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The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  1,212 ratings  ·  95 reviews
“I did not go to Nicaragua intending to write a book, or, indeed, to write at all: but my encounter with the place affected me so deeply that in the end I had no choice.” So notes Salman Rushdie in his first work of nonfiction, a book as imaginative and meaningful as his acclaimed novels. In The Jaguar Smile, Rushdie paints a brilliantly sharp and haunting portrait of the ...more
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Published February 16th 2011 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 1987)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,335)
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Petra X
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 o
...more
Chad Bearden
I didn't know much about Nicaragua or the Contra War of the 80s, as I was only in gradeschool at the time. I didn't pick this book up because I wanted to find out more about the topic either. I picked it up, because I thought it would a short novel I could finish off before the new year. I was the definition of a blank slate. Imagine my surprise when I realized that this was actually a work of non-fiction.

As a blank slate, I can't really rate this book based on how accurate Rushdie's depiction o
...more
Paul
I discovered this in the Latin America section in Stanfords, quite unaware that Salman Rushdie had written it, and central America was somewhere I have always wanted to travel around.

Rusdie’s trip of three weeks was made at the invitation of the Sandinista Association of Cultural workers and he was there at the seven year anniversary of the Sandinista’s rise to power. While there he conversed with the President, Daniel Ortega, ministers (most of whom are poets) the owner of the recently closed L
...more
Mike
This isn't a badly written book by any means. Rushdie is, of course, a great writer, and when he's describing the nonpolitical people and places he visited in Nicaragua it's an interesting book. But what he had to say in this book overall really bugged me. I read it along with Kinzer's book about Nicaragua, "Blood of Brothers", and Kinzer has profoundly different things to say about the Sandinistas than does Rushdie. At one point, he actually mocks and criticizes an unfavorable story about the S ...more
Amber
Este fue el primer libro de Salman Rushdie que habia leido. Me llamó la atención porque habia visitado Nicaragua un par de meses antes de que lo econtrara en una librería en San Salvador. Entonces, no lo leí por el autor sino el tema.
Este libro consiste de sus entrevistas y observaciones del gobierno Nicaraguense en la época de la guerra civil. Sin embargo, si piensas que el Sr. Rushdie es periodista, este libro te va a decepcionar porque a veces parece que el autor tiene predisposición hacia el
...more
Lorena
Rushdie packs a lot into this book considering it documents a 3-week visit. But those 3 weeks were at a crucial point in the history of the war in Nicaragua, and his powers of observation are as astute as ever. I learned more about the personalities of the cast of characters than the machinations between the great forces that were being brought down on the heads of the Nicaraguan people. Rushdie is funny at times, and he is also arrogant and elitist. I grew impatient with the gossipy bits about ...more
Marie
Especially meaningful for me because I was in Nicaragua the same year as Salman Rushdie, so he reminds me of much and brings back memories.
Jerry DePyper
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
...more
Brian
Mike's review on 06/18 is right on the mark. Rushdie, obviously has written this book after having very little exposure to the Sandinista government of the 1980's. Taking into consideration the red carpet treatment he got for the 3 weeks he was in Nicaragua, it's understandable why he may have come to the ill-informed illusions regarding the Sandinista that he puts forth in this novel.

Disregarding Rushdie's bias, this book is a well written behind the scenes look at the country of Nicaragua duri
...more
Ian
I really enjoyed this short portrait of Nicaragua in 1986, seven years on from the Sandinista revolution with the US backed Contra counter insurgency as massively funded by Republican President Ronald Reagan in full swing. Such a shame that even post the Vietnam fiasco the US felt the need to support undemocratic fascist dictatorships as opposed to left wing governments supported by a majority of the populace. Thank you Salman Rushdie. I may not like your novels but this piece of political and s ...more
Blueberry
Salman Rushdie a un style étoilé, un vrai talent de conteur, qu'il perd de temps à autre dans des récits qui ne lui ressemblent pas - et je pense, par exemple, à Fury.
J'ai commencé à lire le Sourire du jaguar en arrivant au Nicaragua, car c'était le moment parfait pour aborder un texte de Rushdie que je savais très critiqué.
M'y connaissant alors très peu en histoire contemporaine du Nicaragua, j'ai appris beaucoup à la lecture du Sourire du jaguar. On a souvent dit que ce livre était une prise
...more
Matt
Nicaragua is a country you can easily fall in love with so I'm glad a great writer like Rushdie took it on, even if he was only there for three weeks. This is more about his interaction and conversations with members of the Sandinista revolution during the Reagan years than it is a history book, but it's a good primer on the culture of the country and its people. Although his three weeks may not be the typical trip for a normal person, being a special guest of the Sandanistas at cocktail parties ...more
Michelle Dewar
I read this book in preparation to a long trip to Nicaragua.

