"When individuals are being tortured and everyone knows about it and no one seems able to do a thing to help," Lawrence Weschler writes, "primordial mysteries at the root of human community come under assault as well." Overthrowing oppressive regimes is not enough to resolve the crisis; the persecutors must also acknowledge what they have done. "True forgiveness is achieved in community.... It is history working itself out as grace, but it can only be accomplished in truth."
A Miracle, A Universe brings together two long nonfiction pieces, originally published in the New Yorker, which examine how citizens of Brazil and Uruguay have worked to "settle accounts" with their former torturers. Weschler uses historical background to supplement his powerful eyewitness reportage and interviews, bearing witness to those who seek to break through official denials of government atrocity. The efforts to build a democratic society in which people can have faith have rarely been portrayed with as much immediacy and insight as Weschler brings to these articles.
From Publishers Weekly
After the demise of Brazil's repressive military regime, a group of ex-prisoners, all former torture victims, banded together to document their captors' atrocities--arbitrary arrests and "disappearances," the torture of thousands, murders. Their 1985 book, which holds the U.S. responsible for helping to create Brazil's dictatorship, became a bestseller in that country. In the first half of his dispassionate report, New Yorker staff writer Wechsler records his conversations with the survivors. Brazil's one-time torturers, he notes, have risen to positions of power. In the book's second half, he describes Uruguay's massive but unsuccessful petition campaign--spearheaded by ex-torture victims and human rights activists--to bring to justice the toppled Uruguayan military regime's butchers. Though Wechsler underestimates the U.S. role in reversing Uruguay's democracy, he points out that the State Department issued bland assurances that the police state in Uruguay was a temporary response to an emergency situation.
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