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Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  12,452 Ratings  ·  471 Reviews
From the back of the book:

"Acclaimed around the world and a national best-seller, this is the definitive work on Che Guevara, the dashing rebel whose epic dream was to end poverty and injustice in Latin America and the developing world through armed revelation. Jon Lee Anderson's biography traces Che's extraordinary life, from his comfortable Argentine upbringing to the ba
Paperback, 814 pages
Published March 9th 1998 by Grove Press (NYC) (first published 1997)
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Che Guevara by Jon Lee AndersonThe Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Che GuevaraGuerrilla Warfare by Ernesto Che GuevaraThe Bolivian Diary by Ernesto Che GuevaraChe Guevara Speaks by Ernesto Che Guevara
Ernesto "Che" Guevara
1st out of 32 books — 34 voters
The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas LlosaOne Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez1491 by Charles C. MannThe Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Che GuevaraOpen Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano
South America - History and Culture
19th out of 182 books — 76 voters

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Jon Lee Anderson's biography of Che Guevara is exhaustively researched, which was a benefit to me, since I had never before studied Che's life in detail, nor had I read about the Bay of Pigs or the Cuban Missile Crisis from anything but an American perspective. I found it to be an illuminating, albeit sometimes exhausting, read.

This biography combines several approaches to history in one. In the first section, Anderson provides vivid details of Che's early life, his love of literature and learni
Jun 13, 2014 Jareed rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Che believers but have no idea who the man really is.
“Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man.”
-Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara’s last words* (Anderson, 1991:735)

Ernesto 'Che' Guevara de la Serna

Those words make me shudder. And one will wonder, who this man is, that in his irrepressible idealism enlivened in clandestine activities and political conspiracies, dare deprive death of his satisfaction, for indeed decades later, Comandante Che, is now heroically revered.

Born Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, Che Guevara, was, unlike the ideology he died for
Jun 08, 2014 Joseph rated it it was amazing
Che, thug or hero? Many in the West are quick to say thug. Che was a true believer in liberating the underclass and freeing the countries from economic domination. He was critical of the Soviet's system of privilege and critical of those in post revolutionary Cuba should privilege. As far as being a thug he was quite tame compared to US supported dictators Somoza, Duvalier, Trujillo, and later Pinochet and Duarte. Support for Somoza loyalists brought more violence in Nicaragua but were supported ...more
Jan 10, 2009 Marc rated it it was amazing
I rarely give those 5 stars, but after some hard thoughts, I decided that this one deserves it. The author tries to give an account as balanced as you possibly could about a man as complex as Che. The research effort put into this is immense and it shows in the details.

The important thing for me was that Anderson showed us both sides of the man. His other-worldly drive for justice and solidarity, but also his cold-blooded ruthlessness and obsession for discipline. I firmly think he is one of th
Sep 25, 2015 kaśyap rated it it was amazing
Over the years as Che Guevara was commodified, he became the most familiar figure and yet a misunderstood and unkown personality. He became a brand that was used to sell everything from t-shirts and mugs to canned beer. In all this commodification, Che’s life and what he stood for got lost. Who was this extraordinary man who gave up his privilege and everything he cherished and dedicated his life to an idea and died for it? This is a great biography that gives him a historical context and brings ...more
Sep 04, 2009 Caris rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009
Che is dead.

You may not know it, but your world is a little darker because of it. Last night, as I finished this massive tome, I was in a terrible state of depression. I've spent a solid month with this man. And I did not want the story to end the way it was going to. Not in the way it did.

Che was an inspiration. He was a truly phenomenal human being. He is most definitely worth the recognition given to him by all of the t-shirts and dorm room posters worn by college kids all across the US. The
Oct 30, 2008 Christopher rated it really liked it
I did not read Che because I'm a wannabe socialist or guerrilla. I read Che because I generally like biographies. I think it is good for twenty-somethings who are asking "what are my values and how will I commit to them in my life?" to read biographies of people who have done that whether their values are similar or different.

What I loved about this book was not only the lens on the fascinating history of Che's life and especially the Cuban revolution, but the dozens of journal excerpts from Ch
Dec 19, 2007 Selby rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A great biography about a generally misunderstood figurehead. I have seen too much crap with Guevera's face on it; tees, bandanas, medallions, pencil holders, etc. His persona has been so commodifed it is important to understand who he was and what he represents. The book does not shy away from his dark moments; rape, murder, or his phenomenal ones; adrenaline shots into the heart, voluntary poverty. A fantastic book.
I highly recommend this book. All have heard of the icon Che Guevara (May 14, 1928 – October 9, 1967). This book shows you who he really was. His character, his weaknesses and strengths, his life-philosophy and goals, all of this is covered in this book. It is meticulously researched and full of exclusive information, for example previously unavailable information gathered from his second wife. It follows his life chronologically through to his death. After his death, in the epilogue, the lives ...more
Liz Janet
Mar 12, 2016 Liz Janet rated it really liked it
A good biography, but since my family experienced what he did, I can say with conviction that he was no hero, he was a murderer, and every time I see people wearing him on their shirts, I want to cry. Please, get to know who he was and what he did before you follow the crowd and wear a murderer on your shirt.
A.J. Howard

