The embers of yesterday's hopes for a brave new socialist Third World flicker uncertainly here, as radical Brazilian educator Paulo Freire lays out an adult-literacy program for the heirs of radical ""political pedagogue"" Amilcar Cabral in newly-liberated Guinea-Bissau. Those to whom the names already speak volumes will see the possibilities (in the absence of explanation, no others need try); but what has actually been accomplished--or even attempted--is impossible to ascertain. In the lengthy introduction and the letters to Guinea-Bissau officials which echo its themes, Freire is a sometimes-eloquent exponent of participatory education (rather than ""education by transfer""), of learning to read and criticize ""reality"" in tandem with learning to read words--a position he formulated in a more theoretical fashion in Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970). What we find in the letters, however, is an offer of help from Geneva, where Freire is connected with the World Council of Churches; reference to three brief visits in 1975-76 without a record of what occurred; concrete proposals--the multiplication of Culture Circles, the use of ""generative words,"" the circulation of student writings-with only partial and indirect evidence as to which were accepted (and evidence, though no acknowledgment, that some were not); precepts and admonitions combined with disclaimers of any intent to be prescriptive; and a suggestion--from the paucity, slowness, and apparent unresponsiveness of the replies--of a lack of enthusiasm at the receiving end. Freire is perceptive when he asks, for example, how literacy can be linked to the common good and separated from individual progress--so as to motivate everyone and stem backsliding--but whether he has an answer better than the totalitarian Chinese model he cites elsewhere, is not apparent from what little we see of the Guinea-Bissau experiment.