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November 04, 1990

THE DONKEY INSIDE By Ludwig Bemelmans (Paragon House: $10.95, illustrated). Best known as author of the "Madeleine" stories, Ludwig Bemelmans combined his experiences from several trips to South America during the late '30s/early '40s in this charming, semi-fictional travelogue. As the first-person narrator, Bemelmans remains a bemused observer confronted by an improbable array of characters that include the scion of an old Quito family, whose plans for a happy marriage were dashed when his parents discovered one of his fiancee's ancestors had been a servant--400 years earlier--and a half-Jewish Austrian doctor who can't understand how "Adolf" could force an old comrade like himself into exile. This tongue-in-cheek narrative evokes the old images of the romantic lands "South of the Border."

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