The great historical tragedy surrounding the legacy of Che Guevara is that man who was nothing but completely and utterly sincere has become a symbol of insincerity. I'm not sure if this was always the case, but at least when I see people of my generation wearing a Che shirt or displaying a Che poster, I no longer see the famous Korda photograph of Guevara, I see the words "I am a giant poser" tattooed in bold relief on that persons face. There may be people who are sincere in their admiration,

K.D. Absolutely
May 24, 2009 K.D. Absolutely rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Tata J
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books
Shelves: 501, memoirs
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Erik Graff
Sep 04, 2010 Erik Graff rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Alma Milat
Shelves: biography
This book was given me as a gift--an excellent one as the biography of Ernesto "Che" Guevara (b. Argentina 6/14/28–d. Bolivia 10/9/67) is not only well-researched but also balanced and very well-written. Although a cultural icon even in life, Che is presented realistically as the hopeful revolutionary he was--too radical and cosmopolitan, perhaps, to have lasted long as a Cuban administrator. One may not agree with his politics, but it is difficult not to admire the man's spirit.
Well, does reading a 850 paged book on someone really humanize them. There's always been a "myth" surrounding Che Guevara, whether it is positive, "a revolutionary hero" (which is true), or demonized, "an evil mass murderer who killed 10,000 people" (absolutely ridiculous propaganda).
I didn't really know too much about Che past the basic facts before reading this book, and now I find it incredibly hard, well, impossible, not to admire him. There is one quote in the book which says that "He [Che
Oct 28, 2009 Jason rated it it was amazing
I bought this book because I really had little to no idea who this guy was. I knew he was involved in the Cuban revolution, and that his face adorns thousands of T-shirts around the world, but that was it.

What really motivated me to finally sit down and read this book was something I saw in a Chinese restaurant about two or three months ago. I was sitting in the restaurant, waiting for my food when a twelve-year-old kid came in, wearing a Che Guevara shirt. I wondered if the kid even knew anyth
Kamil Salamah
Oct 10, 2011 Kamil Salamah rated it it was amazing
Quoting the author on the last page of the epilogue..." Around the time Che's body was exhumed, a scrawl of graffiti in Spanish had appeared on the wall of the Vallegrande public telephone office. It said: Che-Alive as they never wanted you to be".

This is his legacy.And the proof is, every time we witness a social movement or demonstration any where in the world, his ever famous portrait hangs HIGH.

They tried so hard to smear his character but to no avail. A man who lead by example. A man who p
Extremely interesting biography of a very controversial man. I'm still not quite sure what to think of him, but I know considerably more about him.

A side note: my used copy had annotations throughout the first 200 pages - entirely critical comments: 'bum', 'dumbass', etc. That is not the point of a biography, to confirm your own prejudices. It is to form a portrait of a man's life to analyze and learn from.
Feb 10, 2013 Benjamin rated it really liked it
Exhaustive to say the least but if you have any questions about the life of this man, this book will answer them for you. I do get the impression that Guevara would hate just about everybody walking around the US with his picture on a t-shirt.
Jan 24, 2012 Lisa rated it it was ok
I haven't figured out why this guy is so lauded. His anti-imperialism in my opinion led to his own brand of imperialism by bringing his own political agenda to other countries. In one section it explains how he was different from the average Cuban, maybe because he wasn't Cuban? He is lauded as a brilliant and to a degree he had some good ideas however he wasn't smart enough to figure out Communism doesn't work. It's a Utopia that will never be fully achieved because people are not altruistic pe ...more
Sep 04, 2009 Monica rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Monica by: Joe
9/4/09 People don't need me to tell them what a tremendous book this is. I can say now I know what happened. Che is a mythical figure but now I'm informed. Who ever said he killed 3,000 Batistas is wrong. It was more like 55, still not something to ballyhoo, but, to paraphrase Che's words 'kill them before they kill you'. His life and death is as sad as the squalor and poverty he tried to fight in Africa and South America where schools are more like prisons and people are left like animals unedu ...more
Sep 17, 2008 Jason rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those interested in Latin-American (especially Cuban) history and politics
This is a hell of a book, both in length and content! I enjoyed getting a clear and ample picture of such a mythologized human being. Even as a Spanish major, I didn't hear very much about Che, other than that he wanted to be the new Bolivar and he was Castro's right-hand man.
Also, in USA, we tend to only hear about Che and Castro through the anti-Communist, Cold War Era lens. I also learned a lot about communism and its implementation in various countries throughout the world.
It took me a whi
John Devlin
Apr 18, 2016 John Devlin rated it liked it
Granular and authoritative, Anderson's work is mercilessly researched. Che, the man himself, still remains opaque in some regards.

