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Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  22,134 ratings  ·  736 reviews
"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 battlefields of the Cuban re ...more
Paperback, 814 pages
Published March 9th 1998 by Grove Press (NYC) (first published May 1st 1997)
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Jonathan Spencer
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Miles Jordan I wouldn't say that. I'd argue it may present portions of those countries but not the whole perspective. With that being said, you do learn a load abo…moreI wouldn't say that. I'd argue it may present portions of those countries but not the whole perspective. With that being said, you do learn a load about the Cuban Revolution in particular if you read it. I'd argue it is really about Che's life and you find out how much of an idealist and ideology in general that he was. (less)

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May 21, 2014 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
Diane Wallace
May 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Great read! it has depth plus it was intricately researched and well written/balanced..saw the good and bad...highly recommend..(paperback!)
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, biography-etc
I doubt they'll ever be a more definitive account of Che Guevara's life than this epic tome. Jon Lee Anderson lived in Cuba whilst researching this book and it shows with the exhaustive amount of detail.

A Revolutionary Life is infinitely quotable. I could probably write ten blog pages with the musings of Che Guevara but I won't because it wouldn't make sense. But I am going to post a couple during this review starting with:

"I have sworn before a picture of the old and mourned comrade Stalin that
Oct 05, 2008 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
Oct 30, 2008 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
May 09, 2015 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
Kainat Panhwar
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Ohhhh Im in love with my beloved Che...

How brave he is..!!!
How strong he is..!!!
How determined he is...!!

I was continously sobbing and reading his last words when Bolivian army executed him he said "I know you came here to kill me..
shoot me coward you are killing only a man, you can not kill my ideas" ...

Actually What I do not like in communism is that, it abolishes the religion because Karl Marx clearly said that *Religion is a silent protest of people against the state through prayers*.

What I
Erik Graff
Sep 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Alma
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. ...more
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,

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
Sep 10, 2007 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. ...more
Sep 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An astonishing book. It took me almost a month to get through this enormous story. The clearness with which Anderson writes is incredible which makes the reading of an 800 page book a lot easier. The story of Ernesto "Che" Guevara is one of truly epic proportions. The most inspiring story I have ever read. This book has changed me as a person forever. ...more
Sep 08, 2009 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
G.d. Brennan
Aug 11, 2012 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
K.D. Absolutely
May 06, 2009 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.
Aug 02, 2021 rated it liked it
Really not a great narrative, just like 750 pages of exhaustive details with very little zooming out to take big-picture stock of those details. But I'm glad I read it. ...more
Dec 29, 2007 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
Scott  Hitchcock
Well written and comprehensive. At times too much so as the author gets lost in details that don't really matter. Still a good book that gave me a lot of details I didn't know about Che. It's also interesting to read about somebody with such an anti American attitude. The evils of imperialism through the eyes of others sheds light on current events. ...more
Nov 23, 2008 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.
Ashok Krishna
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘What a man can be, he must be’

Those were the words of American psychologist Abraham Maslow, a contemporary of Ernesto Guevara de la Serna-Lynch or, simply, ‘Che’. Little could have Maslow known then that a man would rise to global renown from the southernmost part of his own continent, trying to be what he could be – a revolutionary of the highest caliber. And in the process, that man would become one of the most dangerous enemies of Maslow’s homeland.

Che is relevant to Maslow for another reas
Dec 26, 2013 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
Jan 28, 2009 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
Matt Albers
Nov 18, 2009 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
Jan 09, 2012 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
Kamil Salamah
Oct 10, 2011 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
Jon Anderson’s superb biography of Ernesto “Che” Guevara will remain a seminal study of both Guevara and of the Cuban revolution through Che’s death in 1967. A classic narrative biography, it certainly was not the first exploration of Che’s life and times. In 1997, when the work was published, it was at the end of a long line of works written by both popular and academic researchers. [The bibliography which Anderson includes at the end of his text highlights a fraction of the studies that was th ...more
Doreen Petersen
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Outstanding historical book! I was totally blown away by it. I would totally recommend reading this one. You won't be disappointed! ...more
Esther Espeland
Wow the end of an ERA. Okay first 400 pages breezed by but once I reached after the Cuban revolution the next 400 pages would be a rather weary road but I DID it and I learned so much abt the Cuban revolution and Marxist communism in the process
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What can I say about the book. Well researched and complete, the flow that of a novel. Like a lot of people though I feel like the author came to think of him as something larger than life, but the stories he told to me don’t describe that at all. Che was a naive narcissist who took more pride in his personal efforts of sacrifice than actually ever accomplishing anything good for anyone in his entire life. The Cuban revolution moved from one dictator to another, made the economy far worse, on to ...more
Malini Goswami
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
speechless! I am glad I read this book and I will re read it .. it's a book u can never get enough of.. ...more
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Jon Lee Anderson, a staff writer, began contributing to The New Yorker in 1998. Since then, he has covered numerous conflicts for the magazine, including those in Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Angola, Somalia, Sudan, Mali, and Liberia. He has also reported frequently from Latin America and the Caribbean, writing about Rio de Janeiro’s gangs, the Panama Canal, the 2010 earthquake in Hai ...more

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95 likes · 18 comments
“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.”
“There are different versions, but according to legend, Che’s last words, when Terán came through the door to shoot him, were: “I know you’ve come to kill me. Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man.” 6 likes
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