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Brief Encounters with Che Guevara: Stories

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  2,082 Ratings  ·  333 Reviews
The well-intentioned protagonists of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara are caught -- to both disastrous and hilarious effect -- in the maelstrom of political and social upheaval surrounding them. In "Near-Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillera," an ornithologist being held hostage in the Colombian rain forest finds that he respects his captors for their commitment to a ca ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published April 10th 2007 by Ecco (first published 2006)
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Community Reviews

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Will Byrnes
Jun 28, 2014 Will Byrnes rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Brief Encounters with Che Guevara is a 2006 collection of eight brilliant short stories by Ben Fountain, author of the wonderful novel, Billy Lynn's Long Half-Time Walk. Brief Encounters established Fountain’s reputation as a writer to watch, earning him a PEN Award, a Whiting Writers Award, an O Henry, and a Barnes and Noble Discover Award. Must be good, right? Indeed it is.

Half the stories are set in Haiti. Others are in Sierra Leone, Colombia, Myanmar and there is even one in Europe. They tel
I picked this book off a shelf at our local library because of the title- and am so glad I didn’t pass it up! I was getting ready to put it back on the shelf (since I am generally not a fan of short stories- with a few exceptions) but couldn’t stop browsing it. I brought it to a nearby chair, read the first 2 chapters and checked it out- giddy with joy.

An eclectic mix of quirky and creative slice-of-life short stories set in such diverse geographical settings as Haiti, Columbia, Myanmar, Burma,
Midu Hadi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 17, 2015 blakeR rated it did not like it
Caveat: I didn't finish it, or even make it through the first story. Since I've lived in Colombia and my wife is from there, there's something deeply arrogant and even offensive to me about this guy attempting to discuss the FARC (oh excuse me -- MURC) situation from a privileged intellectual's perspective without ever having stepped foot in the country. I stopped reading when Fountain's young, white "enlightened" proxy began scolding the Marxists for mismanaging their revolution. I've spent alm ...more
Andrew Breslin
Nov 15, 2010 Andrew Breslin rated it liked it
While this was an entertaining and thought-provoking collection of stories, I've been scratching my head to try to figure out what in the name of holy hell the Boston Globe was thinking when it called it "downright funny" right there on the cover.

Fountain has done an impressive job of transporting us readers to various dark and ugly corners of the globe, usually in the context of war, genocide, greed, exploitation and textbook examples of man's inhumanity to man. And in spite of the claims made
Mark Wilkerson
Jun 03, 2014 Mark Wilkerson rated it it was amazing
Part travelogue, part history textbook, Brief Encounters with Che Guevara is a nearly-flawless collection of historical-fiction short stories sharing a common subject; namely, the stories are centered around first-world expats and travelers (mostly Americans) experiencing life through the accounts of both the brazen and the broken citizens of the "third-world," chiefly Latin America, West Africa, and South Asia.

Read as these Americans observe and participate in the outer edges of societies on
Jul 14, 2015 Melissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
I found this book in a used bookstore. I like birds. I also like Che Guevara. I thought the book would be a great whim, however, I was really put-off by the rave reviews. I was surprised that no one had anything critical to say. I was also disappointed to find that this book was sold in UO. I tend to shy away from hipster reads.

Despite my initial qualms, this collection of short stories really made me think. It certainly worked the old English major muscle

There's no denying that Ben Fountain has
”…I had no idea God and the Devil live so close together. They’re neighbors, in fact, their houses are right beside each other, and sometimes when they’re sitting around with nothing to do they play cards, just as a way to pass the time. But they never wager money—what good is money to them? No, it only souls they’re interested in…[Che Guevara]

Che Guevara never actually makes an appearance in these stories—just sightings of him—but his philosophy gets a workout. Sometimes events just have a way
May 23, 2013 Lou rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
These stories present some high quality storytelling, with a great sense of place and people, the author manages to get you in a place, amidst struggles and different lives. The writing flows well and there is possible strains of a Mark Twain like humour in the social, travel and moral writings here.
Excellent collection of short stories for reading, interesting encounters within the world that spins in and around Che Guevara and others.

Some of the eight stories briefly reviewed.

Near-Extinct Bird
David Abrams
Oct 22, 2013 David Abrams rated it it was amazing
Soon after finishing Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, I turned to Ben Fountain's first book, the 2007 collection of short stories Brief Encounters with Che Guevara. I was not surprised to find the same kind of finely-honed language which Fountain uses to dazzling effect--especially in his evocative and detailed descriptions of characters and settings. The phrases seem to be tossed effortlessly onto the page, but they struck me as so beautiful that I whipped out my highlighter pen. That pen nearl ...more
Ally Shand
Oct 29, 2013 Ally Shand rated it it was amazing
I discovered this book in the same way that I have discovered most of the books that mean the most to me: browsing a second-hand bookshop in an unfamiliar place. In this case it was a charity bookshop in Covent Garden, London.

