there are not a superabundance of choices. Fortunately, this, one of the few books on the topic, is a very entertaining and informative one. Gimlette is a very funny writer, and in this account, he intersperses Paraguayan history with the chronicle of his own travels through the country. It's an easy way to pick up the history of the country, although it's somewhat disjointed. Having read the whole t ...more
Feb 03, 2015 Alger rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Points more for substance than style.

Paraguay is one of those mysterious places like Arkansas or Romania, that few seem to visit, and what people know about the place comes in odd factoids or is gleaned from horror films. For better or worse, the legacy of the Strossner era is that most people outside of the region only know of Paraguay as a Nazi bolt-hole and national politics that appear to approach the most cartoonish of American stereotypes about Latin America.

Gimlette skates a close line be
Kate Millin
Mar 02, 2012 Kate Millin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The only book I have been able to find on Paraguay now I know my daughter Sandra is going to live there for a year– interesting but a little worrying due to the amount of unrest, but written by someone who obviously loves the country.
Sep 29, 2015 Jrnl010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Een van de betere reisboeken, informatief, erudiet en grappig, zoals eigenlijk alleen Britten het kunnen. Paraguay is een land met een krankzinnige geschiedenis. Ik ben er geweest om de schrijver Arthur van Amerongen te bezoeken, die toen in Asunción woonde. Op zijn aanraden kocht ik dit boek.

Voordat we samen met onze geliefden een lange reis naar Bolivia maakten, beleefden we een paar memorabele avonturen in Paraguay. Maar die verhalen bewaar ik voor een andere keer. Het is een geweldig land.
David Smith
Jul 25, 2011 David Smith rated it it was amazing
One of the strangest of the many books by travel writers I have read. Who ever thought I'd want to visit Paraguay! Highly recommended and a great escape.
Todd Stockslager
Jun 09, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-geography
Supremely surrealistic travelogue and history of Paraguay in a rambling personalistic and impressionistic style. Gimlette is an Englishman who was drawn to spend extended visits in Paraguay, traveling among and learning about the many disparate cultural and ethnic and linguistic factions of a single strong country torn apart by strange and unfathomable fables and historic events.

The nation became the gathering ground for misguided immigrants such as Mennonites escaping Russian pogroms and German
T.K. Jones
I liked this book, but I lived in Paraguay for a number of years and I feel like Gimlette knows very well the ex-pat Paraguay, but there was very little of the Paraguayan locals that I came to know and love. For example, there is quite a bit about Australian utopians, but very little about the Guarani Indians that shaped the culture. There also seemed to be a lot of boozing in shady hovels. I felt like it needed to be a bit more inclusive of the Paraguay that is endearing and quirky and less of ...more
Mar 23, 2014 Kirsten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Books that describe travels through a strange place should include historical background as vividly as this one does. Reading history in the vernacular and through a distinct (modern, first world,ironical) lens with an eye for the bizarre is fun! I don't really want to go to Paraguay, but I am intrigued by it. Gimlette treats some of the brutality a little too glibly, maybe, but that is congruent with the position of the book as a travel book, an observer of the odd and a chronicle of the contra ...more
Third in the line of my wade through the John Gimlette "deeply weird and entertaining yet somehow touchingly human prose about places most people have not visited and will likely never visit" collection. Brilliant, though I think overall less good than Wild Coast and Theatre of Fish. He just has such a way with an absurdly placed verb and bizarre but evocative descriptor.

