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the Complete Review
the complete review - memoir / history


Adiós Muchachos

Sergio Ramírez

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To purchase Adiós Muchachos

Title: Adiós Muchachos
Author: Sergio Ramírez
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: 1999 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 216 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Adiós Muchachos - US
Adiós Muchachos - US (Spanish)
Adiós Muchachos - UK
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Adiós Muchachos ! - Deutschland
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Adiós Muchachos - España
  • A Memoir of the Sandinista Revolution
  • Includes the Preface to the 2007 Spanish edition
  • Spanish title: Adiós Muchachos
  • Translated by Stacey Alba Skar
  • Includes a Chronology, 1979-1990
  • Includes a Glossary

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Our Assessment:

B : reasonably appealing personal look back at the Sandinista Revolution

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Foreign Affairs . 1-2/2012 Richard Feinberg
Die Zeit . 19/7/2001 Henning Scherf

  From the Reviews:
  • "In this poignant memoir, Ramírez extols the idealism of the youthful Sandinistas, too many of whom fell as martyrs in their bloody battles against the tyrannical Somoza dynasty. At the same time, he recognizes the many errors the inexperienced revolutionaries committed once in power." - Richard Feinberg, Foreign Affairs

  • "Die Revolution hatte gesiegt und ist dann doch gescheitert. Sie blieb ein Traum, der nicht zu Ende geträumt wurde. Wie nah sie noch ist und wie weit doch schon entfernt. Danke, Sergio, für dieses schöne Buch, diesen wachen und eigenen Blick zurück, der trotz aller Trauer über das Verlorene auch ein Blick nach vorn ist. Bien venido, muchacho!" - Henning Scherf, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Sergio Ramírez is a leading (and much underappreciated, in the United States) Latin American writer; Adiós Muchachos is a memoir, but often feels more like a work of fiction than documentary history. Ramírez shifts back and forth in time, and repeatedly shifts focus. A detailed Chronology does list the significant events and provides a useful timeline, while Ramírez is more focused on color and personalities.
       The Sandinista-led Nicaraguan revolution overthrew the ultra-corrupt Anastasio Somoza in 1979, with Ramírez going on to serve as the country's vice-president from 1985 to 1990. While then still American president Jimmy Carter was generally supportive of the new regime when the Sandinistas took over, his election defeat to Ronald Reagan in that year's election led to a very pro-active anti-Sandinista American policy and support for the anti-government Contras (culminating, of course, in the shameful Iran-Contra debacle). Ramírez notes that: "Anti-imperialism was always the most profound expression of the Sandinista movement", and suspicion of the US -- long supportive of Somoza-dynasty that ruled the land for decades -- was naturally high from the beginning; disagreement was, Ramírez notes, inevitable ("They were the source of everything that had gone wrong in our history") and Reagan's messy and debilitating intervention was also hardly anything new or unexpected:

No other country in Latin America had been the victim of as many abuses and military interventions by the United States as Nicaragua.
       American assistance, or at least a more or less hands-off neutrality, would certainly have made things easier, but Ramírez wistfully notes that, regardless of the American position, the Sandinistas were woefully unprepared for the necessary political and economic overhaul of the nation that for so long had been essentially the fiefdom of a very few privileged families -- much less wholesale implementation of their radical (and, as he admits, in many respects unrealistic) program. From some of the failed large-scale projects to the bumbling of Pope John Paul II's visit to the conservatively religious nation in 1983 he describes much that didn't go quite (or at all) right: typically, grandiose projects like one he favored, an ambitious plan for a coast-to-coast broad-gauge railway, soon petered out for want of funds or expertise -- in the case of the railway, after a mere seven kilometers of track were laid. Yes:
Plans were obsolete before they were put into practice, and the model for the centralized economy turned out to be little more than an idea.
       The one lasting legacy Ramírez is particularly proud of is the widespread acceptance of democracy -- beginning with the smooth transition following the 1990 elections, in which the Unified Nicaraguan Opposition party defeated the heavily favored FSLN (the ruling Sandinist National Liberation Front). Ramírez's account of the surprising defeat of his party offers a variety of explanations -- from mistakes they made to the American invasion of Panama, shortly before the election -- but he still seems to have difficulty getting over the surprise; with hindsight, though, he acknowledges that the proof that democratic principles and procedures could be embraced and tolerated by all might well have been worth the price.
       Adiós Muchachos meanders about a bit, and introduces -- generally very fleetingly -- a large cast of characters and martyrs, situating it uncomfortably between a very personal account for insiders, intimately familiar with the who and what, and a more general historical overview. Philosophically realistic about many of the revolution's failings (in particular the attempts at imposing a planned economy), and not nearly as bitter about the subversive activities of both locals and foreign powers (most notably the US), Ramírez's account does offer considerable insight and many points of interest, but it is neither detailed nor critical enough to be a definitive account of even just his role in the revolution and the government -- a shame, because he certainly has the stories to tell, and he's a writer who could tell them well. Perhaps still too close to the subject matter, it doesn't feel like his heart is entirely in it here, as he takes stabs at conveying different significant times and events, but shows a somewhat limited follow-through, not daring or willing to dig deeper.

- M.A.Orthofer, 5 December 2011

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Adiós Muchachos: Reviews: Sergio Ramírez: Other books by Sergio Ramírez under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Nicaraguan author Sergio Ramírez was born in 1942 and served as vice president of the country from 1985 to 1990.

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