I wanted an objective book that could give me an idea of the history and the culture of Nicaraguan people. I found this novel to be very helpful. I loved the many quotes of Nicaraguan poets and politicians. Although I had to read certain passages a few times to fully understand, this book is accessible to anyone (I did not have much knowledge of the history or politics of Nicaragua before hand).

I call this book a novel however it is n
...more
Peter Milligan
Well I read this in Nica on the beach which makes me "that guy." But....please read the book and then the foreword. Hard to know who was right and wrong and it was probably everyone. Nicaragua is so lovely and the book recognizes it and Rushdie gives a pretty evenhanded treatment even though he clearly aligns with one side. Some bad stuff happened here and they are still recovering in the land of poets. Rushdie of course can make a book about nearly any subject pleasant. Fun and moving book.
Trebor
This is an excellent look at the Sandinista revolution and historical period from the perspective of a great and objective mind. Rushdie didn't go as a booster of Nicaragua, and though he remains skeptical throughout the book about press censorship, he ends up very impressed with the movement overall. The tragedy ends up the usual Central American tragedy of centuries...the US, which shamefully throws its own history under the bus in its efforts to control markets in its 'hemisphere' suppresses ...more
Emily
Sep 09, 2014 Emily rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who is travelling in Nicaragua
On 27 June 1986, in The Republic of Nicaragua v. The United States of America , the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the United State’s aid to the Contras, the counter-revolutionary army assembled and armed by the CIA to fight the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, was in violation of the international law of war. As legal protégées we studied this case thoroughly in law school, as it was a landmark case that went some way in clarifying what constituted the “lawful” use of force and the “ ...more
Thomas
Rushdie's literary journalism is an outstanding introduction to Nicaraguan culture. Written during the height of the Contra War, he is largely sympathetic to the Sandinista cause, but it is not without critique. Revolutions are not panaceas for societal or governmental disfunction. Too often they turn into what they overthrew. Still, Rushdie expressed optimism for the country that rid itself of an oppressive dictator, and regardless of the course of history, the Nicaraguan people continue to be ...more
Mat
I wanted to give this one four stars but docked one star because it is no longer relevant to present-day Nicaragua. Not saying that this is a bad book at all, it is in fact quite good. However, it does not rank among Rushdie's classics like Midnight's Children, The Satanic Verses of The Moor's Last Sigh, which are all fantastic stories filled with Rushdie's scathing tongue-in-cheek humour.

The Jaguar's Smile, the title of which comes from a famous Nicaraguan poem, is the first (and possibly only)
...more
Becca
I went to Nicaragua in August and was very struck by the timbre of the place. Literally every kind of political, social and natural disaster that could occur, has occurred in Nicaragua, and yet, the citizens seem to wake up every morning with a great pride in their past and hope for their future. One of the most inspiring places I've ever been. I went with only a basic knowledge of Nicaragua's political history, so I've been reading up since then. I chose this book because I needed a break from ...more
Ryan
I bought The Jaguar Smile a few years ago after having spent a bit more than a week in Nicaragua visiting a friend. I was a little surprised to see Salman Rushdie writing about Central America, and I think at first I thought it was a collection of fiction stories. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually a nonfiction look at his stay in Nicaragua during the time the Sandinistas were in power in the late 80s. Apparently the book got a lot of flak for being too kind to Ortega and th ...more
Shannon
it's partisan, sure. but that's not the problem: it's too light! i'll also grant that the book documents a two week stay by a non-specialist. that's not the problem either.

