FIDEL CASTRO by Robert E. Quirk


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 In a vivid, fascinating portrait of Cuba's ``Maximum Leader,'' Quirk (The Mexican Revolution and the Catholic Church, 1910-29, 1973, etc.--not reviewed) traces Castro's evolution from marginalized radical to Communist dictator. Castro, the son of an uncultured nouveau riche farmer from Spain, was educated in religious schools and at the Univ. of Havana, where he received a law degree and where, though undistinguished academically, he had experiences important for his radical career: He joined several groups of insubordinate student- hoodlums, and he organized a protest that resulted in the burning of buses. In recounting his subject's career as a radical (after Batista seized power in 1952, Castro abandoned his law practice for full-time radical politics), Quirk emphasizes the utter ordinariness of events that Castro later invested with mythological significance--particularly his unsuccessful ragtag attack on the Moncada barracks in July 1952; his friendship with the Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara; his 1956 return to Cuba with 90 followers in the leaky yacht Granma (which resulted in the immediate capture or death of most of Castro's force); and his struggle in the Sierra Maestra against increasingly demoralized government forces. Quirk shows that Castro, though long influenced by Marxist writings, identified his movement as Communist only after repeated confrontations with the US over American business activity in Cuba. Castro militarized the nation's economy and, in accordance with Soviet policy, tried to export revolution to the rest of Latin America as well as to Africa, even while brutally stifling civil liberties and dissent at home. Quirk ends with a look at Castro's refusal to reform his political system despite declining living standards and international isolation in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union: ``By all appearances...[Castro] would see Cuba destroyed before he gave up his authority and his prerogatives.'' A balanced, well-written, and definitive examination of the long, turbulent, and often unheroic career of the architect of Cuba's revolution. (Photographs)

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1993
ISBN: 0-393-03485-2
Page count: 800pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1993


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