Picks and Pans Review: Fire from the Mountain
by Omar Cabezas
Recently the New York Times quoted a U.S. intelligence official who suggested that overthrowing the Nicaraguan government would be as easy as "falling off a log." That unnamed spook should read this remarkable memoir of the determined Sandinista revolution that in 1979 overthrew the brutal Somoza dictatorship, which was long backed by the U.S. Cabezas recalls the early days of the movement, when poorly equipped bands of guerrillas roamed the dense jungles, living on corn and monkey meat, combating mud, hunger and loneliness as well as Somoza's National Guard. Cabezas, who went from college student to Sandinista guerrilla commander, writes a muscular, passionate prose devoid of rhetoric and enlivened by a scatological humor reminiscent of Richard Pryor. He recalls, for example, hiding in the bushes outside a sympathizer's house during a party, only to have drunken revelers stumble out and accidentally urinate on him. ("After the first spray of piss, we took the burlap bag we had with us and put it over our heads and managed to survive the remaining blasts.") Cabezas is an ideologue capable of irony, a revolutionary toughened by the brutalities of war yet full of tenderness for the dirt-poor sharecroppers who hid him from his enemies. Cabezas has become a Sandinista Interior Ministry official in charge of political education, but this book ends in 1975, so we'll have to wait for a sequel to see what he thinks of the way things have turned out. (Crown, $13.95)
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