Book Review
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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

Fidel and Che

Both Fidel Castro and Che Guevara have become important figures in the history of Cuba, and in the case of Che, his likeness can be seen on 50 percent of songtaews, obviously having appealed to the taxi drivers in some way.

Fidel and Che, A Revolutionary Friendship (ISBN 978-0-340-92346-7, Hodder and Stoughton, Sceptre paperbacks, author Simon Reid-Henry, 2009) follows the path of the two revolutionaries and examines their influence on Cuba and the world.

Author Reid-Henry is a prizewinning scholar of the Cuban revolution and the minutiae of detail is a reflection of this. However, he writes of the machinations, the wheeling and dealing in the style of a thriller, and a thriller it is. Whilst most of us have heard of the two featured players, very few of us know the fine details of their lives, and how their lives actually crossed. With Fidel Castro being a Cuban lawyer and Che Guevara being a doctor from the Argentine, theirs would appear a most unlikely partnership.

It becomes very obvious, right from the outset, that Fidel Castro was the principal combatant in the fight for the Cuban nation. An erudite and very clever man who knew how to sway public opinion, and even how to influence a hostile judiciary. In comparison, Che Guevara comes across as someone who really fit into the ‘rebel without a cause’ mold. Rebellious all his life, it was finally left to Fidel Castro to give him that cause, even though the fight was not really Che’s. For Castro, the meeting with Che “provided him with some early encouragement in exile and perhaps also a framework for his revolution,” writes Reid-Henry.

As Castro moved on with his revolution, it was not merely an academic exercise or polemics, but was becoming more and more bloodthirsty. Summary executions were carried out to emphasize just who was the leader. His guile was also evident when he managed to get the government to bomb one of its own positions by using a hoax radio transmission.

Once his revolution was in place, Castro continued to confound America, in particular, and gradually introduced the Soviets. When America decreased its importing of Cuban sugar, Russia stepped in and took the remaining tonnage, thus demonstrating that America was shooting itself in its foot. Other moves by the US in attempting to condemn Castro did nothing to improve relations and Yanqui Go Home was the result.

At times, the sheer number of players brought into the scene makes the reader feel he or she is reading the Havana telephone book, and whilst this is obviously done for the sake of completeness, I was left wondering why some characters were introduced at all.

There are two groups of photographs included in the body of the book, with some being very revealing of the close nature of their relationship.

A heavy book as far as content is concerned, but one that will teach and enlighten the younger members of the society for whom Fidel Castro is merely a name, and Che Guevara is merely a face. At B. 430 it is a cheap education.