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THE FARM ON THE RIVER OF EMERALDS by Moritz Thomsen (Vintage: $8.95)

August 27, 1989|CHARLES SOLOMON

At age 53, Moritz Thomsen set out to establish a farm on the Esmeraldas River in the jungles of Ecuador. Working with a native partner, he battled weather, insects, floods, animals, hostile neighbors and the jungle itself. A potentially fascinating subject, but Thomsen's sentences are so chocked with adjectives, adverbs and inapt metaphors that the reader needs the syntactical equivalent of a machete to get through them. A description of the tropical wilderness: "It is so opulent, so rich, in the final analysis so basically vulgar--like the over-orchestration of Richard Strauss--that no one I can think of, except Rousseau, has ever succeeded in capturing its million-textured, chaotic quality and transforming it into art." Reading this prose makes clearing jungle land seem like a simple task.

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