Not notably inviting at first sight, lacking any obvious scenic advantage, and endowed with an opaque political system that few bring themselves to study, the isolated republic of Paraguay has always had a small but ardent band of admirers. For those with a sense of history, it remains one of the most fascinating countries in the world. Voltaire was struck by the stories that came out of its Jesuit missions, Southey wrote a poem about it, Carlyle was fascinated by the autarchic dictator Dr Francia, while Richard Burton and Cunninghame Graham wrote eloquently of the country’s faded grandeur. Nietzsche’s sister Elizabeth lived there briefly, as did a number of socialist utopians from Australia. German farmers came over and settled there from the African country that is now Namibia. Over the years it has attracted all sorts and conditions of men, and few have remained impervious to its charms – aside from Ms Nietzsche’s anti-Semitic husband who committed suicide there.
Locked away in the heart of the continent, the original settlement of Spaniards in the sixteenth century was culturally overwhelmed by the dominant local tribe, the Guarani, and soon began speaking their language, adopting their non–work ethic, and making beautiful children. Jesuit missionaries protected the less dominant tribes, against both