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The Jaguar Smile

3.54  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,330 Ratings  ·  106 Reviews
The Jaguar Smile is Rushdie's 1st full-length non-fiction book, written in 1987 after he visited Nicaragua. It relates his travel experiences, the people he met as well as views on the political situation. The book was written during a break he took from writing The Satanic Verses.
After political & economic turmoil under dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle, the progres
Unknown Binding, 170 pages
Published December 30th 1998 by Picador/Pan Books Ltd (first published 1987)
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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
Chad Bearden
Dec 31, 2008 Chad Bearden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reportage
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
Sep 08, 2013 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 18, 2008 Mike rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 19, 2009 Amber rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 26, 2011 Marie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 16, 2014 Jerry DePyper rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 26, 2009 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 27, 2015 Lorena rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nicaragua
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
Jul 18, 2015 Ian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 08, 2016 Kevin rated it it was amazing
Unlike his fictional novels, The Jaguar Smile by Salman Rushdie does not get a lot of press... and why is that? Is it a plot by the CIA dogs to suppress information on Nicaragua? Is it communist apologetica? Does it just plain suck? The answer to all three questions is, no, quit being silly.

The Jaguar Smile is not a novel, but a journalistic account of Rushdie's visit to Nicaragua to ascertain what the deal was with the Sandinistas and why Reagan wanted to crush them (spoiler alert: it's because
Mar 14, 2015 Camille rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, politics
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
Taylor Storey
Jan 24, 2016 Taylor Storey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this one during a trip I took to Nicaragua, bought it in Leon at buho books.

The book was great. Very much about politics, but also very much about people in Nicaragua. The Sandinistas brought Rushdie out to do some exploring and hopefully exchange some writing on the trip.

He mostly liked the Sandinistas values except for their censure of the press -- "wartime only!" And their more or less casual approach to violence.

The book is really eye opening with regards to American foreign policy
Ethan Roeder
Apr 30, 2016 Ethan Roeder rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas who rule Nicaragua in the 1980's are successful at delivering on their vision for the country, and they remain true to the ideals of the revolution. Their efforts are hamstrung by the persistent coersion and interference of the US and the contras. They make rookie mistakes and take steps that are self-serving, undermining their own goals. They're not communists, but they did shut down the largest newspaper in the country for spurious reasons, perhaps creating (a ...more
Moses Hetfield
Mar 28, 2016 Moses Hetfield rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this on a flight to Nicaragua for a class trip, and I found that it provided much useful background on Nicaraguan history. Rushdie, who visited Nicaragua in 1986, doesn't hide the fact that he was merely an outsider looking in on the country and has no pretensions of being a complete expert on the situation, but nonetheless shows himself to be quite an astute observer during his visit. While Rushdie expresses largely supportive sentiments towards the FSLN government, he doesn't fail to cr ...more
Jun 02, 2014 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 30, 2015 Michelle Dewar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
M.k. Yost
Normally I would respect Rushdie's work, but in this case he really allowed himself to be swayed by the Sandinista position. Of course Samosa needed to be deposed, and the US backed Contras only exacerbated the situation, but the Sandinistas were no revolutionary saints. They were more than willing to use the torture techniques Samosa used, and Daniel Ortega was not the gentle, put-upon leader struggling to hold together a county fighting off the Americans - just ask his daughter what he did beh ...more
Peter Milligan
Dec 30, 2014 Peter Milligan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 09, 2013 Trebor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 08, 2010 Thomas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
May 30, 2012 Mat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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)
Nov 08, 2007 Becca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 30, 2010 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, 100-in-2010
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
Jun 22, 2009 Shannon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 11, 2008 Miranda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sep 24, 2011 Patrick McCoy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
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
Doug Taylor
Not bad, but a little too apologist to the Sandinistas. Rushdie wrote this over three weeks in 1986, when Nicaragua was the focus of US Foreign Policy and (in his mind) unnecessary oppression. A nice overture on Nica life in 1980's but far, far from the definitive account of Nicaragua and its place in the world.
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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 about Salman Rushdie...

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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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