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A Memoir of Love and War

by Gioconda Belli & translated by Kristina Cordero

Pub Date: Nov. 5th, 2002
ISBN: 0-375-40370-1
Publisher: Knopf

Nicaraguan poet, novelist (The Inhabited Woman, 1994), participant in, and witness to, the Nicaraguan revolution, Belli recalls with engaging candor the course of a life lived to the full.

In its twists and turns, moments of danger followed by intense romantic encounters, Belli’s memoir can resemble exuberant historical fiction. But despite her self-confessed naïveté and romantic temperament, Belli is a thoughtful and honest observer of herself and her times, critical of the course the Revolution took once the Sandinistas were in power and of the way the Ortega brothers monopolized power: “the Revolution slowly lost its steam, its spark—to be replaced by an unprincipled, manipulative, and populist mentality.” The daughter of an upper-class family in Managua, Belli led a privileged life that included trips and schooling abroad. In 1967, barely 18, she married, but continued working even after having her first daughter. At an advertising agency, she worked with a colleague, the “Poet,” who encouraged her writing, seduced her, and introduced her to his artistic and revolutionary friends. In 1970, she was asked to join the Sandinistas, becoming a trusted courier and accompanying leaders to clandestine assignations. She fell in love, left her husband, lived in exile in Costa Rica when she became a target of Somoza’s police, and had meetings with many luminaries, including Castro, who admired her poems. She won awards for her poetry, and, once the Sandinistas took over, was a prominent member of the new government. She began dating an American NPR correspondent whom she eventually married, and now divides her time between California and Nicaragua. Belli appreciates that the Revolution permanently changed her life, but she’s also learned that “not every commitment requires payment in blood—there is a heroism inherent to peace and stability—the challenge to squeeze every possibility out of life.”

A luminously written, always insightful account of one woman’s encounter with personal and political liberation. (8 pp. photos, not seen)