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Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life

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"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 revolution. Jon Lee Anderson's biography traces Che's extraordinary life, from his comfortable Argentine upbringing to the battlefields of the Cuban revolution, from the halls of power in Castro's government to his failed campaign in the Congo and assassination in the Bolivian Jungle.

Anderson has had unprecedented access to the personal archives maintained by Guevara's widow and carefully guarded Cuban government documents. He has conducted extensive interviews with Che's comarades-some of whom speak here for the first time-and with CIA men and Bolivian officers who hunted him down. Anderson broke the story of where Guevara's body was buried, which led to the exhumation and stat burial of the bones. Many of the details of Che's life have long been cloaked in secrecy and intrigue. Meticulously researched and full of exclusive information, Che Guevara illuminates as never before this mythic figure who embodied the high-water mark of revolutionary communism as a force in history."

814 pages, Paperback

First published May 1, 1997

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About the author

Jon Lee Anderson

53 books219 followers
Jon Lee Anderson has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1998. He has covered numerous conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, reported frequently from Latin America and the Caribbean, and written profiles of Augusto Pinochet, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez, and Gabriel García Márquez. He is the author of several books, including The Lion’s Grave: Dispatches from Afghanistan, Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life, Guerillas: Journeys in the Insurgent World, and The Fall of Baghdad.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 833 reviews
Profile Image for Jareed.
136 reviews274 followers
June 13, 2014
“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, born in an affluent family of landed Argentinean elites, albeit a family on a sole route certain to lead them to modest living later on. Ernestito, as he was fondly called, was born with asthma, and throughout his life, this will limit and define him.

At 7, barred by his recurring and debilitating asthma attacks from engaging in strenuous activities reinforced by a concrete mother-son relationship, Ernesto developed a love for literature. He was, in most instances in his life, a voracious reader.

The Young Che groomed in an elite society

At 16, “Everything began with literature for him” (89). At this age he has quoted Freud and Nietzsche in his journal. He read Jack London, Bertrand Russell, Faulkner, Kafka, Camus, and Sartre. Most often, he said, Neruda was his favorite.


At 25, While in Medical School, Ernesto has traveled a sizeable part of South America first through his bicycle later outfitted with a motor and later with a motorbike. The travels are of monumental importance, in this austere travels characterized by the occasional begging of food and hitch-hiking rides, Che met the people of South America and for the first time saw the world through their forgotten faces and unheard voices. Indeed he writes, “The person who wrote these notes died upon stepping once again onto Argentine soil. The person who edits and polishes them, me, is no longer. At least, I am not the person I was before. The vagabonding through ‘America’ has changed me more than I thought.” (167)

descriptionChe with his faithful bicycle he used for travelling

At 27, He meets Fidel and Raul Castro, who will later on invite him in, to which he giddily joined, the July 26 Movement for the liberation of Cuba from Batista. This critical step launches Ernesto away from his paradoxical behavior of complete apathy and radical declamations that characterized his earlier years. “I will be with the people, and i know it because I see it etched in the night that I, the eclectic dissector of doctrines and psychoanalyst of dogmas, howling like one possessed, will assault the barricades or trenches, will bathe my weapon in blood and, mad with fury, will slit the throat of any enemy who falls into my hands." (201)

At 32, The July 26 Movement finds daylight, Batista flees the country, and a newly established revolutionary government with Fidel Castro as the head pronounced Che Guevara as a Cuban Citizen by birth. Che helps implement land reforms and literacy improvement projects in the liberated Cuba.

Che with Castro

At 36, He left his ministerial position, commander’s rank, and family to spark off new revolutions.

At 39, Che Guevara was caught in Bolivia, while tied down and kept as a prisoner, he was shot to death, his hands were cut-off, and buried in an unmarked mass grave. The remains were exhumed and later found through a confession of a retired Bolivian General who came clean to this book’s author.

