John's Reviews > Sandinista: Carlos Fonseca and the Nicaraguan Revolution

Sandinista by Matilde Zimmermann
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's review
May 11, 12

bookshelves: biography, latin-america, politics
Read in May, 2012

Living in Nicaragua I'm keen to learn all I can about its history and particularly that of the Sandinista revolution. I've always been interested in Fonseca's role as the political inspiration for the Sandinista party and - within the party itself - its most respected figure, even though he died before the 'triumph' of 19 July 1979. Zimmermann is very knowledgeable about Nicaragua, has had access to papers that haven't been made public, and talked to many people who knew Fonseca. As a political biography, her book is excellent, not ending with his death but dealing too with his continuing influence on the Sandinista project and then the big changes of the late 1980s when most of his ideas started to be ignored. It would be interesting to get the author's view of the current day Sandinista government, which still plays homage to Fonseca and indeed again gets the massive support from young people who in the 1970s were inspired by his example.

My one complaint is that, although Zimmermann paints a picture of Fonseca's personality, she doesn't give us a complete impression of how he lived and, indeed, how he earned enough to live on. I would have liked a more rounded interpretation of the more mundane aspects of how this revolutionary spent his time, especially in his many years in exile and (fewer) years in prison. How did he feed his family, or indeed himself? How did he plan the revolution from distant Havana, before the days of email and mobile phones? Who paid for his frequent flights between Central American cities? Is it showing too much interest in the prosaic aspects of how someone passes his days,to be left wondering about the answers to these questions? I don't think so, as filling out some of this detail would have given a more complete explanation of how this famously ascetic revolutionary actually lived his tragically foreshortened life.
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