So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Castro: A Graphic Novel

Castro: A Graphic Novel by Reinhard Kleist
While this book is sold as the life of Fidel Castro, it is also the life of a fictional German journalist named Karl Mertens. Reinhard Kleist tells the story of Castro's Cuba as seen through Mertens' eyes as he covers the rise to power and life of Fidel Castro, and its effect on the life of the Cubans around him.

As the book opens we see an aged Mertens reminiscing about his life in Cuba. He thinks back to the day he landed in Cuba as a young journalist on his first assignment in October 1958 to cover events involving the Castro-led rebels in the Sierra Maestra mountains of eastern Cuba. He arranges passage to the east and spends several days with the rebel forces, interviews Castro to find out the principles of the fight, and talks to several of his followers to learn Castro's early life. The days pass and Karl becomes involved with the rebels on a deeper level and, losing his journalistic objectivity, he become an active participant in the fight, not with a gun, but with his pen and his camera.

He relates the story of Castro's rise to power and the transformation of the revolution into communism, the disruption of relations with the USA and the alliance with the USSR, and the major events in Cuba since Castro came to power. He also tells of Karl's relationships with his friends Juan and Lara, people he met during the early days of the rebellion. Through the lives of these three people we see the day-to-day life in Cuba and its effects on the people. The shortages caused by the embargo, the restrictions on dissent and social freedom take their toll on these friendships as Karl remains committed to the ideals of the revolution. Finally we see Karl and Castro reflecting on their lives and the choices they have made: two old men looking at their lives and wondering.

Originally publish in Germany, this is an English translation. Castro is one of the leading Wester Hemisphere figures of the second half of the Twentieth Century. This book provides an accessible and engaging look into the man and the country that he shaped and is well-worth reading.

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