This 1972 story collection is the best-known work of an Argentinean native (1919-78) who fled Juan Peron's dictatorship and became a successful translator, sometime actor, and writer of fiction in the Italian language. It's a mock encyclopedia containing 35 brief `biographies` of renegade scholars, scientists, engineers, and inventors. That several of them happen to have been historical figures (like John Cleeves Symmes, propounder of the quickly discredited `hollow earth` theory) in no way lessens this terrific little book's urbane-madcap charm. One wishes to know even more about the German geologist who `proves` the healthful benefits of radiation; or the biblical researcher who discovers, in modern-day Sodom, the figures of Old Testament patriarchs preserved as (what else ?) pillars of salt; or the new Zealand entrepreneur who harnesses stray dogs to `man` his `canine-powered [water] pump.` A deft, daft treasury of subversive wit (and, come to think of it, invention), beautifully translated and presented by the invaluable Venuti.
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