El Comandante reveals himself to be a bit of a tree-hugger, a bit of a dreamer and a bit of a loner.
Yet he’s always got a practical edge. Cuban leader (or dictator, depending on your take) Castro tells Spanish journalist Ramonet, a little circuitously, “There’s no such thing as dreamers, and you can take that from a dreamer who’s had the privilege of seeing realities that he was never even capable of dreaming.” One of those realities might well be having outlasted nearly every other leader on the planet, including ten U.S. presidents, a half-dozen Soviet and Russian premiers, a few popes and countless caudillos of the left and right. In this consistently engaging memoir, Castro is not inclined to gloat, perhaps aware that he has survived an estimated 600 assassination attempts. (On that note, asked who did JFK in, Castro provides only watery fuel for the conspiracy buffs: “What the official version says is quite simply not possible—not just like that, bang bang bang.”) Elsewhere, he recounts how he acquired his toughness—in large measure, he reckons, from the Spanish Jesuits who taught him, and who “appreciate character, honesty, straightforwardness, uprightness, a person’s courage, his ability to make sacrifices.” A comrade who shared those qualities, Castro recalls, was Che Guevara, who had a “tendency towards foolhardiness” but deserved every bit of his legend. Ranging broadly over nine decades without rambling, Castro addresses every question that Ramonet throws at him, from easy ones such as the reason for the beard to admirably tougher ones such as, “I’d like to ask you whether you think that the one-party structure isn’t ill-adapted to an increasingly complex society such as the Cuban society today.” The answers always come in the form of complete thoughts, a premium in political discourse these days.
A book of great importance to anyone interested in contemporary history and current events.