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The Real Fidel Castro Paperback – March 8, 2005

4 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Who is the real Fidel Castro? Some would characterize the longtime Cuban ruler as a ruthless dictator, crushing all opposition and starving his own people to feed his own hunger for power. Others point to a revolutionary leader who has adhered to Marxist-Leninist principles while being popular enough at home to outlast nine American presidents. Former British Ambassador to Cuba Leycester Coltman provides an exhaustively researched history of Castro and reveals a man constantly driven by passion, usually able to lead by force of personality, and possessed of a subtle ability to shift his politics in order to maintain an advantage. The Real Fidel Castro traces his middle-class upbringing and career as a student agitator who swiftly gained notice both positive and negative for taking part in revolutionary politics throughout Latin America. Later, Castro, having failed in initial attempts to overthrow General Fulgencio Batista, takes to the jungle along with Che Guevara to prepare for what would eventually be a successful coup. Once in power, however, the revolutionary must learn to be a diplomat and a political strategist as he navigates a messy victory in the Bay of Pigs conflict and suffers an embarrassing defeat in the Cuban missile crisis. While he is often characterized as having been a mere puppet of the old Soviet Union, Coltman's portrayal indicates the relationship was much more complicated; Castro recognized the need for a strong ally who also opposed the United States but questioned the ideology of the Soviets and worried over what the proposed reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev would bring to the world's largest Communist nation. Although Coltman came to know Castro while serving in Havana, he doesn't gloss over the swift executions given to those who defied "the revolution" or Castro's penchant for imprisoning those thought to be politically dangerous. In the end, Coltman, who died shortly before this book's publication, is nonjudgmental and shows Fidel Castro to be a man as complex as the world he lived in. --John Moe --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In a remarkably evenhanded and illuminating biography, Coltman (former British ambassador to Cuba) reveals how Fidel Castro repeatedly has frustrated his foes: surviving defeat, exile, and imprisonment to bring down Batista in the early 1950s; misleading American politicians long enough to secure absolute power over his island nation; forging an advantageous alliance with the Kremlin; and preserving his regime in a post-Cold War world dominated by Cuba's powerful capitalist neighbor. Long personal conversations enable Coltman to penetrate a psyche still opaque to most scholars. It will chafe Castro's detractors that Coltman discerns in that psyche rare courage and resourcefulness. But it will vex Castro's admirers that Colman exposes deep political inconsistencies (an early opponent to Soviet imperialism, Castro metamorphosed into a slavish Soviet supporter) and personal callousness (marriage never restrained the revolutionary libido). Detractors and devotees alike will marvel at how the young prisoner who resorted to invisible ink to inscribe History Will Absolve Me has aged into an old man in a historical riptide that he can already feel pulling him into oblivion. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (March 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300107609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300107609
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,358,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is a good, broad introduction to the life of Fidel Castro for a reader who does not want to get bogged down in ideological theories or put up with personal attacks on the man and l believe l am much the wiser reading this book.

There is a lot of nonsense written about Fidel Castro by the so called pro and anti Castro forces and this book does not fall into that trap. Coltman has produced an interesting, well balanced book about Castro which is full of sufficient detail and ideas to paint a fair portrait of the man.

Castro is a powerful, dominant man who insists he must always be right and usually gets his way and this fact was evident from his early childhood. He is a brilliant orator with a keenly developed sense of social justice as many incidents this book indicate. His achievement of free and accessible medical care and education for all Cubans is documented in this book.

Coltman does not hide that Castro is a dictator with little regard for free and open elections. He details Castro's use of Cuban troops in fighting civil wars in other countries.

Coltman makes insufficient mention however of the Cuban secret police and the crushing of internal dissent and he could have clarified and expanded on the role of his ruthless brother Raul Castro who has been central in this internal suppression.
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By Moza on December 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
Several of the reviewers before me have been critical of this biography written by Leycester Coltman, yet I doubt if Fidel Castro himself wrote an autobiography we would gain any more information. This book portrays an honest outlook, without the propaganda or blatant dislike that usually goes along with mention of the infamous dictator. It is obvious to anyone who reads this (and nobody who has can deny the fact) that Mr. Coltman is incredibly thorough in his research, going to great pains to explain events. This is especially helpful to me, as a high school student, who hadn't much prior knowledge of Cuba and famous events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis. Those critical of his work confound me, especially a reviewer who wrote a review ON the reviewers. I wonder how this is possible, even plausible, as they admitted to not having read the book themselves. "Walk a mile in someone else's shoes"- well Leycester Coltman has certainly provided the pathway to doing so.
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Format: Paperback
It is hard, writing the biography of one such individual as Fidel castro is. Wheter one likes it or not Fidel Castro is living history, and when dealing with history one has to be extremly careful not to stray too much from path that was laid before him.

Can there exist something what scould be called "true biography"? After all, if entire history is based upon the facts, doesn't that mean that many facts can form an unique and, most important of all, truthfull image of person or event? Indeed it would be so, if it weren't for tiny miscalculation in that plan. And that miscalculation is called - interpretation.

Who is Fidel Castro? Craving lunatic, dictator like Saddam, who kills his people for pure enjoyment in killing and destrucion? One of the last in line of romantical revolutionaires (if that expresseion can exist in reality at all) who would give life fot the thing the he believes is true? Is he a figure that fights the battle against globalisation and American imperialism or he is just old communist who was overrun by time, but still refuses to submit himself to murky shadows of time that has been.

Leycester Coltman, late diplomat on Cuba, tried to answer these questions. Did he succeed, it is hard to say. Starting his portrait from boyhood age, Coltman progresses towards the rise of guerilla leader, guerilla warfare in the mountains, numerous confrontations wit US, hopes and frustrations with SSSR, building his 'not-so-fictional-character' from scratches, presenting him as saviour of some kind (little exaggaration here) towards describing him as strayed from the "true" path and becoming "civic politician".
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Format: Paperback
Covered within these pages is the story of Castro's early life, the strong influence of a hard working and successful businessman father as a role model, growing up as the illegitimate son of a young woman that was a helper in the kitchen in the large Castro estates. Coltman provides the reader with other aspects of Fidel's life; the early law student days at the University of Havana looking for the political spotlight; the unsuccessful Moncada attack with pro-democracy youth after Batista's coup overthrowing the Republic; the subsequent trial, imprisonment and then exile; his return to fight guerilla warfare; the triumph of the Revolution in 1959; his secret alliance with the communists in early 1959; the trial and 20 year conviction of Commander Matos, who resigned his command to protest communist infiltration; the mysterious disappearance of legendary Commander Camilo Cienfuegos; the government takeover of Cuba's free market economy; the formation of the G2 secret police; the Bay of Pigs; the alliance with the Soviet Union and the Cuban Missile Crisis; Cuban revolutionary support activity for Angola and Nicaragua; the demise of the Soviet Union; Cuba's economic hardships under the Castro regime; and the shooting of two Hermanos al Rescate aircraft. This book is a good introduction to the life, rise to power, and totalitarian rule of Fidel Castro over Cuba.
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