The stories are original and superbly written. They reveal different facets of the human condition against the volatile backdrop of revolution. From the diamond mines of Sierra Leone to the Bolivian jungle the chosen settings, like the stories themselves, are rich and evoca
Cailin Deery
Mar 26, 2014 Cailin Deery rated it really liked it
Recommended to Cailin by: Ally Shand
At first glance, I guessed this would either be similar to DFW’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men or the Motorcycle Diaries. Although it does have a slightly unfortunate name, my doubts end there. Brief Encounters with Che Guevara is a set of eight rich stories – mostly featuring earnest American ‘protagonists’ in strange, abstractedly revolutionary circumstances. An ornithologist from Duke finds himself held captive in the jungles of Colombia; a Texan golfer scopes out new golf courses in the ...more
Jul 17, 2015 Kara rated it it was amazing
Malcolm Gladwell led me to Ben Fountain's stories through an article published in the New Yorker titled, "Late Bloomers: Why do we Equate Genius with Precocity?" Fountain's work stands on its own pillars in terms of storytelling and underlying complexities. With an internationalist perspective, this book of stories thwarts stereotypes by taking its readers on a journey from the jungles of Colombia's rebel held territory through the eyes of an ornithologist, through the slums of Haiti in search o ...more
Jul 28, 2014 Gadi rated it it was amazing
These short stories follow people through situations where they find themselves out of their depths -- lost, afraid, the environment and the people around them strange, cynical, unforgiving in casual violence. And yet each and every one of the stories is a distinct gem. Rarely do I finish a book of short stories and can vividly remember the characters, plots and settings of each and every one.

If I were to name my favorite stories, it would be the majority of them: The first, of the kidnapped or
Michael Lieberman
Apr 01, 2014 Michael Lieberman rated it it was amazing
Ben Fountain, a Dallas-based writer, has written a remarkable collection of stories. This is slightly old news—the book was published in 2007 (HarperCollins)—but the fiction is so compelling I thought I would give it a plug here. The stories with a significant exception find Americans abroad in murky circumstances that challenge their principles and force them to make uncomfortable choices: an ornithology graduate student is taken prisoner by guerillas in the mountains of Colombia; an aide worke ...more
Sep 05, 2013 Kelly rated it really liked it
I read this book eagerly after Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, which is one of the best novels I've ever read. So, my expectations were high - maybe too high. This felt like a competent collection of short stories, a warm-up to the real thing, the novel. A few of the stories stood out - the last one, about a pianist with 11 fingers, and a few others. The majority were fine, but not captivating. Not one in the whole collection used language with anything like the mastery Fountain showed in Billy ...more
Aug 26, 2010 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fountain, Ben. BRIEF ENCOUNTERS WITH CHE GUEVRA. (2006). *****. This collection of eight short stories previously published by the author in various magazines is one of the best I’ve read in a long time. He manages to write not just short stories, but novels compressed into short story form. Each story features a protagonist who is too idealistic, too naive, or too talented to survive in the surroundings in which they find themselves. The only exception to this is the title story, which is one p ...more
Sep 13, 2013 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
Ben Fountain writes of characters who are transformed by their strange love, wry melancholy, and remarkable passions, insights and self-deception. It is a pleasure to follow his characters as they escape, embrace and make sense of the worlds into which they have chosen to bravely and naively stumble. Fountain's protagonists face unfamiliar territories and transfigured loved ones. While their encounters are often difficult, dangerous, hellish, or unfathomable, who and what the protagonists encoun ...more
Sep 08, 2010 Kate rated it really liked it
I came across this book late and through the back door. Late, because it was published in ’06, and through the back door by way of reading about Ben Fountain in the Malcolm Gladwell essay ‘Late Bloomers: Why Do We Equate Genius with Precocity’ in his book ‘What the Dog Saw’. This is a terrific read - the characters, their problematic situations and the countries they inhabit have stayed with me. Haiti, Sierra Leone, Burma and 19th century Vienna (quite a departure) are vivid and complex and the ...more
Alison Smith
Aug 12, 2016 Alison Smith rated it really liked it
My true rating is 4.5 : I just can't get half a star to show.
Collection of short stories lived up to the enthusiastic reviews. Fountain is good at stories with tropical backgrounds and corrupt dictators,corrupt revolutionaries, corrupt Haiitian politicians and policemen. He exposes tropical sleaze with gusto and yet manages to write gripping entertaining stories. Not to be missed.
Cinthia Ritchie
Aug 09, 2015 Cinthia Ritchie rated it it was amazing
What an odd but wonderful group of short stories. The writing is lyrical, humorous, playful, serious. The best part of each story, though, is the accumulated depth, and how Fountain maintains an integrity of meaning even while describing the mundane (though, trust me, there is very little mundane in these selections).
Highly, highly recommend, especially "Near Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillera" and "The Good Ones Are Already Taken."
(After reading this book I wanted to call Fountain up, inv
Sian Griffiths
Nov 29, 2015 Sian Griffiths rated it really liked it
Lush prose in which characters rub shoulders with the temporarily-inhabited third world.
Kevin Murray
Jun 04, 2016 Kevin Murray rated it it was amazing
How did I miss this book when it came out in 2007? "Brief Encounters with Che Guevara" is a collection of offbeat short stories about life and death in the kinds of places where I’ve been privileged to spend quite a bit of time. It’s a very long way from the creature comforts of suburban Dallas, where he is a successful corporate lawyer, but author Ben Fountain somehow developed a special interest in Haiti. He visited the country dozens of times, over decades. Several of these stories emerge fro ...more
Scott Pierce
Feb 11, 2016 Scott Pierce rated it really liked it
Fountain walks the fine line between hilarity and despair in the series of short stories set in areas ranging from war-torn Africa to golf courses in Myanmar to Ft. Bragg.

