But if El Absoluto didn't evade a single question (How many wives has he had? Whatever happened to his illegitimate children?), he certainly reserved the right to go over the manuscript. And go over it he did: Between the first Spanish edition, published in 2006, and the second edition, there's a gap the size of El Celestial's ego. Just as translator Andrew Hurley was about to submit his work, he received an annotated one (in French and Spanish) with endless changes. In a brief note about the translation, we learn that when Hurley and his British editor inquired as to who made the changes, no answer was given. They were told only that the changes needed to be made. (Hurley discreetly annotates every discrepancy between the two versions.) The spoken word is notoriously slippery, but in this case the slope gives place to an avalanche. El Manipulador has corrected (or better, improved) himself ad infinitum, making sure there's no room for confusion. Or is there? Too bad Ramonet has no sense of humor; if he had, he would laugh at his own servitude. Ramonet's questions are almost always succinct; El Campeon's answers are stampedes of information designed to persuade.
As novelist Guillermo Cabrera Infante used to say, "No man is an island -- except Fidel." But he's a genius, his rhetorical talents (like those of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama) beyond belief. What other leader is able to hypnotize his followers for five, seven or 10 hours with speeches? Who else can be at once so lovable and despicable, having sent the first words of condolence to the people of United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks while also enjoying the humiliation of enemies like Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa, whose public execution in 1989 was a circus? How can such an erudite man increase the educational level in Cuba while keeping his people under a strict regimen of obscurantism?