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At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig: Travels Through Paraguay

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  580 ratings  ·  98 reviews
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–y ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published March 8th 2005 by Vintage (first published 2003)
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3.73  · 
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 ·  580 ratings  ·  98 reviews

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Feb 09, 2015 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
Lew Watts
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you despair of the standard of leadership in today's world, this wonderful travelogue and history of a country ruled by centuries of dictators (from cruel to simply insane) may make things look less depressing. Then again, Paraguay's despots wrought their havoc at home, not internationally.
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
Ricardo Ribeiro
Dec 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Paraguay is a country which is, for all intents and purposes, a black hole in the middle of South America. John Gimlette's At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig: Travels Through Paraguay seeks to make the ill-fated country, as large as California, but with a fraction of the population, better known.

Did you know that Paraguay fought two of the most horrendous wars ever contested in the Western Hemisphere -- worse even than the American Civil War. I am referring to the War of the Triple Alliance (1865
Alan Mckissock
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Stephen Curran
Oct 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Funny book about Paraguay. Gives a good review of the history of the place.
David Smith
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 19, 2017 rated it liked it
At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig: A Riotous Journey into the Heart of Paraguay is an extremely comprehensive and wry look at more than 500 years of Paraguayan history. In what was Gimlette's first travel literature book, he has shown a wonderful eye for the absurd and fascinating and put together what in all likelihood is the best all round book on Paraguay's unique history that exists today.

Gimlette has had a long association with Paraguay. He first visited this landlocked South American count
Jun 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourite-travel
I don’t think it will be long. Paul Theroux’s grip on me as my favourite travel author is surely coming to an end. Two pretenders to the throne are coming up quickly, and out of the two, it is John Gimlette who is probably just ahead (Michael Jacobs is the other).
Having already enjoyed his trek around the top right hand corner of South America in Wild Coast, Gimlette is again back on my favourite continent, this time in it’s deepest heart, Paraguay. Originally there in 1982, Gimlette’s original
Justin Gaynor
Dec 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
T.K. Jones
Nov 30, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Nov 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of the best pieces of travel writing I have ever read; simply by bringing to life one of the most endearingly strange countries anywhere on earth. Since reading it, Paraguay has become number one on my list of countries to go to before I die. Utterly astonishing at times.
Carlos Isoard
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Extremely entertaining book. I will point out that it works out more like a work of absurdist fiction than an actual travel book - whether that's more due to the author's talented prose or to Paraguay's intrinsic weirdness, it's hard to say. But an undeniably entertaining read in any case.
Kate Millin
Mar 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Dm Dunne
Jun 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A rare treat - hilarious,educational, bizarre and wonderfully entertaining. The next time that you see Paraguay play or read about this strange land its bonkers history will pop right back into your head after reading this !
Lisa Fox
May 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
So excellent. Makes me want to run away to Paraguay right now.
Nov 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Really really enjoyable travelogue/history of Paraguay. Gimlette's inventive approach really captures the flavor of this strange little country. A sympathetic but sharp-eyed telling.
Aug 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Best book you'll ever read on Paraguay! Weird, wonderful, wacky. It's got old nazis, and exiled Irish lasses, and wars about the silliest things. Great fun.
Nathan Albright
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge-2018
Having become familiar with the author thanks to his humorous writing about his travels through the Guianas [1], I sought to read as much about the author as I could, although I must admit Paraguay is not a country that I have ever been to or that I have any immediate plans to visit [2].  This may not be the sort of book that is promoted by Paraguay's travel board or anything like that, but if you have an interest in the country this book certainly provides a lot of food for thought.  I did not ...more
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel, history
I picked this book up on a whim at a library book sale. To my great pleasure it has turned out to be an absolutely fascinating book. I knew nothing about Paraguay except that it was in South America and usually seen as a lawless place. this book provides not only history of the country but also ecology, history,, and current affairs

the author is very brave to have visited this place and stayed for so long. I can't imagine doing any of the things that he did in his attempt to retrace the history
Jun 18, 2017 rated it liked it
An excellent account of the history and geography of Paraguay, as told by a British lawyer in a wandering mood. The story is readable but not at all in a straight line, so I often found myself consulting the map at the front of the book and the historical timeline at the back. Because of who is telling the story, it's very much an outsider view of the country, and its focus is on the various immigrant communities around the country and other outsider accounts, mostly written by Europeans. Perhap ...more
Chris Bartholomew
Nov 26, 2017 rated it liked it
I liked this book. Loved the way the author writes. I also found Paraguay to be an interesting and unusual conglomeration of ex-patriot communities from around the globe. The author could be a bit scattered at times jumping from one time period or community to another, but his use of language to draw an image is what held me. An interesting landlocked, harsh and inviting place for anyone trying to make a new start is the image that he leaves me with. The book is a trek through Paraguayan history ...more
Gregory Norman
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This is one of the most extraordinary histories/adventure tales/personal journals I have ever read. I learned a great deal while balancing between shock and black comedy. For fans of Flashman, this is a great read. For others, it is an equally great read.
Sam Davison
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. John Gimlet is amazing noone writes travel books better.
Mar 10, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was just so hard to get through.
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John Gimlette (born 1963) is an English author who specialises in travel literature.