NYS Writers Institute, February 18, 2010
“New York Times” reviewer Michiko Kakutani called the book “fascinating” and “gripping.” Ann Louise Bardach, writing in the “San Francisco Chronicle,” said, “Cubaphiles will find Fuentes’ effort to be a masterful act of ventriloquism, offering a Castro who is prideful, intuitively Machiavellian and relentlessly cynical.” Writing in “Booklist,” Jay Freeman said, “What makes this account particularly appealing is Castro’s (or Fuentes’) version of critical events and his relations with and feelings concerning historical figures. ... Of course, this isn’t history, but it is enjoyable, interesting, and probably as accurate a portrait as we are likely to get.”
Originally published in Spanish in 2004, the book previously earned superlative praise and a wide readership in Europe. The Spanish daily “El País” called it “A contemporary classic of Latin American literature,” and proclaimed Fuentes “The best Cuban writer in recent times.”
A member of Castro’s inner circle for thirty years, Fuentes attempted to flee the country after two high-ranking army officers were executed on fabricated charges in 1989. Caught in the act, he remained in prison until 1994 when a well-publicized hunger strike and pressure from writers abroad (including Gabriel García Márquez and William Kennedy) enabled him to begin a new life in the United States.
The “Autobiography of Fidel Castro” was translated into English by Anna Kushner, a finalist for the John Guyon Literary Nonfiction Prize in 2007.
Fuentes’ earlier fiction includes the 1968 short story collection “Condenados del Condado” (“The Condemned of Condado”), winner of the Casa de las Américas Prize. Italo Calvino praised the collection for its “cunning and anti-heroic realism, full of the ruthless irony that arises naturally when one lives in the continuous presence of death.”Fuentes is also the author of two books about Ernest Hemingway’s romance with Fuentes’s native country, “Hemingway in Cuba” (1985) and “Ernest Hemingway: Rediscovered” (1988). In advance praise of the former, Gabriel García Márquez wrote, “Fuentes dug through the embers of Hemingway’s life at Finca Vigía and discovered traces of his heart... a man troubled by the uncertainty and brevity of life, who was able to decipher, as few have done in human history, the practical mysteries of the most solitary occupation in the world.”
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