Monday, November 13, 2006

Persona non grata

The Chilean-born author Jorge Edwards has given an interesting interview to El Nuevo Herald to mark the re-publication of what may well be his best known work, Persona Non Grata, first published in the mid 1970s.

A classic Latin American left-winger from way back, Edwards was sent to Cuba in 1970 by the newly-elected socialist president, Salvador Allende, as the first Chilean ambassador in about a decade.

This was a time when Fidel Castro was still riding high as a romantic revolutionary hero in much of Latin America - and being hailed as nothing short of a genius by many writers and artists in the West.

And yet, it took the Chilean novelist barely three months to see right through the dictator.

Within weeks, Castro had declared him persona non grata and shipped him back to Chile, where he set about writing his book.

In the interview published on Sunday, which you can read here in Spanish, Edwards is asked about Castro’s illness, about his impression of Cubans in exile and about the likely changes ahead on the island.

And he is asked about Castro’s legacy - you know, the great achievements of the Revolution.

His opinion? He believes Castro’s greatest and most enduring achievement, for want of a better term, has been to convince millions of Latin Americans over the years that the US is a “total monster”.

As for the great debate on health and education, Edwards says he doubts the regime's claims about a world-class health system.

Education? “It’s the type of society where they teach you to read but then they stop you from reading the books you want to read," he replied.


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