The 85-year-old Castro, whose last known public appearance was at a Communist Party congress in April 2011, had to be helped to his chair, but was animated and engaged as summaries of the two-volume tome were read and questions were taken from an audience of admirers.
The two-hour program was the first of three parts to be broadcast on state-run television this week and, with its echoes of the lengthy speeches he once gave, appeared aimed in part at showing that the old comandante is in pretty good shape.
Castro, who ruled Cuba for 49 years, was struck by an undisclosed intestinal illness that nearly killed him in July 2006. He resigned the presidency in February 2008, when younger brother Raul Castro replaced him.
Castro still occasionally writes opinion pieces for Cuban media and meets with visiting leaders, but he said he spends much of his time reading news stories and that what he reads is alarming.
“What’s going to happen in Iran? What’s going to happen in the Near East? What’s going to happen in Syria?” he asked at the event, which took place on Friday.
He said President Barack Obama no longer has power in the United States, that Cuba’s longtime ideological foe is being run by a “high command” and not even they can “contain the situation” of a possible nuclear war.
Castro has been warning of impending nuclear war involving the United States, Israel and Iran for some time.
“The situation is difficult, more difficult than ever,” he said.
Castro remarked on the campaign in the United States for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, saying there was little voter interest in the race and no good candidates.
“The Republican candidate is the least intolerable of the intolerables, the least bad of the worst,” he said.
Last month he wrote that the Republican race was a contest of “idiocy and ignorance.”
Despite the difficulties facing the world, Castro said, humans must never give up trying to save the world.
“Our duty is to fight until the last minute,” he said.
“If they tell us, ‘look, no more than 10 years are left,’ you have to fight those 10 years, for our country, for the others and for humanity.”
The new book – “Fidel Castro Ruz: Guerrilla of Time” – covers his life from childhood to the days just before the revolution that he led and won against dictator Fulgencio Batista on Jan 1, 1959.
It is based on conversations with Cuban journalist Katiuska Blanco, similar to the 2006 book “100 Hours with Fidel” by Spanish journalist Ignacio Ramonet. Reuters