My Life: A Spoken Autobiography
Simon and Schuster, Jun 9, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 736 pages
The intimate and highly revealing life story of the world’s longest-serving, most charismatic, and controversial head of state in modern times.
Fidel Castro was a dictatorial pariah to some and a hero and inspiration for many of the world's poor, defiantly charting an independent and revolutionary path for Cuba over nearly half a century. Numerous attempts were made to get Castro to tell his own story. But only in the twilight of his years was he prepared to set out the details of his remarkable biography for the world to read before his death in 2016. This book is nothing less than his living testament.
In these pages, Castro narrates a compelling chronicle that spans the harshness of his elementary school teachers; the early failures of the revolution; his intense comradeship with Che Guevara and their astonishing, against-all-odds victory over the dictator Batista; the Cuban perspective on the Bay of Pigs and the ensuing missile crisis; the active role of Cuba in African independence movements (especially its large military involvement in fighting apartheid South Africa in Angola); his relations with prominent public figures such as Boris Yeltsin, Pope John Paul II, and Saddam Hussein; and his dealings with no less than ten successive American presidents, from Eisenhower to George W. Bush.
Castro talks proudly of increasing life expectancy in Cuba; of the half million students in Cuban universities; and of the training of seventy thousand Cuban doctors nearly half of whom work abroad, assisting the poor in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. He confronts a number of thorny issues, including democracy and human rights, discrimination toward homosexuals, and the presence of the death penalty on Cuban statute books. Along the way he shares intimacies about more personal matters: the benevolent strictness of his father, his successful attempt to give up cigars, his love of Ernest Hemingway's novels, and his calculation that by not shaving he saves up to ten working days each year.
Drawing on more than one hundred hours of interviews with Ignacio Ramonet, a knowledgeable and trusted interlocutor, this spoken autobiography will stand as the definitive record of an extraordinary life lived in turbulent times.
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I read this book -- Fidel Castro narrating his life's story to journalist Ignacio Ramonet (the English translation is by Andrew Hurley) -- after I had completed "Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause", by Tom Gjelten (reviewed on the right). I must say now that I have developed a sneaking admiration for Castro and the way he stuck to his guns -- and convictions -- in the face of international disapproval.
Reading this autobiography may persuade you that Castro's heart was in the right place when he took power in Cuba. But what's the point of having great ideas if you are poor at execution?
A Hundred Hours with Fidel
The Childhood of a Leader
The Forging of a Rebel
The Assault on the Moncada Barracks
The Backdrop of the Revolution
History Will Absolve Me
The Collapse of the Soviet Union
The Ochoa Case and the Death Penalty
Cuba and Neoliberal Globalization
President Jimmy Carters Visit
The Arrests of Dissidents in March 2003
The Hijackings in April 2003
Cuba and Spain
Fidel and France
In the Sierra Maestra
Lessons from a Guerrilla War
First Steps First Problems
The Conspiracies Begin
The Bay of PigsPlaya Giron
The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962
The Death of Che Guevara
Cuba and Africa
The Emigration Crises