[Marxism] Gabriel Garcia Marquez: The Fidel Castro That I Know

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Aug 3 09:15:05 MDT 2006


By Gabriel García Márquez Posted August 2, 2006    
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.

His fondness for words. His power of seduction. He hunts for a
problem wherever it is. The impelling force of inspiration is befits
his style. The breadth of his tastes is very well reflected in his
books. He gave up his cigars so as to have the moral authority to
fight smoking. He likes to prepare recipes with a sort of scientific
fervor. He keeps in excellent shape through several hours of daily
exercise and frequent swimming. Invincible patience. Strict
discipline. He’s drawn toward the unexpected by the force of his
imagination. Learning to work is as important as learning to rest.  
Fatigued by talking, he rests by talking. He writes well and likes to
do it. His greatest motivation in life is the emotion of risk. The
rostrum of an improviser seems to be his perfect ecological element.
When he starts speaking, his voice is always hard to hear and his
course is uncertain, but he takes advantage of anything to gain
ground, little by little, until he takes a kind of swipe and takes
possession of his audience. He’s the inspiration: the irresistible
and dazzling state of grace only denied by those who lack the glory
to feel it. He’s the quintessential anti-dogmatist.   He’s been
sufficiently talented to incorporate the ideas of José Martí, his
bedtime author, to a Marxist revolution’s bloodstream. The essence of
his own thoughts lies perhaps in his certainty that working with the
masses means first of all taking care of individuals.   That could
explain his absolute confidence in face-to-face contact. He’s got a
language for each occasion and a different approach to persuasion
according to his listener. He knows how to be up to the same standard
as the other, and his vast and diverse information allows him to feel
at ease in any environment. One thing’s for sure: wherever he is,
however he is and whoever he is with, Fidel Castro is there to win.
His attitude toward defeat, even in the smallest acts of everyday
life, seems to abide by a private logic: he doesn’t even admit it,
and never takes a moment’s rest until he manages to reverse the
situation and turn it into victory.

There’s no one more obsessed when it comes to getting to the bottom
of any matter. He engages in any project, whether colossal or
millimetric, with the same fierce passion, especially if it means
facing adversity. Never does he seem to be in a better mood than in
those moments. Someone who thinks they know him well told him:
“Things must be very wrong, because you look enraptured”. Reiteration
is one of his working methods. For instance: the issue of the Latin
American foreign debt had come up in his conversation some two years
ago, and had evolved, branched out and deepened since then. The first
thing he said, as a simple arithmetical conclusion, was that the debt
was impossible to pay. Then came the staggered findings: its effects
on national economies, its social and political impact, its decisive
influence on international relations, its providential importance for
a unitary policy in Latin America... up to a totalizing vision, which
he exposed in an international meeting called for that purpose that
time took care of proving right.   His rarest virtue as a politician
is the ability to discern how an event will evolve all the way to its
farthest consequences... but he practices such ability, not by
flashes of inspiration, but as a result of arduous, tenacious
reasoning. His supreme assistant is a memory he uses and abuses to
back up a speech or a private talk with overwhelming statements and
incredibly fast mathematical calculations.   He needs to be helped
with incessant, spoon-fed and digested data. The task of accumulating
information starts as soon as he arises. No less than 200 pages of
news from all over the world join his breakfast every morning. Every
day, wherever he is, they get urgent reports to him: according to his
own estimate he has to read about 50 documents per day, not to
mention the reports issued by official services and by those who
visit him and whatever arouses his boundless curiosity.   Any answer
has to be accurate, since he can pinpoint the smallest contradiction
in a casual phrase. Books are another source of vital information.
He’s an avid reader. No one understands where he finds enough time or
what method he applies to read so much and so quickly, although he
insists he uses none in particular. He frequently takes a book with
him in the early hours and makes comments about it the following
morning. He can read in English, but he doesn’t speak it. He’d rather
read in Spanish, and at any given time is willing to read whatever
piece of paper with letters on it that falls into his hands. A
regular reader of economic and historical topics, he also appreciates
good literature and follows it very closely.   He’s in the habit of
bombarding people with swift, consecutive questions he asks in bursts
until he finds out the whys of the whys of the final whys. When a
Latin American visitor hastily gave him figures about rice
consumption in his country, he made his mental arithmetic and said:
“That’s weird; each person eats four pounds of rice a day”. His
supreme tactic is asking about things he already knows to confirm his
data, and in some cases to size up his interlocutor and treat him
accordingly.   He misses no chance to be well-informed. At an
official reception he attended during the war in Angola, he described
a battle so thoroughly that it was hard to convince a European
diplomat that Fidel Castro had taken no part in it. His account of
the capture and murder of Che Guevara, his description of the attack
on the [Palacio de la] Moneda and Salvador Allende’s death, or the
one on the ravages of Hurricane Flora were great spoken features.  
His vision of Latin America’s future is the same Bolívar and Martí:
an integrated, autonomous community capable of changing the fate of
the world. He knows the United States better than any other country,
barring Cuba. He has in-depth knowledge about the nature of its
people, its power structure and its governments’ second intentions,
something he has efficiently used to weather the unceasing storm of
the blockade.   When interviewed, usually for hours on end, he dwells
on every subject, venturing into its least expected twists and turns
without ever neglecting accuracy, aware that a single misused word
can bring about irreparable damage. He has never refused to answer
any question, nor has he lost patience. There are some who keep him
from hearing the truth in order to spare him from too many worries.
He knows, though. To an official who tried to do so, he said: “You
hide the facts from me so as not to disturb me, but when I find out
at the end I will die of shock for having to face so many truths you
never told me”. The most serious ones, however, are those they keep
from him to cover up for deficiencies, because parallel with the
outstanding achievements that sustain the Revolution –whether in
politics, science, sports or culture– runs a huge bureaucratic
incompetence which affects daily life at almost every level, and
particularly domestic happiness.   When he talks with people in the
street, their conversation acquires the raw expressiveness and
frankness of real endearment. They call him "Fidel". They surround
him safety. They address him on a first-name basis; they argue with
him, state opposing views and make demands, all in a live
broadcasting session through which the truth comes tumbling out.
That’s when we get to see the uncommon human being concealed by the
brightness of his own image. This is the Fidel Castro that I believe
I know: a man of austere habits and insatiable illusions,
old-fashioned bearing, cautious words and fine manners whose ideas
can’t be less than extraordinary.   He dreams that his scientists
will eventually discover the ultimate cure for cancer, and he has
developed a foreign policy fit for a world power in an island 84
times smaller than his major enemy. He’s convinced that a proper
formation of consciousness is mankind’s greatest accomplishment, and
that moral incentives outdo material things in changing the world and
pushing history.   In his few moments of yearning for life, I’ve
heard him ruminating on the things he could have done differently to
reclaim more time from life. Seeing him weighed down with the burden
of so many people’s destiny, I asked him what he would like to do
more than anything else, and his straightaway answer was: “To stand
on a street corner”.   

From: Jaime Hermida
Sent: Wednesday, August 02, 2006 1:22 AM
To: FSLNboletin at yahoogroups.com 
Subject:  Gabriel García Márquez: EL FIDEL CASTRO QUE YO CONOZCO

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