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Paperback The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey Book

ISBN: 0312422784

ISBN13: 9780312422783

The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey

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Book Overview

An extraordinary and vivid introduction to the country of Nicaragua and its politics from the Booker-winning author of Midnight's Children. In this brilliantly focused and haunting portrait of the... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A Rich, Fascinating Journey.

"The Jaguar Smile" chronicles Salman Rushdie's trip through Nicaragua during the Sandinista years and U.S./Contra war against the revolutionary government. This is a work by Rushdie that has been somewhat forgotten under all the publicity of his later scandal involving "The Satanic Verses" and recent works like "Shalimar The Clown," but it is a book worth re-discovering as it shows Rushdie going to see for himself what the Sandinista movement was all about, something even more significant today when one considers the new revolutionary tide sweeping Latin America and even more noteworthy, the re-election of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. In wonderful detail Rushdie describes the lush landscapes of this beautiful country and it's peoples, from the government men to the indigenous populations. He interviews high-ranking Sandinistas and probes into the ideas and philosophies behind the uprising and chronicles the disastrous effects of the U.S.-funded Contra war on the population. The conclusions Rushdie draws are refreshing, he supports the overall revolution, believes some mistakes have been made, but is very impressed by the work and fruits of the movement and is angered at how obsessed the Reagan White House was with crushing this small country's will to be independent. "The Jaguar Smile" is also full of poetic moments, for Nicaragua is a country of poets we learn, and there are some wonderful pieces shared here, especially those reflecting on the revolution and the hopes of the people. There are moments of hilarious comedy between Rushdie and the locals, especially in his quests for good beer in a country ravished by shortages. Rushdie also draws interesting comparisons between his experience in Central America and his experiences in his native India and confesses that being involved in Indian revolutionary movements has caused him to feel genuine sympathy for the Sandinistas. Overall "The Jaguar Smile" is a fun read, and a sad one as well, as we see how U.S. paranoia funded a war that crippled a beautiful nation and it's hopes. A welcome departure from the typical "academic" work, "The Jaguar Smile" deserves to be read, and then read again.

Rushdie evaluates the Nicaragua of the Sandinistas...

In 1986, while working on his famously infamous novel, "The Satanic Verses", Rushdie took three weeks off to visit Nicaragua. The country had a dramatic effect on him. Ineluctably inspired, he originally planned to pen a few articles on the subject and leave it at that. But the words inexorably grew into this small book, which ultimately delayed "The Satanic Verses" by six months. So what occurred in that short time span to cause Rushdie to shelf his hulking novel in favor of a diminutive political travelogue? In the preface Rushdie confessed a long standing interest in the subject of Nicaragua. Especially following the Reagan Administration's disparagement of the alleged new Central American "red threat" (and subsequent funding of the counter-Sandinista force, the "contras" - which later fed into the Iran-Contra scandal). Apparently he felt an affinity with a small country against a giant (a la Gandhi vs. Britain) and "how it felt to be there, on the bottom, looking up at the descending heel." So he didn't visit carte blanche or on a whim. He wanted to know the workings of the force that had toppled Nicaragua's forty year dictatorial regime (the Somozas). And how this new Sandinista government (at the time in power for seven years) responded to the contra threat and to the needs of its populace. In Nicaragua, Rushdie unearthed some of the social and literary themes that pervade his work. This may explain his enthusiasm towards the subject. The book outlines Rushdie's trip more or less chronologically. Starting in Managua Rushdie gives a brief history of the city and of the resistance to the previous dictatorship. This culminates in a biography of one of the most famous Nicaraguarans: Augusto César Sandino (from whom the Sandinistas took their name). Rushdie observed the abstract pictograph of Sandino's hat everywhere. This ubiquitous symbol nearly took on the role of the man himself. The hat equals the man; the symbol becomes flesh. As a guest of the Sandinisita Association of Cultural Workers, Rushdie had access to the highest levels of government. He traveled and dined with the new Sandinista élite. Most of who, surprisingly, had literary backgrounds. Accompanying the Vice President (and novelist) Sergio Ramírez, Rushdie witnessed a land re-allocation (from the state to the peasantry) in Camoapa. With the President (and poet), Daniel Ortega, he watched the first phone call from Nicaragua to Moscow and Havana (connections that in no way endeared the country to the Reagan Administration). But some signs of disappointment appeared during his conversation with Father Ernesto Cardenal the Minister of Culture (and poet). Cardenal talked about censuring the press during wartime as a "cosmetic" issue. This depressed Rushdie. He then traveled to Estelí and met the nine comandantes de revolución (the founders of the new government). But Rushdie also talked with campesinos (peasants) in the Enrique Acuña co-operative. Many found themselves displaced by