I actually wandered away from this one for a few months at about the 60% mark, which made for a bit of confusion when I came
Jul 23, 2014 Gina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paraguay
One of three books I've given up on in my entire life. Gimlette is a brilliant person, that much is clear. However, he's not someone I want to read. In fact, he's the kind of person with whom I dread being stuck in conversation or some social situation. Clever, convinced of his cleverness, and eager to show it off by casually referencing obscure historical factoids without giving you any context for them and then moving on to something else, leaving you to wonder what the hell he's talking about ...more
Carl Nelson
Sep 27, 2014 Carl Nelson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
3.5 stars, rounded up thanks to the intriguing quirkiness of Paraguay. It's a weird travel book, almost more history described through the geographical framework of Gimlette's journey than a typical travelogue. And what a history it is, covering a zestfully squalid range of vaudevillian dictators, exploitative colonialism, hiding criminals and Nazis, cannibalistic tribes, unrelenting terrain, and ideologically-based settlements, imbued with an odd sense of grace thanks to the poignant tale of an ...more
Overall, something which resembles a morbid curiosity of a land so foreign coupled with Gimlette’s unique and humorous perspective engages the readers. However, the vacillation between history and Gimlette’s personal experiences makes the chronology difficult to follow. While Gimlette’s irreverent humor is usually enjoyable, it becomes off-putting at times. His lack of censorship and in-depth descriptions, especially with regard to the morally bankrupt exploits of government officials, drives so ...more
Paraguay. What to say about Paraguay. According to John Gimlette's part-history, part-travelogue, At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig, I learned that Paraguay, like America, is a melting pot. A melting pot of expats, Nazis, Mennonites, and cannibals, however. Paraguay is a country with a colorful, and confusing history, that I'm pretty sure not many Paraguayans actually know. I liked this book because I've never read a single thing about Paraguay before. But I didn't like this book for many more r ...more
David Bales
Oct 25, 2014 David Bales rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Excellent book, part history and part travelogue, by John Gimlette, who travels through the obscure country of Paraguay and follows his narrative about Paraguayan history with visits to places important in its past, (and sometimes completely forgotten in the present). Chief among these were the "Jesuit Republic" set up in the 17th and 18th centuries, (destroyed by the land and slave hungry Spanish and Portuguese empires) and two murderous wars, (the War of the Triple Alliance, 1865-1870, led by ...more
This book is ok. At its core it aspires to be a travelogue and brief history of Paraguay. In the end it doesn't manage to give the reader a good view of modern or historical Paraguay. The people the athor talks with and the areas he visits all belong to the foreign and uppercrust elements of Paraguay. His focus on the most shocking and odd aspects of Paraguay and its history, told with the most shocking and odd explanations and views, does little to paint a realistic picture of the nation or con ...more
This was a fairly thorough look at the history and character of Paraguay, and for that it earned more stars than it perhaps deserved. The author "organized" it according to the route he traveled, which unfortunately means it jumps around in time a lot - it was hard to follow what time period was being discussed (too bad I didn't notice the timeline at the back until I got there, wish it had been at the front). This was exacerbated by the fact that the author often wrote in the present tense, eve ...more
Feb 19, 2014 Dark-Draco rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I feel a bit mean giving this such a low rating. I made the mistake of not picking up my current read when I left for work and faced a long lunch time with only women's magazine's to flick through - the horror! But there were a few books in the canteen too and this seemed the best of the bunch. I did enjoy dipping in and out of it, but never actually got to the end - the writing is a bit disjointed and chapters are interupted a lot with background story and other tangents. However, there was a g ...more
Jan 19, 2008 Dana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
one of my all-time favorites. granted, it's because i think it's a funny, extremely-well researched and detailed, sometimes painful and always fascinating account of one of my favorite places on earth--Paraguay. i love Paraguay for being such an enigma and Gimlette's book shows it so well. it's part travel journal, part historical review, part social-political reflexion on a country that has long been "and island of land" isolated from all its neighbors, virtually impenetrable in so many physica ...more
Jul 16, 2008 Alicen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What to say about this book? It is a strange combination of history and travel journal set in Paraguay. It was never really clear to me why the author wrote this book, and perhaps this is where my confusion about it lies. Although I enjoyed the fact that it was all about Paraguay (how many books are?!), I didn't feel like it was a captivating enough to be of interest to someone who had never been there nor in depth enough to be enchanting to someone who knows the country really well. However, th ...more
Michael Kolb
Nov 09, 2014 Michael Kolb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I find Gimlette a very engaging author. He writes with a wonderful scope on Paraguay's odd history and provides a glance at the country in contemporary times. He is also very funny. What more could you want from a travel book.
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John Gimlette (born 1963) is an English author who specialises in travel literature.
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