My Life

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 February, 2009, 12:00am

My Life
by Fidel Castro with Ignacio Ramonet
Penguin, HK$170

If nothing else this book will encourage others to tell the definitive story of Fidel Castro. Cobbled from 100 hours of interviews conducted by Ignacio Ramonet from January 2003 to December 2005, and edited by his subject while in hospital in 2006, it is a lost opportunity writ large. The aim was to lift the veil from the Castro enigma, Ramonet says, and to explain how a boy born to wealthy parents turned into one of the great revolutionaries of the second half of the 20th century, outlasting nine US presidents and defying 600 assassination attempts. The result, however, is a book-length oratory; indeed, long tracts have been lifted from old speeches. That said, Castro sometimes offers gripping accounts, of his adventures with Che Guevara, for instance. Also interesting are the comandante's recollections of exchanges with Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban missile crisis. Part of the problem is the question and answer format, which loses its appeal quickly. The questions could also have been more hard-hitting. To Ramonet's admission that 'it never crossed my mind that we should speak about Castro's private life, his wife or his children', one can only ask why not.