Friday, April 15, 2005
THE JAGUAR SMILE-A NICARAGUAN JOURNEY
Salman Rushdie visited Nicaragua for three weeks in 1986, and his recollections and observations form the bulwark of this work. Avowedly non-fiction, the book reads like a travelogue sans the jaw-dropping disbelief at meaningless grandeur and instead divides itself into smug, self-contained chapters or essays, which themselves have an element of fulsomeness and completeness.
He briefly dips into the past informing the reader of the decadence and subsequent overthrow of the despotic rule under Anastasio Samoza, and the murky past that buried the nationalist Augusto Sandino.
Rushdie’s purported lack of objectivity—he is an invitee of the Sandinista government, is annulled by his own sensibilities, interpretations and nay-saying on most issues. He is excessively concerned with the lack of press freedom, which considers the imprint of a true state. He meets several political bigwigs and enlivens their motives, fears and plans. All this in the wake of the onstreperous hegemony meted out by an unrelenting Big Brother, that most evil of nations, Uncle Sam. Under Reagan who blissfully disregards the Hague ruling against him and views the annihilation of the tiny nation as a personal mission, Contras—an Army that is “ imagined, created and armed” by the USA keeps up military incursions against a hapless land. Against such mighty forces, President Ortega, Foreign Minister d’ Escoto and others muster up forces and populist support against the aggressors.
His visiting and living with actual Sandinistas, who are busy trying to live up to the lofty ideals of the Revolution give the narrative an unmistakable appeal and allure. His surprise at finding poets at every turn ( but no novelists ), admiration at the fortitude of the persevering, bewilderment at the cant used publicly are evocatively described. He visits the Miskito, Sumo, and Rama indigenes in another part of the country whose alienation has not abated and sympathizes with them.
One of his more open works, his concessions to health, sentiment and emotions find an unwilling path to the reader, and he is balanced in his steady critique of the US Government His engaging the reader is masterful and wit more than a dash of wry humour, barbed sarcasm and oblique references.
Found this a decent read and Rushdie tolerable. Just wonder what would have been my opinion if his view had been pro-US, though.!
A 7 on 10 !
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