26 FEBRUARY 1954, Page 28

Latin America : A Personal Survey. By Sir Ronald Fraser.

(Hutchinson. 12s. 6d.) IN the writing of this Latin American survey Ronald Fraser, author of the novel Circular Tour, and Sir Ronald Fraser, the former Board of Trade official, took turn and turn about. Thus we have bits of two books under one cover, a combination which should serve to entertain and instruct the lay reader. Fraser the novelist visits the Perons at Buenos Aires : The Casa Rosada or Rosy House, when I entered it, seemed all sweetness and honeymoon light. My cicerone, an emotional man of business in close touch with the Pair, shook hands with the carpet-sweepers and messengers, calling each of them hombre.' The members of the General's staff were continually hugging and kissing one another. Then the other Fraser, the one-time civil servant, inserts slabs from whatbmight have been an official despatch : It is safe to say, broadly speaking ... that the agricultural labourer is scarcely organised at all and over large areas of the region hardly conscious in a social or political sense.... So we are provided with the maximum quantity of views and news that can be crammed into 234 small pages—mountains and plains, jungles, rivers, lakes ; politics, housing, diseases, diet, art, welfare legisla- tion, communications, industry and trade ; many misleading statements (as on the prevalence of squint-eyed children in south- ern Argentina) ; and many very debatable conclusions. Although Sir Ronald gener- *ovsly, and even fondly, concedes that Latin America has its good points, he does not conceal his belief that the people are mis- managing their affairs. He says that he clings to the principle that " what is based on illusion must collapse." But the Latin Americans (heirs of the El Dorado legend) have always lived on illusions, and they have developed their own special technique for surviving and prospering on that basis.

There is almost a total lack of accents throughout the book, so that the Spanish names seem strangely austere. G. B.