A probing, philosophical inquiry into torture - and its effects -
in Latin America; by the author of The Passion of Poland (1984),
etc., a New Yorker staff writer. Focusing on the specific
experiences of Brazil and Uruguay, which he visited to research
this book, Weschler endeavors to explain why citizens tortured in
secret by agents of military dictatorships feel compelled to expose
publicly the atrocities of their tormentors. Through careful
understatement and the piling of fact upon fact in a dry,
reportorial style, he slowly reveals the Alice-in-Wonderland
quality of governments that wantonly - and often randomly - use
torture to subdue their own populations. Weschler concludes that
Latin torture has historic roots in the Spanish Inquisition, and
thus has acquired the flavor of a religious ritual. Borrowing from
the scholarly work of Elaine Scary, he further concludes that
torture degrades its victims precisely because it forces them to
adopt the words and thoughts of their torturers. It thus turns
reality on its head, and strips the tortured individual of the
ability even to think freely. Weschler ultimately holds that
regardless of whether vengeful citizens ever succeed in bringing
their former torturers to justice - in Brazil and Uruguay, such
efforts have failed - the mere process of unveiling their horrid
crimes serves at once to cleanse and to safeguard civil society.
Along with some trenchant insights, Weschler offers new cause for
thanks that, thus far at least, our own military has bent to the
rule of constitutional law. (Kirkus Reviews)
During the past fifteen years, one of the most vexing issues facing
fledgling transitional democracies around the world--from South
Africa to Eastern Europe, from Cambodia to Bosnia--has been what to
do about the still-toxic security apparatuses left over from the
previous regime. In this now-classic and profoundly influential
study, the New Yorker's Lawrence Weschler probes these dilemmas
across two gripping narratives (set in Brazil and Uruguay, among
the first places to face such concerns), true-life thrillers in
which torture victims, faced with the paralysis of the new regime,
themselves band together to settle accounts with their former
tormentors. "Disturbing and often enthralling."--New York Times
Book Review "Extraordinarily moving...Weschler writes
brilliantly."--Newsday "Implausible, intricate and
dazzling."--Times Literary Supplement "As Weschler's interviewees
told their tales, I paced agitatedly, choked back tears...Weschler
narrates these two episodes with skill and tact...An inspiring
book."--George Scialabba, Los Angeles Weekly
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