Twenty three million people live in Northeast Brazil, in conditions of poverty and injustice so flagrant that almost anywhere else in the western hemisphere seems paradisiacal by comparision. A sociological study of this region, by someone born and raised here, cannot be ""pure"" scholarship, and Josue de Castro has not attempted to conceal his commitment to the cause of progressive reform. As in his previous Geography of Hunger, he speaks for those who can hardly be termed underprivileged: they have no privileges and are landless, vote-less, hopeless. His thesis is that the region ""has as great an explosive potential as the Congo, South Africa, India or Vietnam,"" and that of all the attempts to date to improve matters, including the Alliance for Progress, nothing remains but ""nostalgia and regret."" But the people themselves have begun to develop social consciousness and represent a certain threat.... Even though the translation is clumsy and the book was written several years ago, its appearance in English is a noteworthy and one hopes consequential event.