Paradise Mislaid

In search of the Australian tribe of Paraguay

by Anne Whitehead

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Book Cover: Paradise Mislaid

The award-winning story of a group of Australians who set out to create a Utopia—on the other side of the world

In a bizarre 1890s social experiment, a band of 500 ordinary Australians followed an English journalist and visionary, William Lane, to found a socialist Utopia in the tropical rainforests of Paraguay. It is a story of politics, heroism and hard struggle, dreams and disillusionment, sexual adventures and romantic love. When the colonists' hopes collapsed in turmoil, many, including Mary Gilmore, returned home. Others stayed on, learning Spanish and the Guarani language and becoming part of the culture of their adopted country. The descendants of socialists also endured the harsh Stroessner dictatorship.

At once an erudite award-winning work of history and a passionate personal quest, Anne Whitehead's unique narrative maps her own journeys to Paraguay over two decades. The Spanish-speaking descendants, their lingo still peppered with Australianisms, tell her stories of their childhoods, of political oppression and crusades against it, of smuggling and brigandage, love and loss, obsession and high adventure. 

‘One of the most bizarre stories in Australian history - splendidly told by one of our master story-tellers.’ — Frank Moorhouse
‘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
‘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, rambunctious, passionate, picaresque narrative that combines meticulous research with compelling personal stories and acute observation. One is swept irresistibly along.’ — Tim Bowden, Sydney Morning Herald

First published in 1997, Paradise Mislaid won the New South Wales Premier’s History Award in 1998 and was also shortlisted for the Nita Kibble Literary Award that same year. Anne Whitehead’s companion volume, Bluestocking in Patagonia, is also part of the Untapped Collection.

Anne Whitehead is an historian, screenwriter and award-winning author. Her most recent book is Betsy and the Emperor: The true story of Napoleon, a pretty girl, a Regency rake and an Australian colonial misadventure (2015). For more information visit


Published by Untapped: the Australian Literary Heritage Project

Once out of print, these lost Australian books have been brought back to life as part of Untapped: the Australian Literary Heritage Project. You can borrow them from your local library as ebooks, or buy from all major online booksellers.

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