Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Goodreads review: The Jaguar Smile

The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey by Salman Rushdie

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

As a U.S. citizen residing in Nicaragua, I expected to find The Jaguar Smile interesting and insightful. But I learned next to nothing and saw little in this book that resembled Nicaragua as I've experienced it.

I must admit Salman Rushdie enjoyed certain advantages over me. I've only lived in Nicaragua for a little over 4 years, most of which time I've spent in a rustic barrio of Jinotega, rubbing elbows with my Jinotegan neighbors. Trips to other parts of the country have been via crowded buses in close quarters with common folk. I've had no guide or translator.

Mr. Rushdie, by contrast, was an invited guest of the Sandinista Association of Cultural Workers. For 3 weeks he was flown and driven around Nicaragua by a select few politicians and journalists eager to impress upon him their own ideological viewpoints. He met and talked (via an interpreter usually) with local folk who were included in the planned agenda. Rushdie freely accepted or rejected at his own discretion the viewpoints he heard, and recorded his thoughts accordingly. He seems to have genuinely thought his experience to be a meaningful one.

So, if you want to learn what these Very Important Nicaraguans - and the Very Important Rushdie - were thinking and doing about 3 decades ago, you may enjoy The Jaguar Smile. I can't guarantee that you'll learn much about the real Nicaragua.

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