HAPPENSTANCE, a prime mover in personal lives as well as in historic events, prompted my decision to write this life of Fidel Castro. A colleague at Indiana University, a Cuban specialist, had left to take a position at another university. His course on the Castro revolution had regularly drawn as many as 150 students each semester, and I was reluctant to see that enrollment lost to the department. I agreed, therefore, to take over the course. At first it was a matter of the blind leading the blind, and I drew shamelessly on the work of others for my lectures, managing to keep one step ahead of the students. Those were heady times, with undergraduates engaging in shouted arguments in the classroom. The leader of a radical Marxist group on the campus insisted, in long speeches, on putting my statements in their "proper perspective." A young woman ended one discussion with "Why don't you just shut up!" And another young woman, who, according to newspaper sources, had bitten a Moroccan policeman's leg at the Rabat airport when he removed her from a plane bound for Algiers, regularly informed me of facts that history had "proved," but that I seemed unaware of. For me it was a satisfying course.
Each year, as I made out a new reading list, however, I noted the lack of a narrative summary of Cuba's recent history. To provide one, from published sources, seemed a worthwhile project for a sabbatical year in 1980. Once launched, I discovered that I could not write that short book, that there were too many unanswered questions, questions that involved the person of Fidel Castro. First and foremost, why he had become a communist. His own explanations appeared contrived. They did not accord