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Persona Non Grata: A Memoir of Disenchantment with the Cuban Revolution (Nation Books) Paperback – March 31, 2004
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First, it's a long, honest (brutally honest) look at the Cuban state by a "bourgeois liberal intellectual" (I'm using "liberal" in the English sense - with connotations of free speech, free trade, and social justice - perhaps "reform liberalism" is a better term in the USA?); a point of view pretty close to my own (and, I would guess, many westerners these days who consider themselves synpathetic to "the left"). So the author is sympathetic to the revolutionary ideals, but can also see, quite clearly, what Castro cannot.
Second, it explores the tension that arises when an attempt to achieve those ideals is opposed - the spiral of control and resistance, secret police and "traitors". It's pretty common to forgive Cuba because "they've had to withstand so much" (particularly the American embargo); this book makes a good case that by the early 1970s Castro had already overdrawn this moral account.
Third, it indirectly sheds light on Chile's own democratic revolution, under Allende. To what extent Allende failed through being too open, and whether any other approach would have been worthwhile, is a constant subtext.
Finally, it was interesting to see how diplomacy "works" at a basic day-to-day level.
[I should add I read the Chilean/Spanish 2006 edition - it has a few extra details (mainly footnotes) added, apparently, but nothing very significant.]
Jorge Edwards sure did; 'I was very much affected by the feeling of being watched by the police at all times, and this had gone so far as to cause me persistent insomnia and physical difficulty in breathing, together with pains in the chest and the sensation of being on the point of having a heart attack.'
And Edwards, as Salvador Allende's Charge D'Affairs, had diplomatic immunity!
This book, written in 1972, is one of the few reliable historical records regarding Allende's relationship with Fidel Castro. With the benefit of hindsight the reader will see just why the Chilean military--at the request of the Chilean legislature and support of the Chilean Supreme Court--finally acted to overthrow Allende in 1973. It was either that or Chile would descend into the totalitarian nightmare that Edwards experienced in Cuba while trying to re-open the Chilean embassy in 1971.
At his 'exit interview' with Castro he's told in no uncertain terms that Allende will have to fight to establish his power in Chile; 'Up to now Allende has only taken control of the Government, but that only means approaching the outer ramparts of power. When it come to seizing power, then the confrontation will be inevitable....'
And, to that end, Castro was then sending arms and military personnel clandestinely to Chile. Edwards saw evidence of it. He recognized the self-destructive path Allende had set for himself. I stress again, this was written BEFORE the 1973 Pinochet coup. The book is very valuable for true students of history, but Castro and Allende idolators will hate it.
The book must me considered a well-intentioned exercise of narcissism. Verbosity, conceit, and arrogant outpouring of self-adulatory writing. I couldn't stand it and put the book away almost half-way through. If only the reader didn't have to fish the interesting bits of information from this sea of conceit...
The obscene thing about it is the nonchalant tone, the care-free attitude of intellectual superiority with which he carries on in the island while thousands of poor Cubans he ignores were starving, sentenced to hard-labor, executed by firing-squads or tortured in nazi-like concentration camps. All this while he was being regaled lavishly by the the nomenklatura.
Thanks for your help, anyway, mister Edwards. I couldn't finish your book but I guess it moved a few strings up there, in the abode where the elistist class of self-called intellectuals and diplomats hang around.
I, nevertheless, will hang out with real men like Valladares ('Against All Hope') and Jorge Masetti ('In the Pirate's Den').