This essay was originally published in Symbiosis: A Journal of Anglo-American Literary Relations, Volume 13.1 (April 2009) 61–80
Keywords and Topics
Salman Rushdie, The Jaguar Smile, Nicaragua, Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, FSLN, murals
After the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN) seized power over the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua in 1979, many of the revolutionaries turned to art. They painted murals on public structures such as walls, buildings, and fences which depicted their victory, documented Nicaragua’s past, and imagined its new future.
In numerous ways Rushdie’s solidarity [with Nicaragua] is praiseworthy: it is ethically motivated and yields measurable results. Nevertheless, it is troubled in other respects. One may locate the problematic side of Rushdie’s solidarity in his failure to recognize important differences between himself and the Nicaraguans peopling his text (and journey). This essay aims at going beyond establishing difference, though, to interrogate where and how Rushdie fails to see those differences, and, importantly, to what consequence. The Jaguar Smile clearly voices support for the FSLN and thus implicitly aims at augmenting solidarity for the FSLN among Rushdie’s readership; however, his failure to recognize difference potentially undermines that aim both by lessening the urgency of Nicaragua’s situation in his aesthetic treatment of its hardship and by calling his hermeneutic accuracy into question.
About the author
Kim Sasser, University of Edinburgh