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Castro makes good on latest threat: His first book comes out any day

August 2, 2010

Portrait of the writer as a young revolutionary.

Numerous websites have reported extensively on the imminent publication of the first volume of Fidel Castro’s memoir, including CNN, the Guardian, AolNews. And yet not one of them mentions whether or not the book, with the leaden title The Strategic Victory, will be available to U.K. or USA readers.

To paraphrase my Magic 8 Ball–which seems as reliable as any other source in this instance — signs point to no. Checking the web, I find no American publisher’s announcement for Strategic Victory, nor is it posted on Amazon or BN.com. While relations between the U.S. and Cuba have thawed slightly of late, I guess we’re still serious about that embargo.

On principle I am outraged — outraged! I say — that an important book by one of America’s oldest and canniest enemies will not be available in the Land of the First Amendment. Practically speaking, however, I say: Ho hum. Do I really want to read a book by a man renowned for delivering six-hour speeches?

Castro announced the August publication of Strategic Victory last week at the cubadebate.cu website, where the old tyrant has a regular column under the headline “Las Reflexiones de Fidel,” or “Reflections of Fidel.” If you want to read Castro’s statement, however, I recommend the better translation at granma.cu.

Fidel makes some feeble jokes about using his time wisely since he became ill in 2006 and turned the country over to his brother, Raul. He quips that he considered titling the book How 300 Defeated 10,000, but changed his mind after deciding it sounded too much like a science fiction story.

What a kidder. Just think: If you lived in Cuba, you’d be obliged to laugh at cracks like that. Shudder.

Strategic Victory, says Castro, tells the story of how a small band of revolutionaries turned back a major offensive by the troops of President Fulgencio Batista in August 1958, preparing the way for Castro’s triumphant entrance into Havana on Jan. 1, 1959.

This phase of the revolution culminated in the Battle of Mercedes. “The defeat of the enemy offensive, after 74 days of incessant fighting, meant the strategic shift of the war,” Castro writes. “From that moment the fate of the tyranny was finally cast.”

The book will include maps and pictures, and the names of the rebels, 31 of whom died in the conflict. I’m assuming Fidel will not mention which among those rebels were later imprisoned, tortured or shot by his own regime. Just a hunch.

The book also includes, promises Castro, a brief autobiographical sketch. It’s his way of heading off those “countless questions about my childhood, adolescence and youth, stages that turned me into a revolutionary and armed combatant.”

Fidel, now 84, enjoyed the experience of writing Strategic Victory so much, he’s working on a second volume, titled The Final Strategic Counteroffensive. Such titles! The Soviet Union may be dead, but somewhere (in Hell perhaps?) Leonid Brezhnev is smiling.

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