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The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey (1987)

by Salman Rushdie

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602727,327 (3.32)16
In this portrait of the people, the politics, the land, and the poetry of Nicaragua, Rushdie brings to the forefront the palpable human facts of a country in the midst of a revolution. Rushdie went to Nicaragua in 1986, "harboring no preconceptions of what he might find." What he discovered was for him overwhelming: a culture of heroes who had turned into inanimate objects and of politicians and warriors who were poets, a land of difficult, often beautiful contradictions. Rushdie came to know an enormous range of people, from the Foreign Minister-a priest-to a midwife who kept a pet cow in her living room. His perceptions always heightened by his special sensitivity to "the views from underneath," Rushdie reveals a land resounding to the clashes between history and morality, government and individuals. In The Jaguar Smile Rushdie brings us-as few Americans or Europeans could-the true Nicaragua, where nothing is simple, everything is contested, and struggles to the death are daily fare.… (more)

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» See also 16 mentions

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I knew very little about Nicaragua before I opened this book and now I know a little more. It is a portrait of the country at a particular time, after the sandinista revolution but before its outcome was known. In 1986, the USA under President Reagan defied the International Criminal Court and continued to fund Contra counter-insurgents in Nicaragua. Rushdie was a guest of the Sandinista government and he was charmed by a country led by poets whose revolution seemed anything but a dictatorship in the making. There were problems to be resolved but at that time war with the USA seemed a real possibility for the Nicaraguan people. A fascinating snapshot of a country in the making. ( )
  questbird | Apr 25, 2019 |
A personal journey into a politically explosive land. Rushdie gives us his take on things happening in Nicaragua - an extremely complicated situation. Introducing us to real people embroiled in this situation, helps us avoid the oversimplification many times attibuted to investigative journalism. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
A magnificent short piece of travel writing and political reportage, with the celebrated writer visiting Nicaragua on little more than a whim to see what the reality of the situation was. Brilliant stuff. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Nov 9, 2014 |
I loved the breadth and brilliance of Rushdie's Midnight's Children, admired his clever, biting and sly portrait of Benazir Bhutto (the 'Virgin Ironpants') in Shame, was confused with the immature ramblings of Grimus, bored with the Satanic Verses, but to some extent sympathised with the author's viewpoint in The Jaguar Smile.

One of many anti-American, or at least pro-socialist, books that seeks to cast doubt on US involvement on foreign soil in the name of political freedom and the expansion of market, this one is also somewhat of a travelogue and occasionally entertaining. As in almost all Rushdie books, the reader is assumed to be well-read and to be able to catch all the literary allusions which so amuse the author himself, just as they did his hero James Joyce.

If you are a Rushdie afficianado then you will love this book, otherwise you might find its greatest virtue is its brevity. ( )
  Petra.Xs | Apr 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
"Rushdie winds up writing a great deal of admiring drivel at the knees of various Sandinista commanders who have been more interestingly interviewed elsewhere . . . [But] Rushdie's effort is worth a second look because it is also an account of the confusion any one of us might feel if we visited Nicaragua and gave it a chance to affect us . . ."
 

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Epigraph
There was a young girl of Nic'ragua
Who smiled as she rode on a jaguar.
They returned from the ride
With the young girl inside
And the smile on the face of the jaguar.
ANON
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For Robbie
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Ten years ago, when I was living in a small flat above an off-licence in SW1, I learned that the big house next door had been bought by the wife of the dictator of Nicaragua, Anastasio Somoza Debayle.
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