Jon Lee Anderson made a splendid job writing this biography. He was an international investigative reporter, war correspondent and staff writer for The New Yorker. His fastidiousness and training as an investigative writer was thoroughly employed in an outstanding manner. This is a well researched work grounded on extensive and exclusive primary sources that were given to Anderson when he approached Che Guevara’s widow, Aleida March, a distinction other written biographies lack that inevitably strips them of some semblance of true portrayal of Che’s life if not sheer outright veracity that led to biographies that have often resulted to sanctimonious and romanticized accounts.

Anderson’s narrative is fluid and light. He presents the social milieu operative in Che’s environment and in so doing, the reader is made to understand how this helped shape the man. Anderson intermittently interjects his intuitive comments on the narrative which are always rational if not factual. What I have come to appreciate the most was Anderson’s tone in writing which was, if not totally objective, was not defined by a ‘western’ bias in the least.

This is a great piece of work not only because of Anderson’s capacity and technical aspects in writing but more so in what it has substantially achieved. He was able to peel layers and layers of laudatory accounts and legends on this icon and revealed the man within.

Did I enjoy reading this biography? Definitely, yes!

Did I come to know Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara? Yes!

Will I recommend this? This is the book one must read to know Che Guevara.

*Accounts vary on this, and the incident itself has attained an exalted position, sometimes mythologized. Other accounts point that this is Che’s last written word as contained in his Bolivian diary.

