A TOTALLY FREE MAN: An Unauthorized Autobiography of Fidel Castro by John Krich

A TOTALLY FREE MAN: An Unauthorized Autobiography of Fidel Castro

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First-novelist Krich bows in his acknowledgments to Solzhenitsyn's Lenin In Zurich--""an author and a book whose perspective could not be farther from my own."" And in some ways this projective ""autobiography""--in which Fidel tapes his memories, in response to urgings from his recently-died mistress Celia--is like the Solzhenitsyn: rich, rhetorical, historical, but also biased (in Fidel's favor) and distressingly glib. Krich's Fidel says he is ""the last one to find out what I really think or feel, and hopefully I find it out in the midst of a crowd."" Yet this Fidel is self-aware enough to declare three boyhood wishes: ""to head a conquering army, to be a lawyer delivering an eloquent summation, and to pitch for the Bronx Bombers in the seventh game of the World Series. Two out of three is no shabby lifetime average."" Born bourgeois, a hell-raiser as a student in Havana, a premature ejaculator (""I always sought the next phase, even in bed""), an abandoned husband, and a failed lawyer, Fidel slowly accrues focus for the revolution he'll lead. And, in a voice that seems too good to be true, he tells of the storming of the Moncada barracks, imprisonment on the Isle of Pines, the exile to Mexico, the meeting with Che (a thoroughly sanctified figure here), the Sierra Madre campaigns. . . the victory: ""No, I was kept on track by a Galacian stubbornness, by an Oriente recklessness, by a landowner's arrogance, by a bully's confidence, by a bastard's detachment."" This is self-knowledge that would overwhelm even Socrates, and such glorification throughout beggars all narrative plausibility and flow. So, though Krich can write impressively--a description of a box-car ride down from the hills to the Cuban coast is especially vivid--he has made a roundly polished, shining Castro who never stops broadcasting perfection through perfect balance: every fault is immediately met by an equal virtue. And whether or not you find the political approbation here acceptable (Castro's despotism is blithely incorporated as the baggage of leadership), you'll be made uneasy by Krich's mythologizing: the bad/good Fidel--never atilt, smoothly fluent, loudly amplified--as Cuba's Wizard of Oz.

Pub Date: Dec. 15th, 1981
Publisher: Creative Arts