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.