This review, along with my other reviews, has been cross-posted at imbookedindefinitely
Profile Image for Diane Wallace.
1,132 reviews54 followers
December 29, 2017
Great read! it has depth plus it was intricately researched and well written/balanced..saw the good and bad...highly recommend..(paperback!)
Profile Image for Maziyar Yf.
495 reviews244 followers
February 10, 2020
چه گِوارا – زندگی انقلابی زندگی نامه 1060 صفحه ای ارنستو چه گوارا ، چریک مشهور است که آقای جان آندرسن خبرنگار آنرا نوشته ، او با علاقه ای بسیار ارنستو را در تمام طول زندگی کوتاهش (39 سال ) دنبال کرده ، حتی به مناطق صعب العبوری که ارنستو از آن گذشته هم رفته ، کلبه ها ، پناه گاهها و بالاخره مدرسه ای که در آن اعدام شده را دیده و در کتاب به تمام جزییات زندگی ارنستو پرداخته و جالب آنکه مترجم ایرانی کتاب آقای علیرضا رفوگران هم تقریبا همین مسیر سخت را رفته و برای درک حس و حال زندگی چریکی به آمریکای جنوبی سفر کرده وفضا و محیط آن را خود تجربه کرده .
کتاب به زندگی پر ماجرای ارنستو می پردازد ، او که در آرژانتین و در خانواده نسبتا مرفه به دنیا آمده ، درس خوانده و دانشجوی پزشکی است در جوانی نشانه های سرکشی و طغیان در او ظاهر می شود به همراه دوستش به سفری طولانی در آمریکای جنوبی می رود ، با یک موتور سیکلت و بدون امکانات .
او در طول سفر به نقش کمپانی های بزرگ آمریکایی در استثمار مردم و عقب نگه داشته شدن آنها و همین طور نفوذ بسیار آنان در دولتهای آمریکای جنوبی پی می برد، در گواتمالا شاهد انقلاب برضد حکومت دست نشانده فاسد بوده تا دست روزگار او را در یک مهمانی با فیدل کاسترو (که آن زمان کروات می زده و ریش هم نداشته ) آشنا کرده ، به رویاهای فیدل و برادرش رائول گوش داده و بالاخره دل به او می سپارد ، به همراه فیدل و 82 نفر دیگر در یک کشتی کوچک و با کمی سلاح و مهمات به کوبا می روند تا یک انقلاب و شورش در آن به راه اندازند .
اما حمله اولیه آنها فاجعه بار بود ، از 82 نفر فقط 12 نفر زنده ماندند و به اعماق جنگل و کوهها فرار کردند ، اما کم کم جان گرفتند ، با دهقانان صحبت کردند ، آنها را جذب کردند ، کمتر بزرگ و بزرگتر شدند ، حمایت افکار عمومی کوبا را جلب کردند ، ملت از رژیم فاسد باتیستا که مانند بیشتر رژیم های مشابه از جانب آمریکا حمایت می شد روبرگرداندند و به شورشی ها پیوستند . در یکی از جنگها ، سرنوشت چه عوض شد ، او جعبه لوازم پزشکی خود را زمین گذاشت تا اسلحه ای بدست گیرد و از این لحظه به بعد او به صورت کامل سمبل و نشانه یک چریک شد .
کتاب به صورت کامل شرایط بسیار سخت زندگی چریکی را ��رح داده ، گرسنگی ، بیماری ، جنگ ، راه پیمایی های بسیار طولانی و کثیفی ( جایی نویسنده اشاره می کند که چِه برای 6 ماه حمام نکرده )اما این شرایط سخت در تصمیم این مردان هیچ خللی وارد نکرد ، آنها شهرها را یکی پس از دیگری فتح کردند و به آستانه هاوانا پایتخت کوبا رسیدند .
چِه که اکنون نفر دوم پس از کاسترو است دیگر کماندانته (فرمانده ) شده ، آنها در میان استقبال مردم بستوه آمده وارد پایتخت می شوند ، در حالی که باتیستا در جایی دیگر دارد کریسمس را با آمریکایی ها جشن می گیرد ( این صحنه در فیلم پدرخوانده 2 آمده ، جایی که سرمایه داران آمریکایی که مایکل کورلئونه هم میان آنهاست در حال جشن متوجه می شوند که انقلاب پیروز شده و آنها باید فرار کنند) حالا که انقلاب پیروز شده چِه که بسیار به فیدل نزدیک است وزیر دادگستری می شود ، مانند همه کشورهای انقلاب زده دادگاه انقلابی لازم است تا عناصر فاسد و وابسته به رژیم قبل را از بین ببرد ، ارنستو هم با ایمان خالص خود به کاسترو حی و حاضر است ، دادگاه انقلاب با امضای چِه شمار نامعلومی را اعدام می کند ، سپس بدون آنکه چیزی از اقتصاد بداند ( تخصص لازم نیست ، ایمان مهم است ) رئیس بانک مرکزی کوبا و سپس وزیر اقتصاد می شود !
نویسنده در این قسمت در مشکلات اقتصادی کوبا ریزمیشود ، کوبا هم مانند کشورهای جهان سومی دیگر اقتصاد تک محصولی دارد ،برداشت نیشکر به علت خرابی تراکتورهای آمریکایی که قطعات یدکی ندارند و بسیاری از آنها فقط به خاطر کمبود پیچ کار نمی کنند بسیار پایین آمده و از ایمان این چریک های ریشوی انقلابی هم هیچ کاری حتی ساخت پیچ و مهره هم بر نمی آید !
اما حکومت انقلابی باید اندیشه های گهربار خودش را به جهان صادر کند ،همه مردم جهان باید از این رفاه و آرامش کوبا بهره مند شوند ، از آفریقا گرفته تا کشورهای همسایه.
ارنستو در حسرت زندگی چریکی و تفنگ می سوزد ، او بدون دعوت به آفریقا و جمهوری کنگو می رود تا شورشیان را در مبارزه با استعمار بلژیک و آمریکا کمک کند ، حتی شروع به یاد گرفتن زبان سواحیلی می کند ،اما به علت تفاوتهای فرهنگی رابطه ای با آفریقا برقرار نمی کند ، مردم به او نمی پیوندند ، ارنستو و گروه کوباییش منزوی می شوند و به کوبا باز می گردند .
ولی ارنستو اهل صبر نیست ، این بار نوبت بولیوی ایست تا کوبا در امور داخلی آن دخالت کند اما شورش و انقلاب در بولیوی فقیر هم پا نمی گیرد ، ارنستو و گروه کوچکش همواره در حال فرار از دست پلیس و ارتش بولیوی هستند ، اما بالاخره این داستان باید تمام شود ، آسم چِه در ارتفاعات بولیوی عود کرده و او به شدت بیمار است ، گروه او محاصره شده و چِه حتی توان فشردن ماشه تفنگ را هم ندارد ، بزرگترین چریک جهان بدست پلیس بولیوی افتاده و چند ساعت بعد به دستور دولت اعدام می شود .
بدین ترتیب زندگی ارنستو چه گوارا مردی که ژان پل سارتر معروف او را کاملترین انسان نامیده بود و سیمون دوبووارو گروهی دیگر از روشنفکران او را می ستودند به پایان می رسد ، مردی که نگاه نافذ ، چهره جذاب ، پاکی و صداقتش ، شاید سایه ای بر دیگر فعالیت های اوانداخته بود .
آقای آندرسن هیچ قضاوتی در مورد چه نمی کند ، او فقط چیزی را که گذشته بازگو می کند و هیچ نظری نمی دهد ، اما امروزه می توان متوجه شد که این چریک در دنیای متفاوتی با مردم آمریکای لاتین زندگی می کرده ، در آخرین نامه به کاسترو نوشته که امروزه مردم در حسرت انقلاب و آرمانهای سوسیالیتی می سوزند و به زودی شاهد انقلاب در تمام آمریکای لاتین خواهیم بود .چیزی که تا به حال رخ نداده . تقریبا تمامی آمریکای لاتین انواع گوناگون سرمایه داری و بازار آزاد را پیش گرفته اند و به پیشرفتهای چشمگیر رسیده اند و کوبا و ونزوئلا تنها کشورهایی هستند که آرمانهای سوسیالیستی یا مارکسیستی آنها اقتصادشان را ویران کرده و همین امر باطل بودن راهی که کاسترو و چه گوارا در گذشته پیمودند و به آن اعتقاد داشتند را نشان می دهد .
Profile Image for SAM.
248 reviews5 followers
May 2, 2019
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 I won't rest until I see these capitalist octopuses annihilated"

