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Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  11,395 ratings  ·  426 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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Ernesto "Che" Guevara
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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 4 of 5 stars
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
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
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 04, 2009 Caris rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: cuba, 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
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
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
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.
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 4 of 5 stars
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.
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
Este año me enteré que mi tatarabuela paterna huyó de Cuba a Brasil por la Levolución , por eso quiero leer este libro (no por hacerme la progre o seguir modas). Además va a estar bueno conocer un poco más de la vida del Che.

Lo conseguí en portugués. Genial.


Por los motivos ya mencionados empecé a leer este libro. Un infame, de andar descalzo, se sorprendía por la cantidad de páginas que tenía. Debo reconocer que antes de disponerme a hacerlo tambié
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
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
Sep 04, 2009 Monica rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
Kamil Salamah
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
Sep 17, 2008 Jason rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Erik Graff
Sep 04, 2010 Erik Graff rated it 5 of 5 stars
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.
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.
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
wow. i never knew really anything about che, just that he was a revolutionary in cuba and that he was good at it. this book is really in depth and has amazing access that apparently was never before available.

he intersperses interviews from the late 90's of the people that were che's close friends and revolutionaries in arms, his ex-wife and his children. and it also has almost all of his old journals in their unedited form, from his widow.

it was really sad to read the last 50 pages or so (befor
My entire month of May has been swallowed by this monster. As soon as I finished I felt like gasping (Frodo-style) "It is... DONE! It is ACCOMPLISHED!" Accomplished indeed. I know more about the Cuban revolution now than I ever thought I would need to know. As far as biographies go, this is about as good as it gets. Anderson obviously spent years researching his subject and had a treasure of sources to interview. The setction concerning the early battles in Cuba is especially exhaustive. My favo ...more
Paul Martin
My decision to read this book again was deliberate. Had a long flight and needed something to consume my mind. Few books open you up on a second reading. Jon Lee Anderson's well researched masterpiece ripped right through me..

When you write a review on a book like this, you must wonder? How do you write about a man that has become emblematic of revolutions around the world? How do you recognise fault in am man who when paraded dead was said to look like Jesus? How must especially do you capture
Jay G.
This slightly US-slanted epic about, to paraphrase Jean Paul Sartre 'the greatest human being I've ever known' was the scapegoat/inspiration for imbesile director Steven Soderberg's 75 hour slow motion snuff film 'CHE' as well as his greatly uncalled for and absolutely unnecessary part two "CHE TWO: A Mexican Rambo with Asthma and a Cool Hat That Definitely Wasn't Killed By The CIA'.

Whereas Che in my opinion is the most beautiful, ingenious, and inspirational political figure to have ever lived,
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che guevara 1 7 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.”
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