Jonathan Kandell is a journalist who spent his childhood in Latin America and who was a New York Times correspondent in South America for five years during the 1970s. He returned in 1982 as Edward R. Murrow Fellow, and this book is an account of his travels in the interior of the continent during that year, supplemented by reports from previous visits and from published sources.

For the Latin American specialist or even the general reader who keeps up with this part of the world, Kandell does not provide any new information or insights; but to the larger general reading public he gives a good account of Latin Americans’ encounters with their interior frontier, past and present. The frontier theme runs through the book with occasional comparisons between the North American and South American experiences, including differing attitudes toward the frontier.

Kandell uses as a focus for his 1982 travels the Marginal Highway of the Jungle proposed by Fernando Belaúnde Terry. Having interviewed Belaúnde in 1976, when the latter was out of office as president of Peru, he became intrigued with the idea of the highway as a stimulus for development of the interior of South America. He notes that nations bordering the route have shown little interest in the proposed highway because constructing it would stir up many old boundary disputes that have been dormant as long as the region remained a virtual no-man’sland. As population growth and the need to develop additional resources, however, have turned the attention of these nations toward their interior frontiers, the author thinks they may eventually be linked by such a highway.

Kandell begins his travels in the oilfields of the Peruvian-Ecuadorian border area, visits the Brazilian province of Acre where livestock ranching is contending with rubber gathering for control of the land, continues into Rondônia where peasant farmers are the dominant group opening up the forest, crosses into Bolivia where both cattle ranching and drug trafficking in the eastern provinces command his attention, and finally travels across Paraguay to its eastern border with Brazil to visit the giant Itaipu hydroelectric project. In each case he discusses current development from the point of view of the various concerned, usually conflicting, groups, at the same time providing pertinent geographical and historical data.

The book is written in an easily readable style, but the author does not provide the usual clues as to what the book is about, such as chapter titles, table of contents, and introductory statement. He does provide maps, nine of them, but they are not as helpful as they could be. One map spread over two pages, or as end-papers, would have been sufficient to include all the places mentioned and at the same time to show the spatial connections that are needed to follow the text and that are lost in his maps, which show only segments of the whole region.