historical non-fiction biography includes historical maps,
illustrations and the extremely difficult to find (and
never before published in translation) Exposición y
Protesta, a short book first published separately, now
out of print and difficult to find even in Paraguay.
Exposition and Protest is written by the protagonist
herself, Eliza Lynch. In Lillis and Fanning, Exposition
and Protest is included as an appendix (41 pages in
invited to São Paulo by the Author, former Irish
ambassador to the United Nations Michael Lillis, to attend
the book launch of the Brazilian Portuguese version of
their book. It was refreshing to see that even in the
twenty-first century, this shadowy heroine is still
capable of eliciting a fiery debate. Both at the book
launch and over cocktails afterwards in a fashionable São
Paulo restaurant, it was my pleasure to participate with
Irish and Brazilian intellectuals in passionate
conversations over this scandalous heroine from Cork.
other books on the subject, the focus of Lillis and
Fanning’s book is on Eliza herself. By comparison, most
other works on Eliza Lynch focus more on the sensational
war years of the prolonged massacres of Paraguay’s war
against the Triple Alliance (Brazil, Argentina and
Uruguay), and over-emphasise the sordid tales of
high-class prostitution in Paris (much of which Lillis and
Fanning believe were invented by her detractors). The
authors in contrast de-emphasise the fetish interests in
war and sex, and focus instead, perhaps understandably, on
a more European focus on Lynch’s family roots in Ireland,
and her childhood and teenage marriage to the French
military medic Quatrefages and her life after the war,
again mostly back in Europe. Although there is more of a
focus on Lynch’s life outside South America than is common
in biographies of the woman, this is not to say that the
authors have a purely European mindset nor that their
research is Eurocentric, as an extensive team of
researchers collaborated on this work in various countries
in South America. The authors have travelled extensively
in South America and between them they speak both
Portuguese and Spanish fluently, along with English.
provide refreshing detail on Eliza Lynch’s life back in
Europe after the death of her dictator husband Marshall
Francisco Solano López, a part of Lynch’s biography not
focussed on by other biographers.
after the death of her husband and first-born son, (two
bodies she buried with her bare hands in the Paraguayan
soil of Cerro Cora), Lynch was taken prisoner by their
Brazilian killers. While still in prison on the river
Paraguay, under the eye of the victorious allies on board
the Brazilian ship Princessa, Lynch began another war.
The cunning alliance-building continued in Rio de Janeiro
and lead to litigation in the courts of Edinburgh,
Scotland, and back in her beloved Paraguay. In this decade
after the war we are led to discover many details of
Lynch’s considerable courage and dogged persistence in
extensive legal battles to reclaim land rights and monies
given to her by López for safekeeping. These claims on
territorial ownership were quite considerable. Her claims
on land in Paraguay amounted to some nine million
hectares, more land mass indeed than the island of her
birth. Also discussed are the monies lying dormant in
accounts in British banks which for lack of documentation
(destroyed in the war), Eliza was denied access.
Lynch was a
woman who escaped cruel death from a Brazilian lance,
protecting her remaining children and vast fortunes under
the banner of the Union Jack. The Irish publishers had
rejected the use of the word calumny to describe the
societal reaction the life of this long-dead Irish woman
still inspires. Later in 2009, an article written in the
Asunción La Nación newspaper of Paraguay on the
topic of the release of the Spanish edition of the book in
the Law Faculty building of the University of Asunción
(the former house of Eliza Lynch), shows how she still
elicits debate in various languages: http://www.lanacion.com.py/noticias-276356.htm.
contents of the book are as follows: List of maps (4),
List of illustrations (26), Prologue (9 pages discussing
their research and the accidental death of their Brazilian
co-researcher Comandante Rolim Adolfo Amaro, who died in a
helicopter flight while travelling to Paraguay to work
with the investigative team in Cerro Cora, dated January
2009).  The body of the
book consists of thirteen chapters: Ch. 1. The hunt for
Eliza Lynch (twelve pages) Ch. 2: Monsieur Quatrefages and
Mrs Quatrefages (ten pages) Ch. 3: Was she a Courtesan?
(thirteen pages) Ch. 4 Enter Panchito (twenty-two
pages) Ch. 5: Paraguay –Mohammed’s Paradise (thirteen
pages) Ch. 6: The Queen of Paraguay (twenty-six pages) Ch.
7: Triumph (fifteen pages) Ch. 8: Disaster (sixteen pages)
Ch. 9: Inferno (twenty-eight pages) Ch. 10: Cerro Cora
(eight pages) Ch. 11: In the Edinburgh Courts (nineteen
pages) Ch. 12: The Last Betrayal: Return to Asuncion
(fifteen pages) Ch. 13: ‘A Heart Grown Cold’ (twelve
pages). Also included are Eliza Lynch’s book,
Exposición y Protesta as an appendix,
Acknowledgements, Abbreviations, Reference notes, Select
Biography and an Index.
Fanning paint a frank, albeit positive picture in their
loving biography of Lynch, a woman whose personal
furniture adorned the presidential palace in Buenos Aires.
This woman, whose calumny spread across the planet,
beginning in the 1860s with her glory days in Paraguay for
her association with the dictator Marshall Francisco
Solano López, a man who is at once hated and beloved of
his Guaraní-speaking Paraguayan people. For her loyalty to
the death to her common law-husband, Lynch shares the
calumny of the last great leader of this beautiful
belly-button of a country.
shares many things with the island on where Lynch is born.
It has suffered the dreadful tyranny of its neighbours and
the dictatorial actions of post-colonial leaders. The
bilingual nature of its population has helped it to retain
a deep sense of identity differentiating it from its
neighbours, albeit in the context of extreme violence and
tolerance of rampant corruption. The author’s deep
knowledge of a complex web of Latin American and European
interplay in the life of Lynch has helped to bring alive
the history of this remarkable woman. At the book launch
in São Paulo, Lillis was accused of being in love with
Elisa Alicia Lynch. It is an accusation he did not deny.
same book was also published 2009 in Brazilian Portuguese:
Calúnia – Elisa Lynch e a Guerra do Paraguai and in
Spanish: Calumnia. La historia de Eliza Lynch y la
Guerra de la Triple Alianza. The Spanish version was
edited by the Taurus subdivision of the editorial ‘Grupo
Santillana’ and in Brazil by ‘Terceiro Nome’ (all 2009).
Director of the documentary film Eliza Lynch, The
The Author accepts this Review and does not wish to
 The book is dedicated to
Comandante Amaro, founder of Brazilian airline TAM, who
died in 2001.