THE TRAGEDY OF FIDEL CASTRO — By João Cerqueira [Translated from the Portuguese by Karen Bennett and Chris Mingay] — Novel — 2008 [2013 English edition] — River Grove Books — Print ISBN: 978-1-938416-16-3; eBook ISBN: 978-938416-17-0

Having once compared Fidel to a demon, the priest now seemed to recognize divine qualities in him. This was entirely natural, since in politics, today’s truth is tomorrow’s lies.

Novels like The Tragedy of Fidel Castro are the untamed mustangs of fiction that, unlike most other books, run wild and free, contemptuous of the confinement that the corral of ordinary classification would imprison them in.

João Cerqueira
João Cerqueira

For readers accustomed to conventional story telling, João Cerqueira’s book is a walk on the wild side. It constantly goes off in unexpected directions while somehow staying true to its narrative line. The result is disorienting at first, yet the reader readily adapts.

Rather than attempt any kind of plot description (click on the book cover illustration below if you think that would help), let’s just say that, in sum, The Tragedy of Fidel Castro is compulsively readable and worth a look.

Parental warning: Some rough language and risque situations.

A few excerpts should give you an idea:

“I can see that I didn’t make myself clear, comrades. This can all be summed up as a process of dialectic, whereby the opposition of contrary concepts gives rise to the perfect synthesis. That is to say, what used to be mine and yours is no longer mine or yours; it’s now ours. Do we understand each other?”

“Pastry chefs of the world unite!”

Where others resort to brute force, all I need is charisma. Socialism is the last stage of the progression of history but does not ignore examples from the past that teach us the importance of an all-powerful leader at the root of all great civilizations.

As he passed, flocks of birds fled in fear, stripping trees of their coats of feathers. While the sky mended skin torn by the beaks of the panic-stricken birds, other beasts slunk swiftly off into impenetrable hideaways.

Having to interrupt his train of thought just as it was bearing flowers and forbidden fruit, left him exasperated.

John F Kennedy with J Edgar Hoover in 1961Because of the constant ruckus between monks whenever they discussed football, he had been forced to ban supporters, scarf wearing before the games, and teddies. In his opinion, if football had existed in Roman times and there had been a tournament with teams from every conquered territory meeting in the coliseum, east playing west, (un)friendly games against Carthage, slaves skilled in dribbling freed, referees thrown to the lions every week, incoherent debates in the senate between patricians, Apollo and Augustus represented wearing football boots, temple columns serving as goal posts, baths invaded by footballers, the empire would not have lasted half as long. Barbarians would have found nothing but the ruins of Rome, and the Christian religion would have been extinguished.

“Doctors at the temple beaten in theological debate when you were just a child. The Sermon on the Mount and turning the other cheek. Casting out the money changers from the temple. Lessons of humility to rich men. Who said to love our enemies before you did? Gandhi was a cheap imitation. Mandela was even worse. With such an impressive résumé, how could you fear the challenge?”

Fidel Castro in 2010As he waited, he was moved to be met with such a pure and welcoming place, the antithesis of ancient and modern Babylonia, safe from the invasion of mass culture and from the cultureless masses, in which men lived in harmony with nature and where time and money never mixed. Touched, he couldn’t help but reflect once again on the expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise, daring to speculate that if they had lived in a place like this, no matter how many snakes and apple trees in the backyard, even naked and willing to experience new things, it would all have been so different. The path of humanity would have gone another direction, war would never have existed, and Fidel Castro and JFK would have been the best of friends.

JFKBeyond heaven and hell, death was an uninterrupted, surprise-free, eternal sleep, the rest deserved after a life of struggle. No matter how powerful, no man could escape it. All are subject to the whims of its calling, often heard at the most inconvenient times. He, however, had escaped this frustrating fate. He had conjured it up so many times that he thought death had tired of looking for him, become fed up with the game, and understood that he, Fidel, would be the one to call death when he believed the time to be right. And that was how it was. Having already concluded his mission in this life, with nothing else left to wait for except deterioration and for everything he had built to return to dust, he decided to leave the stage feet-first and to show death that even it existed to serve him.

For the first and last time, Fidel Castro and JFK stood face-to-face, separated by mere meters. They were so close they could look right inside each other.

Bio supplied by author:

João Cerqueira was born in Portugal in 1964 and lives in Viana do Castelo. He has a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Oporto and is the author of seven books, including the novels Blame It on Too Much Freedom, Devil’s Observations, and The Tragedy of Fidel Castro, and the nonfiction books Art and Literature in the Spanish Civil War (published in Portugal and Brazil), Maria Pia: Queen and Woman, José de Guimarães (published in China by the Today Art Museum), and José de Guimarães: Public Art.

Excerpts from The Tragedy of Fidel Castro and Chronicles about Cuba are published in The Liberator Magazine, Literary Lunes Magazine, Toad Suck Review #2, Danse Macabre, All Right Magazine, Contemporary Literary Review India, and on the website Leyendo se hace camino.

His novels satirize modern society and use irony and humor to provoke reflection and controversy.

'The Tragedy of Fidel Castro' cover
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The Tragedy of Fidel Castro is available in hard copy and e-book formats here.