"For a boy growing up in the Oriente countryside dangers lurked everywhere. Parents and nursemaids cautioned children to beware of "lost souls" wandering the earth, seeking to catch mortals and compel them to take their places. Fidel Castro always slept fitfully. To fall asleep was to be alone, defenseless, off-guard. Years later, as a rebel commander in the Sierra Maestra, he kept himself awake at night, reading, walking about, talking the hours away with his tired comrades. And as Cuba's Maximum Leader he insisted on meeting his visitors at odd hours long after midnight when they were edgy and most vulnerable." "In this masterly new biography Robert E. Quirk paints a portrait of the charismatic leader who for more than three decades - and over eight American presidencies - managed to sustain a communist regime in the western hemisphere. Fidel Castro emerges as a rebel from his earliest years. Born into a family of wealth, he nonetheless lived in an atmosphere that was crude and uncultured. Sent away to school at age five, the boy felt deserted in an alien city. He fought often, rebelling against the priests' authority. He demanded recognition and assurances of his worth. He had to be the first, the best, in everything, to captain the team in every sport." "As an adult Castro could not tolerate criticism or opposition. His tantrums were legendary. At the University of Havana, he ignored his studies, immersing himself in politics. But his bid to head the student federation failed. He graduated with a law degree and a residue of resentment against the institution that had thwarted his ambition. He remained a loner, with no deep attachments, even to the women he attracted." "In gripping detail, Professor Quirk follows Castro as he forms a small band to bring down the regime of Fulgencio Batista by leading a quixotic attack on an army barracks. Captured, imprisoned, and eventually exiled to Mexico, he recruits other insurgents, including the Argentine medical doctor, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, for a voyage of liberation that ends in near disaster on the south coast of Cuba. Pursued by Batista's army, the rebel commander, with only a few comrades, disappears into the mists of Oriente's Sierra Maestra." "From the security of that mountain hideout, he organizes the small-scale attacks that, together with the urban underground's sabotage, culminate in the dictator's flight from the island on New Year's Day, 1959. On a wave of popular support, Castro is swept into power." "When the Eisenhower administration frustrates Castro's desire to build the most powerful army in Latin America, he turns to the Soviet Union and joins the communist camp." "As Cuba's prime minister Castro challenges a succession of American presidents and exasperates officials in Moscow, gaining the world's attention during the Bay of Pigs invasion and the 1962 Missile Crisis - events freshly viewed here. His economic ambitions race beyond reality: to produce more milk than the Netherlands and finer cheeses than France, to run the capitalist sugar producers out of business. Some of his projects succeed. Schools and hospitals are built; illiteracy is ended. More fail, and the revolution turns on its own, when former comrades, as well as leading writers and intellectuals, are jailed. Ultimately, the collapse of the Soviet Union makes manifest the extent of his failures. No longer able to promise a Marxist paradise on earth, Fidel Castro has, in the author's words, "become irrelevant."" "In its breadth and drama, Fidel Castro is more than the story of one ambitious man steering his nation on a dangerous and doomed course. It is also a parable of a small country caught up in the throes of international rivalries and world revolution."--Jacket.