Picks and Pans Review: The Jaguar Smile: a Nicaraguan Journey

updated 05/11/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/11/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Salman Rushdie

In the summer of 1986, the author, a Bombay-born novelist {Midnight's Children) who now lives in London, went to Nicaragua for three weeks. It is painful for an American to read this account of that visit because our policies, our support of the contras, our fanatical fear of anything that hints of communism is—according to Rushdie—at the heart of Nicaragua's disastrous condition. It is a small land of 3 million people. The U.S., however, has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into trying to overthrow the Sandinistas, who took charge after the despotic Somoza regime was ousted. Rushdie talks to Daniel Ortega and other Sandinistas—who financed his trip—but no contras or anyone else in opposition. So his views are skewed. Rushdie, for instance, seems to find poets every place the Sandinistas take him, from parties to a dangerous area near the border. He visits a remote part of the country where one of his guides is Mary Ellsberg, daughter of Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers notoriety. To Rushdie the Sandinistas are "revolutionary nationalists, a breed not always despised in the U.S., which was also born of a revolution—and not so very long ago, at that." Rushdie's view of Nicaragua—its people in love with their martyrs—is poetic as well as political. He returns to Europe with no solutions suggested, believing that "it was entirely possible that Nicaragua's will to survive might prove stronger than the American weapons." While the brevity of Rushdie's stay in the country and his one-sided approach have to be kept in mind, this is a provocative book that might serve as a starting point for a discussion. (Viking, $12.95)

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