Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fidel Castro (1926-2012?)

A Celebration Without a Victory

I'm trying my best to get in a festive mood but I can't seem to manage it. I suppose because there's nothing to celebrate. The death of Fidel Castro will not be the end of Castroism in Cuba much less the re-birth of freedom there. Even his death per se is far from satisfactory. Death is a biological certainty. It comes to all men regardless of the good or evil that they do in life. There is nothing retributive in it. Castro's death is no exception. It is ridiculous to regard it as our "victory." If anything it is his victory: Fidel was never brought to justice for his crimes and his death guarantees that he never will be. The biggest mass murderer in the history of the Western Hemisphere will die in his own bed. Can any of us say with certainty that he shall do the same? Millions have expired in the last 50 years who asked for nothing more than to die in their own country yet their prayers went unanswered just so that he might become the first dictator in Cuban history to die in his own bed.

A death like Che Guevara's was worth celebrating because it signified the triumph of justice.

Castro's death confirms only the injustice of life.

The bottles of champagne that were purchased 50 years ago to toast the re-birth of freedom in our country have all now turned to vinegar. It is only these bottles that should be opened on the occasion of Castro's death.

Gall is the only drink that befits such an occasion.

RCAB, January 16, 2009

On the Day that Fidel Castro Dies

I do not know if Fidel Castro is dead or not. I have accepted, however, the fact that there will be no final reckoning extracted from him, nothing as poetic as Mussolini's corpse dangling upside down in a gutter or Ceausescu's riddled with bullets in a pool of his festering blood. We shall have no such national catharsis. Even Hitler's fate, execution by his own hand as the Doomsday clock ticked, he has avoided. The architect of our country's ruin will die in his own bed, as no other Cuban dictator has done before. The chaos of 50 years, in whose maelstrom he lived and thrived, shall survive him; but he shall no longer be at the center of it. It is not known what if anything he will take with him, but one thing is certain: if our country is ever to move beyond him, Fidel Castro's physical existence — animal, vegetable or mineral — must finally lapse and resolve itself into innate matter. He will be less dangerous that way, though his maggots will continue to feed on our country for years to come, continuing his work of destruction after him.

Fidel's death by installments, which is a measure of justice for him and injustice for us, served the ends of his successor by allowing him to consolidate his power in his brother's shadow. It also showed the Cuban people how truly irrelevant Fidel had become except as the bogeyman of all their nightmares. In two years the Cuban people have become comfortable with the idea of a moribund-to-dead Castro. Those who regarded him as a god must have been surprised at how easy it is to let a god die. The impact of his death, if not thus diluted, might have caused more of a national convulsion. Now it is but another sham spectacle that they must endorse with their presence. At least the professional criers that followed 19th century funerals were compensated for their tears. That work now is obligatory and unavoidable. There will be tears enough to shed on that day, not for him, of course, but for everything that he blighted and obliterated in his passage through the earth.

RCAB, January 15, 2009


Vana said...


Unfortunately for us his end will not end the nightmare he founded, to leave our country and countrymen in ruins will be his biggest legacy, I do not believe anymore that I'll live long enough to see our Cuba free, I am no longer an optimist, fifty years of waiting is too long a wait.

As always well written and spot on.


Vana said...

Hello my friend, wanted to touch bases with you today, the day of our dear Apostle's birthday.

Was hoping I would find an article from you on this day.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...

The real tragedy is that vanity publishing doesn't exist in Cuba today. A vanity press is infinately preferable to a state press (let alone a monopolistic state press). I should rather decide for myself what I want to write, even if my words are reproduced with errata or at my own expense, than be forced to write what others expect me to write, imposing self-censorship on myself and accepting the censorship of others.

I do not believe that any important work was ever published in Cuba before 1959 that the author himself did not underwrite. Salvat merely continued that tradition in a milieu where there were almost more writers than readers (or at least buyers of books). He was not a university press, a philanthropic foundation, or a wealthy Maecenas. He gave his authors what they wanted and were willing to pay for, as any good businessman would. I do not care if Salvat was himself an intellectual or not, or how many gradations from an intellectual he may have been. The intellectual publisher is the wet dream of authors. But most authors manage to do without them because there simply are not enough of them to go around. A would-be author can live and die without ever publishing a word if he were waiting for the second coming of Maxwell Perkins.

Salvat's authors did not feel that they were being exploited; on the contrary, most continued to publish with him for decades: rare indeed was the author that produced only one book with his imprint. Moreover, no Cuban publishing house in the last 50 years or the last 100 years published more works by canonical (and, yes, non-canonical) authors than did Salvat's Editorial Universal. It may have been the only game in town, but that fact, if anything, makes its contribution all the more valuable and indispensable.

Universal is closing because both its authors and its readers are now in short supply. In the U.S., Cuban intellectuals today prefer to write in English (because they can). This opens the door to commercial publishing in this country, which is both more lucrative and prestigious than any ethnic press. For a previous generation of exiled writers this was not an an option. Salvat allowed their voices to be heard. Without him most would have been silenced here as in Cuba. Whatever you may think of the value of those voices, you must admit that they had a right to be heard and for 50 years they were.

As to the hope — appealing but impossible — that Editorial Universal will be replaced by something bigger and better, this would require, first and foremost, the creation of a market that just doesn't exist, and may never have existed. Editorial Universal was the best publisher that could be fashioned from these circumstances.