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Mi, Mi, Mi, Mi

High Fidelity

A (fictional) life of Commandante Fidel that's as plausible as any that have been written.

Book Cover As a lifelong Cubanophile I was naturally attracted to expatriate Cuban Norberto Fuentes’s new fiction The Autobiography of Fidel Castro (WW Norton), excellently translated by Anna Kushner. And as I read, I wondered if the verisimilitude of Castro’s voice and attitude that Fuentes renders in this faux biography can be appreciated by those unfamiliar with Cuba’s recent history or those dependent on homeland media for information.

To be sure, Fuentes, who was for years a part of Fidel’s in-crowd until he fled a death sentence, took a risk with such an exacting parody—as Castro’s bombastic and megalomaniacal long-windedness (his day-long speeches at least are legendary) border on self-parody.

Interestingly, this novel might have achieved the credence that many authoritative profiles aspire to—though to be sure a number of those are valuable, including Tad Szluc’s, Robert Quirk’s, and also Ann Louise Bardach’s collection of Fidel’s prison letters. George Ann Geyer’s Guerilla Prince is a hatchet job and, of course, the entry by Herbert Matthews’s, the New York Times journalist credited with “making” Fidel, is unsurprisingly hagiographic. And also noteworthy is the 100-hour oral memoir that Fidel dictated to Spanish journalist Ignacio Ramonet, which, when compared to Fuentes’s fiction, testifies to his pitch-perfect depiction.

One of the undisguised sleights of hand the author employs is the interspersing of photographs throughout the text—the last one (circa 1986) showing a khaki-clad Castro with his arm around Fuentes, whispering to him. Whether or not you are attuned to the ins and outs, the nuances, and the cast of characters that make up the life of Uncle Sam’s most persistent nemesis, storyteller Norberto Fuentes has fabricated out of whole and real cloth a life story both informed and entertaining that may stand as the truest of all the biographies of Fidel Castro.
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