An aid worker asks to go to the worst place possible, and finds herself in Sierra Leone during the times gangs are wandering around and chopping off the limbs of all they meet. "Her work was a delaying action at best, a brief comfort and hope to a very small few - she was handing them a glass of water through the window while t
Jeannette Beauvoir
Aug 04, 2015 Jeannette Beauvoir rated it it was amazing
"The force of good always refers to something outside ourselves," writes Ben Fountain in "Rêve Haitien," one of the stories in Brief Encounters With Che Guevara. "We negate ourselves to serve the higher thing. But evil is pure, evil serves only the self of ego, you are limited only by your own imagination."

This collection of sketches takes the reader far from home: to South America, Africa, the Caribbean, and Fountain's descriptions make one feel as though one were in fact there with them, in b
Barbara Rhine
May 07, 2014 Barbara Rhine rated it it was amazing
Each well-wrought tale–and many are about Haiti–explores the love that guides the personal revolutionary act. And whenever someone acts, whether Haitian or foreign, in a country so on the edge, there is risk. So the stories have tension.

First comes “Reve Haitien,” with its haunting inner-city dokte fey, “a kind of roving leaf doctor and cut-rate houngan who happened to have a grounding in Western medical science.” This guy imposes a dangerous task on our do-gooder American narrator, who so loves
Russell Bittner
Apr 04, 2015 Russell Bittner rated it it was amazing
“I want the hardest place – she’d actually said that when she signed her contract. She’d spent two years in Guatemala with the Peace Corps, then three years in Haiti with Save the Children, and after that she wouldn’t be satisfied with anything but the very worst. I want the hardest place – on any given day that was usually Sierra Leone, “the mountain of the lion,” a small, obscure West African country known mainly for its top-quality kimberlite diamonds and the breathtaking cruelty of its civil ...more
Jun 01, 2015 Dan rated it it was amazing
Really snappy collection of eight stories, spanning locales from Haiti to Sierra Leone. I really enjoy Fountain's writing. Some of the situations the characters encounter seem a bit unlikely, but it's in service of a theme that largely spans through the entire collection: the thin line between good actors and bad actors, and the way money can impact even seemingly pure motivations.

A good read after Billy Lynn's Long Halftime walk, which was one of my favorite books of the year so far.
John Tucci
Sep 25, 2015 John Tucci rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this. I thought it was the best collection of shorties I've read since either George Saunders' Tenth of December or Junot Diaz's This is How you Lose Her. In 1983, I took a course called Contemporary Authors from the great Doris Ahrens. Here was our syllabus:
JD Salinger Nine Stories
John Updike Pigeon Feathers
Kurt Vonnegut Welcome to the Monkey House
Truman Capote Breakfast at Tiffany’s
James Michener The Bridge over Andau
Ray Bradbury I Sing the Body Electric
Arthur Miller Death of a
Moshe Mikanovsky
A collection of short stories, where the thread going through them (with the exception of the last story) are people involved in 3rd world occurrences that are bigger then them, which they are ill equipped to handle, and like in many short stories, end with a non-climax that wants you for more. The prose is superb but I didn't have much interest in the stories.
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review 1 17 Apr 14, 2009 05:25AM  
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Ben Fountain's fiction has appeared in Harper's, The Paris Review, and Zoetrope: All Story, and he has been awarded an O. Henry Prize, two Pushcart Prizes, and the PEN/Hemingway Award. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dallas, Texas.
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“He could not comprehend what was happening to him, but it had to do with the casual cruelty of people who'd never missed a meal or had a gun stuck to their heads.” 5 likes
“They were all lawyers, all schooled in the authority of words, though as their words turned to dust a pall of impotence and futility settled over the mission.” 3 likes
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