Fidel Cas­tro: Rev­o­lu­tion­ary, re­nais­sance man

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

His long-winded po­lit­i­cal rants were leg­endary. But Fidel Cas­tro also loved burn­ing the mid­night oil, the writ­ten word, and, iron­i­cally, the sport that unites Cuba and its US foe: base­ball. Cas­tro squeezed the max­i­mum out of his 90 years which ended when he died late Fri­day, get­ting by on snatched rest, sus­tained by the pas­sion of his in­ter­ests and the rev­o­lu­tion he nur­tured for nearly half a cen­tury. “I will never re­tire from pol­i­tics, the rev­o­lu­tion or the ideas I have,” Cas­tro said late in his life.

Cas­tro’s leg­endary late-nights­man­ship was a source of con­stant com­ment by jour­nal­ists, bi­og­ra­phers and the bemused. For Cas­tro, it was ut­terly nor­mal to dine into the wee hours, then hold in­ter­views that stretched on hours as guests slumped over in their chairs.

Some of his clos­est al­lies and friends said Cas­tro some­how learned to rest while awake, in a sort of ac­tive down-time of chat­ting, swim­ming or read­ing, another pas­sion of his. “His de­vo­tion to the word is al­most mag­i­cal,” wrote a per­sonal friend, Colom­bian No­bel Prize win­ner Gabriel Gar­cia Mar­quez. He said he was con­vinced that when Cas­tro is “tired of con­vers­ing, he rests by con­vers­ing more.” Gar­cia Mar­quez died in 2014.

Learn­ing to surf Web

Cas­tro thirsted for knowl­edge, learn­ing late in life to surf the In­ter­net, even as his govern­ment con­trolled ac­cess to it. His per­sonal li­brary in­cluded books by Ernest Hem­ing­way and texts on hy­dro­pon­ics, or grow­ing plants with­out soil. There are pho­tos of the day when the only Con­corde to visit Ha­vana touched down, and Cas­tro headed to the air­port to pep­per the pi­lot with ques­tions about the sleek su­per­sonic jet. The youth­ful Cas­tro of the 1950s was fa­bled for in­ces­sant ci­gar smok­ing. When he stubbed out the habit, he was awarded a prize from the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion. Some­thing of a gour­mand, Cas­tro col­lected cook­ing recipes which, ac­cord­ing to Gar­cia Mar­quez, he liked to pre­pare “with a sort of sci­en­tific rigor.” In his later years he went on di­ets, even as many Cubans strug­gled to put enough food on their own ta­bles. The first pa­pal nun­cio dur­ing his govern­ment, Mon­signor Ce­sare Sac­chi, taught him how to make pasta. Maybe be­cause of his high en­ergy, or maybe to work off din­ner, Cas­tro was no stranger to the gym and he loved swim­ming. His great sport­ing loves, how­ever, were basketball, div­ing and base­ball, Cuba’s na­tional sport. An in­vet­er­ate risk-taker, he did not balk at po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary high stakes.

Cas­tro did not take kindly to de­feat. When Cuba failed to meet its 1970 sugar har­vest tar­get of 10 mil­lion tons (there were only eight) he urged Cubans to “turn mis­for­tune into vic­tory.”“In my next in­car­na­tion I want to be a writer,” Cas­tro was once quoted as say­ing. He wrote many short pieces and edi­to­ri­als but his books are mainly com­pi­la­tions of his speeches. —AFP

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