the problem: where's the background? rushdie is a expert in one thing; he's a great writer of fiction. and he should know that for three-dimensional characters, even in a travel book, the reader needs a clue on whose claims are suspect, who's not telling the whole truth (and which part are they omitting)? the good guys might
...more
Miranda
Sterling journalism mixed with poetic ruminations on the political climate of Nicaragua in 1986. Rushdie can take just about anything and turn it into a metaphor that gives his reader a sudden, profound insight into whatever it is he's expounding upon (also a highly apropos technique for a writer writing about Nicaragua, a country of poets). My favorite passage, however, is when he doesn't poeticize experience but rather recogizes the extreme "realness" of existence in the face of making history ...more
Georgia
I really liked this book though naturally most of its thoughts and perspective is outdated. Salman Rushdie can make anything adventurous and poignant. "To live in the real world was to act without knowing the end. The act of living a real life differed, I mused, from the act of making a fictional one, too because you were stuck with your mistakes. No revisions. No second drafts."
Bob Keller
Rushdie's first non-fiction foray, it's an account of his three week 1986 trip to Nicaragua as a guest of the Sandanistas, during their war with the US backed Contras. This edition includes a 1994 prologue in which he admits to being naive about what he was told and what was real, but he still overall was a supporter. By then subsequent elections had thrown out most of the rebel leaders and the movement seemed to have fizzled out. He gives them credit for walking away when they lost the election ...more
Patrick McCoy
The Jaguar's Smile (1987) is Salman Rushdie’s first nonfiction book about his visit to Nicaragua in the heat of the battle communist Sandinistas versus the US government backed Contras. It is a curious book since it reads like a personal essay that exposes Rushdie’s political leanings, literary tastes and discoveries made in Nicaragua, as well as part travelogue. Rushdie is sympathetic to the cause, but also cautious and skeptical and he doesn’t swallow everything that is told or shown to him. B ...more
Rachel
"To visit Nicaragua was to be shown that the world was not television, or history, or fiction. The world was real, and this was its actual, unmediated reality."

This book meant a lot to me because of the time I spent in Nicaragua. For someone less affected by the country, it might not be as good. Still, I thought it was generally well-written and presented a little-heard but much-needed perspective on the Sandinista government in the 1980s. In light of subsequent developments (especially Ortega's
...more
Matt
The access allowed Rushdie because of his success as a writer is incredible. In three weeks time, he records the perspectives of many of the major players shaping Nicaragua during the '80s. If you want to focus in on the Nicaraguan summer of 1986, this snapshot is for you.
Anna
Great brief explanation of US meddling in Nicaragua, and impressions of a Nicaraguan government post-revolution struggling to make its own way. Good snapshot of the country in the 80s, and a perspective that most of us who grew up in the US won't have heard.
Guy
Background for an upcoming trip to Nicaragua. I've been before and spoken with young people there but have never been very knowledgeable about the political situation. Particularly the attitude towards the US. This book offers Rushdie's observations during a journey there in the 1980's. I found it very helpful.
Raúl Sánchez
En el Rushdie rush, este libro lo devoré, practicamente. Una visita a Nicaragüa, Daniel Ortega, la Contra, etc. Vemos al Rushdie más ingenuo politicamente hablando, no por lo que demostraria la historia respecto a Ortega, sino porque realmente sus observaciones son ingenuas. Sin embargo, comparto mucha de su ingenuidad. Creo en que un pueblo tiene derecho a autogobernarse, creo que Vargas Llosa apoya gobiernos de derecha en nombre de la democracia, pero no de izquierda (aunque intente hacernos c ...more
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Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie is a novelist and essayist. Much of his early fiction is set at least partly on the Indian subcontinent. His style is often classified as magical realism, while a dominant theme of his work is the story of the many connections, disruptions and migrations between the Eastern and Western world.

His fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, led to protests from Muslims in several coun
...more
More about Salman Rushdie...
Midnight's Children The Satanic Verses Haroun and the Sea of Stories The Enchantress Of Florence Shalimar the Clown

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“Happy birthday, Nicaragua. I drank a toast in the best rum in the world, Flor de Caña Extra Seco. Mixed with Coke, it was called a Nica-libre, and after a few glasses I was ready to take on the salsa champions and knock them dead. I went outside to dance.” 4 likes
“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. The street was obviously going down in the world, what with the murder of the nanny Sandra Rivett by that nice Lord Lucan at number 44, and I moved out a few months later. I never met Hope Somoza, but her house became notorious in the street for a burglar alarm that went off with surprising frequency, and for the occasional parties that would cause the street to be jammed solid with Rolls—Royce, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar limousines. Back in Managua, her husband 'Tacho' had taken a mistress, Dinorah, and Hope was no doubt trying to keep her spirits up.” 0 likes
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