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A Miracle, a Universe


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Foreword I: A Miracle, A Universe II: The Reality of the World Afterword Notes 1998 Postscript References Index

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Lawrence Weschler is a two-time winner of the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for his book "Mr Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder".


After the demise of Brazil's repressive military regime, a group of ex-prisoners, all former torture victims, banded together to document their captors' atrocities--arbitrary arrests and ``disappearances,'' the torture of thousands, murders. Their 1985 book, which holds the U.S. responsible for helping to create Brazil's dictatorship, became a bestseller in that country. In the first half of his dispassionate report, New Yorker staff writer Wechsler records his conversations with the survivors. Brazil's one-time torturers, he notes, have risen to positions of power. In the book's second half, he describes Uruguay's massive but unsuccessful petition campaign--spearheaded by ex-torture victims and human rights activists--to bring to justice the toppled Uruguayan military regime's butchers. Though Wechsler underestimates the U.S. role in reversing Uruguay's democracy, he points out that the State Department issued bland assurances that the police state in Uruguay was a temporary response to an emergency situation. (Apr.)

Systematic political torture is a relatively recent phenomenon in world politics. Weschler, a New Yorker staff writer, chronicles an era of torture in Brazil and Uruguay. He bases his Brazilian account on over one million pages of archives kept by the military, which includes accounts by survivors. He also tells the story of the not-wholly successful efforts to bring Uruguayan officials to justice. Individual accounts of torture, however, are only a small part of the book; instead, Weschler recounts the story of whole societies as victims. Previously excerpted in a five-part series in The New Yorker , this is a compelling book that draws attention to a political truth that is too easily avoided. Highly recommended for public and university libraries.-- Andrea Bonnicksen, Eastern Illinois Univ., Charleston

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