Salman and the Sandinistas

In 1986, the seventh year of the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, and three years before he got a fatwa from Ayatollah Khomeini, Salman Rushdie visited Nicaragua, travelling to Managua, Camaopa, celebrating the seventh anniversary of the revolution, and the Blue Fields area near the Atlantic Coast. I originally bought this book when I was interested in finding any of Salman Rushdie's books. I found it mildly interesting. This past winter, I took an upper division History of Central America at Fort Lewis College and after learning more about the Somozas and the Nicaraguan Revolution, I dug up Rushdie's book and one, it made more sense, two, I was more intrigued than merely interested.Rushdie introduces the background to the Nicaraguan revolution that forced Anastasio Somoza Debayle's resignation in 1979 and even goes into the background of Augusto Sandino, the nationalist rebel leader executed by Anastasio Somoza Garcia's Guardia Nacional, and the Somoza dynasty that lasted forty years.Rushdie got to meet some of the big nine Sandinista leaders, including President Daniel Ortega, vice president Sergio Ramirez, and agriculture minister Jaime Wheelock. However, they justify press censorship because they are at war with the Contras and America, and any press sympathetic to the US will undermine the regime. Seems reasonable, as the U.S. funding of Contras and the mining of Managua's harbours were acts of war by the U.S.Not only are the Contras portrayed as terrorists, but Reagan isn't seen in a favourable light, understandably. Rushdie writes "Scarecrow Ronald Reagans hung--by the neck--from roadside trees." And in Ortega's speech to the people of Esteli, "Quien es culpabile?" the people roar back: "Reagan!" Foreign Minister Miguel d'Escoto even recalls a conversation with a Reagan administration official who tells him "Just do as we (the U.S.) say," serving as a reminder of U.S. hegemony in Central America and its refusal to abide by the Hague judgment, which ruled that the U.S. contra aid and force was a violation of international law.Rushdie also visits Bluefields, where there are Miskito, Sumo, and Rama indigenes alienated by first the Somozas and the Sandinistas. One tragedy is that there are only 23 Ramas left and any attempt to preserve their language is hampered by the fact that many of them have few teeth, putting the mockers on proper enunciation. One of the people he meets is Mary Ellsberg, daughter of Daniel Ellsberg of the Pentagon Papers, who is totally sympathetic to the plight of the indigenes there. Rushdie's interview with Violeta Chamorro, widow of La Prensa editor Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, and later to be elected president, reveals Ms. Chamorro as someone who tries to manipulate a few facts and is biased against Ortega--she claims that Ortega was not elected democratically and yet according to foreign observers and an 80% voter turnout, he was. Rushdie agrees that yes, it was wrong for the Sandinistas to shut down La

Salman's visit to Latinamerica

This is a good book with a original perspective of the story of Nicaragua. Even though Rushdie is a notable critic of the Sandinista government, he feels attracted by the Sandinista's fight and ideas. He manages throughout the story to mention thoughts and points of view from other local thinkers and poets.

Literary snapshots with political bite

"The Jaguar Smile," Salman Rushdie's record of his 1986 visit to Nicaragua, is a fascinating work with great value as an intellectual and historical document. The book is divided up into chapters, each of which stands alone as a unified and satisfying essay. The book as a whole paints an ironic portrait of Nicaraguan life during the Sandinista revolution.Rushdie makes no claim to be objective; he is sympathetic to the Sandinista government and recalls being given cordial official greetings by some of the major Sandinista figures. But despite this affinity, Rushdie doesn't hesitate to cast a critical, and even satirical, eye on what he sees. In particular, he is wary of the Sandinista policy of press censorship: "[W]hat worries me is that censorship is very seductive. It's so much easier than the alternative." Rushdie's keen powers of observation take in many of the institutions and personalities of Nicaragua, and he offers pungent insights on some of the racial, linguistic, political, and aesthetic issues facing the nation. "The Jaguar Smile" is particularly fascinating when Rushdie writes of his encounters with such eminent Nicaraguan authors as Gioconda Belli and Sergio Ramirez; reading Rushdie's accounts made me eager to seek out books by these writers. Rushdie's prose--often amiable, occasionally cynical--is a pleasure to read. "The Jaguar Smile" is neither a comprehensive history of Nicaragua nor an unambiguous political manifesto, and should not be viewed as such. But as a skilled writer's record of his impressions of a nation at a crossroads in its history, this book is an impressive achievement.
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