FAMILY PORTRAIT WITH FIDEL: A Mernoir by Carlos Franqui
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FAMILY PORTRAIT WITH FIDEL: A Mernoir

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Franqui, author of the vivid Diary of the Cuban Revolution, now pictures the revolution in power during the period 1959-64. A gadfly writer/journalist among the armed band in the mountains, Franqui eventually left Cuba because of his opposition to Communist domination; 1964, symbolically, is the year in which the Soviet-Cuban sugar deal was consummated, giving the Soviets control over Cuba on the same basis as the previous, American domination. (Franqui hated the sugar plantations and wanted Cuba to break away from a one-crop economy.) In 1960 Moscow, Franqui described the Cuban revolution to an uncomprehending interviewer as ""the revolution of joy,"" and then added: ""Look, we Cubans try to have fun with everything, cyclones, demonstrations, hunger, even war."" Franqui is having fun here too, portraying himself as the voice of that authentic Cuban revolutionary spirit. His alter ego in this story is Fidel's brother Raul--publicly dour, disliked by the people, a Communist who spearheaded the suppression of rival factions. Fidel is shown to be uncommunicative, obsessed with power, and the creator of his own myth as the embodiment of the revolutionary struggle. But the exchanges between Franqui and Fidel are not without humor. Discovering that Franqui had shaved his beard, Fidel was outraged: the beard ""doesn't belong to you,"" he told Franqui. ""It belongs to the revolution."" Franqui wanted to revolutionize Cuban culture mostly along French lines--he asked Le Corbusier to design a new building for his newspaper, admired Breton, and swooned when Sartre and Beauvoir visited Cuba--but he quickly realized that Fidel wasn't much interested in culture beyond sports, so he stayed out of Fidel's cabinet. (On a trip to the United States in 1959, Fidel visited the zoo and Yankee Stadium, but Franqui couldn't get him to go see Guernica.) Instead, he tried to turn his paper into a forum for new graphics and new writing, and kept running afoul of the hardliners in the government. But Franqui was always in the middle of things: it was he who called Fidel to tell him that Khrushchev had ordered Soviet missiles removed from Cuba, which Franqui had read over the AP wire--eliciting a string of curses from Castro, who had not been informed by Moscow. Still, however lighthearted Franqui seems, his subject is deadly serious; and here we have a highly readable insider's account of the solidification of a revolution. Outstanding in every way.

Pub Date: Jan. 31st, 1983
Publisher: Random House