THE LIBERATION OF LITTLE HEAVEN and Other Stories by Mark Jacobs


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Thirteen stories in a second collection, mainly set in Paraguay, by US diplomat and novelist Jacobs (A Cast of Spaniards, 1994; Stone Cowboy, 1997). Jacobs' mind seems divided on Paraguay, fascinated and horrified to an equal degree by its history, religion, and politics. The title story, for example, describes the life of one Arami Bedoya, a peasant taken from her parents as a child and raised in a secret ""orphanage"" maintained to provide the country's President with a steady supply of young mistresses. After escaping her fate by running away, Arami is consumed by a lust for vengeance and plots an assassination. ""Down in Paraguay"" chronicles an American's unhappy marriage to a local woman. The husband, discovering his wife's infidelity, considers murdering her and her lover, then gives up on the idea--only to be urged on by his young son, who cannot bear the dishonor of his ""bad"" mother. The murderous obsession of an unhappily wedded army sergeant with a young actor dominates ""The Ballad of Tony Nail,"" while ""Mengele Dies Again"" portrays the Nazi physician's last days in Paraguay. ""The Rape of Reason"" is told from the perspective of Martin del Valle, a Bolivian intellectual from a prominent family who's raised in exile in the States but returns home to teach at the University of La Paz. Expelled from the university for his ""reactionary"" views, he becomes a journalist who's later threatened for opposing the government in his writing. The best piece here,""Marina in the Key of Blue Flat,"" offers a portrait of a young housemaid who works for well-to-do Paraguayans and contrasts her own life with the privileges and fears of theirs. Sometimes unfocused and rambling, but, still, these sensitive insider's stories give a vivid glimpse of a country that may always come across as foreign.

Pub Date: Jan. 25th, 1999
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Soho