Based on the author’s recently completed doctoral thesis at the University of São Paulo, História de um país inexistente by Maria de Fátima Costa documents the history of the world’s largest wetland, a floodplain covering more than 39,000 square miles of southwestern Brazil and northeastern Paraguay: the Pantanal. Initially christened Laguna de los Xarayes by early Spanish explorers who mistook the seasonal floodplain for a large and fabulous lake, the region would not be conceived as the Pantanal (literally “the wetland”) until the middle of the eighteenth century with the signing of the Treaty of Madrid. Costa’s book not only documents the history of the Pantanal, but more especially describes its invenção, or rather, the manner in which early explorers “invented” the region by imposing their own images, conceptions, and designs upon it (p. 22). In examining how the Pantanal was understood...

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