In the 1890s after a period of social unrest, a brave band of Australians sailed from Sydney to found a communal Utopia in South America. Under the charismatic journalist William Lane, over 500 settlers, including poet Mary Gilmore, created a New Australia in the Paraguayan jungle. Their hopes soon collapsed. Many returned home. Others stayed, becoming part of the culture of their adopted country. They learned about Paraguay's Jesuit missions of the 17th and 18th centuries, perhaps the world's most successful communal settlements which were disbanded in violence, the country's catastrophic wars, its revolutions, its repressive dictators, and about another communal experiment led by Elisabeth Nietzsche and Bernhard Forster to create an Aryan master race.
Anne Whitehead made three journeys to Paraguay over 12 years and, in a vivid blend of biography and travel writing, uncovers stories of the original colonists and their descendants. Some fought for the British Empire in World War I, others defended Paraguay against Bolivia in the 1932-35 Chaco War; they witnessed the arrival of Nazi war criminals, the manhunt of forest Indians and endured the 35-year dictatorship of President Alfredo Stroessner.
Paradise Mislaid won the 1998 NSW Premier's Award for Australian History. Judges' citation: 'An erudite, beautifully researched work of history which knits together the stories of Paraguay and Australian emigration as a quest for Utopia... Whitehead utilises material which was not available to earlier historians. She also takes to heart the well-known adage that a tolerable pair of boots is essential for an historian, and retraces the steps of the original "New Australians" and their descendants. The result is a beautifully-crafted historical and contemporary travelogue.'
'One of the most bizarre stories in Australian history - splendidly told by one of our master story-tellers.' - Frank Moorhouse
'A superb blend of travel writing and history, during which Whitehead casts her discerning eye on the present, with pertinent excursions to the past. This personal odyssey has resulted in a wonderful, rambunctuous, passionate, picaresque narrative that combines meticulous research with compelling personal stories and acute observation. One is swept irresistibly along.' - Tim Bowden, Sydney Morning Herald
'Whitehead has produced a travel book within a carefully researched and densely documented historical frame extending across 600 pages. She is a skillful raconteur and the reader is carried along, largely unmindful that she has used the "Australian Tribe" as a peg on which to suspend her personal reminiscences of Paraguay. Her style strongly resembles the work of Paul Theroux and V.S. Naipaul.' - Transforming Anthropology
'The descendants of the tribe are a fascinating cross-section... Inevitably to follow the families is to create a portrait of Paraguayan life in the past century - a distinct mixture of good times, bad times, of dictators and war. To understand those years, the history of the country has to be traversed. Whitehead does all this with skill and understanding. She has probably the best written account of the Jesuit communes, where the Jesuits defended their converts from the slave traders, communes which lasted two hundred years, almost as long as European settlement in Australia.' - Richard Hall, Australian Book Review
'An exhaustive yet entertaining piece of historical detective work which is at once authoritative, scholarly and delightfully chatty... due to Whitehead's own indefatigable physical adventures, it's also a travel adventure to rival Bruce Chatwin's wanderings.' - The Leader
'Whitehead's book, winner of the NSW Premier's Award, has the intensity of the novel combined with the attentiveness to detail of a good travelogue, and gives a deserved prominence not only to the Paraguayan experiment but also to Australian-Latin American relations in general.' - Antipodes