Born a frail asthmatic, a condition that was with him on the day he died, Ernesto, Che, Guevara seemed to live his first decade under a pall of death. Did these continued brushes with mortality explain his uncompromising valor later in life? Perhaps.

Intelligent, Che gave up engineering to become a doctor and clinician, only to set science aside to immerse himself in e
Apr 20, 2014 Andreea rated it it was amazing
I decided to read this book in preparation for our holiday Cuba. I didn't finish it before leaving so I continued reading throughout the trip. The reading experience was enriched by landing in the Cuban reality.

A great part of the book is dedicated to the Cuban revolution and to Che's role in Cuban politics and diplomacy. And this is completely understandable as his fame is related to Cuba although he was an Argentinian.

Lack of knowledge regarding Cuba's history may lead to underestimating the
Matt Algiers
Jan 22, 2015 Matt Algiers rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
As a biography, ignoring the content for a moment, Jon Lee Anderson has pulled of something incredible here. Of all the bios I have read this is undoubtedly the most expansive and comprehensive of the lot. From Ernesto's youth on an Argentinean farm to his days on the motorcycle to his first meeting with Fidel Castro and everything that comes after, this book covers it all in amazingly detailed detail. I just can't imagine doing the research for this book. It's an encyclopedia of a man's life! A ...more
Apr 23, 2011 Amy rated it it was amazing
After trying to research information about Che on the internet and from people around me I found that there is a large amount of propaganda from both Cuban's and American's that conflict with what people are told that this man was like.
This books was thoroughly researched and showed both the great attributes of the man and the extreme views he held. It was also interesting to read about Che as a father, husband and son because I think it is forgotten that those close to him seemed to have to acc
G.d. Brennan
Aug 11, 2012 G.d. Brennan rated it it was amazing
Among Communism's dead and dying giants, Che Guevara stands out. Few of them lived a shorter life; the job title of "Major Communist Figure" seemed to grant Fidel Castro, Deng Xiaoping, Kim Il Sung and others a Methuselah-like longevity, whereas Che didn't live to see his fortieth birthday. But few, too, lived a life so chock full of romantic adventure, intrigue, myth and mystery. It's a life that retains a certain allure, a life that, to many, still seems worthy of veneration and emulation.

It i
Aug 24, 2008 Tresy rated it really liked it
A comprehensive, meticulous, if somewhat plodding biography of one of the most universally misappropriated figures of the 20th Century. I'm not yet in the Sierra Maestra with Fidel, but the prologue to Che's rendezvous with history is still compelling. Did you know he was on hand when the CIA overthrew Arbenz in Guatemala? And folks wonder why Fidel didn't wait around for the US to do the same with the Batistianos (and they tried anway). BTW, if you ever wondered where he got the nickname, it is ...more
Michael Sump
Oct 05, 2015 Michael Sump rated it really liked it
I just finished this biography of Che Guevara, approximately 800 pages. On page 100, I was with him. The plight of the poor and desenfranchised around the world is a crime, and we (citizens of the United States) are not heros in this story. We've backed the oppressors far more than we've fought for the oppressed. I was even sympathetic with Che and Fidel during the Cuban Revolution. Batista was a complete thug and the US should have never backed him. However, by page 650, I couldn't wait for the ...more
Mar 18, 2016 Alex rated it really liked it
What I learned from this book (outside of some really great historical gems):
1) Journalists are important
2) As are Economists. Cuba could have benefited tremendously from the free operation of both.
3) Place and time matter for any revolutionary. Che could have benefited from acknowledging this.
4) No one should want anyone to read their private diaries, because said diary scribe sounds like an a-hole. Sorry, Che. It's true.
Dec 30, 2013 Riley rated it really liked it
Before reading this, I knew very little about Che Guevara, other than the semi-mythology that has developed around him. I'll admit that I approached him with a degree of skepticism given his pop-culture phenomenon: millions of people who admire him but know almost nothing of him.

From this biography it is easy to see why, if you focus on Guevara's younger years, he is object of affection for so many. His travels through the Americas and the lessons they instilled in him are easy to love.

But that
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che guevara 1 9 Oct 30, 2014 08:05AM  
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“Charles Darwin, who had witnessed the
atrocities perpetrated against Argentina’s native
Indians by Juan Manuel de Rosas, had predicted
that “the country will be in the hands of white
Gaucho savages instead of copper-coloured Indians.
The former being a little superior in education,
as they are inferior in every moral virtue.”
“Ibsen: “Education is the capacity to confront the situations posed by life.” 0 likes
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