In This Review

Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
By Nick Caistor
Reaktion Books, 2013, 157 pp

It is surely too soon to issue a definitive verdict on the reign of Fidel Castro, but this preliminary effort well sums up the current assessment of most centrist Cuba observers: Castro was a gifted leader who engineered social improvements that benefited most Cubans, a statesman who placed Cuba at the center of world politics, and a masterful tactician who outlasted ten hostile U.S. presidents -- but he should have transferred power to a successor generation much earlier on. In his prime, Castro was remarkably intelligent, energetic, and resilient, filled with self-righteous anger, a heightened sense of honor and dignity, and boundless self-confidence. For many Cubans, Castro is George Washington (independence warrior and first president), Abraham Lincoln (the towering liberator), and Franklin Roosevelt (the fearless social reformer) all wrapped up in one giant man. But Castro is also a tragic figure, seemingly unaware of his own limitations: arrogant and stubborn, unable to adjust to the post-Soviet world, and utterly unwilling to imagine Cuba without himself at the helm. Caistor’s monograph is a smoothly crafted and balanced rendition, although a bit too dispassionate to fully convey the intensity of the times.