My Life, By Fidel Castro with Ignatio Ramonet

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The Independent Culture

Fidel Castro seems to be about the only communist leader whom it's still OK to like. This memoir, based on more than 100 hours of interviews conducted and edited by Ramonet, confirms that position, and the question-and-answer format makes it easier to read than the usual, bible-sized political memoir.

The son of a wealthy landowner, Castro was nevertheless a natural rebel; a utopian communist by temperament before he ever read Marx. He gives his perspective on his imprisonment and exile, his friendship with Che Guevara, his role as a leader of the revolution, and Cuba's domestic and foreign policy up to the present day. Ramonet isn't afraid to ask hard questions, quizzing Castro over his treatment of dissidents and use of the death penalty. Occasionally he seems evasive, but mostly Castro answers directly and justifies his actions – and what other national leader would consent to be examined in this way?

Not having been to Cuba I can't say how far Castro succeeded in realising his vision of a country with equality and justice for all, but this memoir leaves one in no doubt that he has spent his life striving for it.