Matija's Reviews > Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life

Che Guevara by Jon Lee Anderson
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's review
Jul 05, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: biography, kindle, social-political, non-fiction, history
Read in June, 2012

This is quite an extensive biography of Che Guevara. On my kindle, it amounts to over 17000 sentences, rivaling the thickest works of George RR Martin. Of course, one doesn't have to read all the notes and footnotes (which the above count includes), but then one would be missing out on interesting tidbits, such as the story of how the iconic image of Che now adoring T-shirts and other crap came to be.

The sheer amount of work that must have gone into writing this biography is mind boggling. Though it encompasses the entirety of Che's life (thankfully it doesn't dwell too much on his early childhood), this is not just the story of Che, it is at the very least a fairly comprehensive history of the Cuban revolution and a look into geopolitical situation of the world (and especially Latin America) in the middle of the twentieth century.

The author was given unprecedented access to unpublished documents about Che's life by Che's widow, Aleida March, so a few things previously unknown about El Commandante come to light. The author tries to thread a fine line between presenting Che's life in a fair, impartial manner and being too impersonal and dry for reader's taste, a task at which he sometimes fails on the latter part. For example, Che's death is presented in a very matter-of-fact way, basically "then he was taken out and shot". On the plus side, this updated edition contains information on the 1990s search for his remains and their transfer to Cuba where they now rest in the mausoleum in Santa Clara.

In the end, what rises before the reader's eyes, is an image of a courageous man who was willing to live and die by and for his principles and who expected others to the same. A man, who was a strict disciplinarian, but to no one more than himself. A revolutionary who found himself more at ease fighting a guerilla war in the jungles of Latin America and Africa than behind a desk. A man who put everything on the line to bring about what he thought a better future for the peoples of Latin America and who was in the end murdered in the attempt. Definitely a rare if not a unique breed of a political and military leader in the history of mankind.

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