I don't mind admitting I knew very little about Che Guevara prior to reading this. There's the famous photo, which is plastered across anything merchandisable usually completely out of context, and his association with Fidel Castro. I was ignorant of the who, what, where, when etc. Thankfully this biography answers every question I was ever likely to have about the great man.

Split into three parts, each section focuses on a different stage of Che's life. Part 1 gives a brief glimpse into his childhood and goes up to the beginning of his "working relationship" with Fidel Castro. Part 2 covers the battle for Cuba and the Cuban Revolution and Part 3 focuses on life after the Cuban victory up to his death in Bolivia.

There is a huge amount of detail and ground covered in this book, so much so that 'huge' isn't an apt enough word to use. There were times when I was completely enthralled by the story the author was presenting me with, his research phenomenal and attention to detail obviously passionate; I had to keep reminding myself this was true. Despite how Che is depicted in pop culture he wasn't some kind of machine gun wielding Bruce Willis type One Man Army. The battles he fought were under cover, in the dark and the dirt, fought in close quarters, nasty, brutal and ugly. The author is superb at putting you in the midst of a battle; you can quite easily go from philosophy and politics to blood soaked ambushes.

Sometimes, though, the detail is overwhelming. On a few occasions the author tries to fit too much into too few sentences; minor events, dates, places, names are reeled off in quick succession, becoming too much to process and easy to forget. I understand the author wanted to give a comprehensive account of the story behind the legend but at least a hundred pages could have been cut. This was the only issue I had.

"For Ernesto, the iconography of modern Argentine nationhood was merely a superficial veneer, "a luxurious facade" under which the country's true "soul" lay; and that soul was rotten and diseased"

If you're after a dense and complete history of Che Guevara then I cannot recommend this book enough. Yes, it's 800 long pages and at times hard going but it's still an important book packed with intriguing history.
Profile Image for Christopher.
5 reviews3 followers
October 31, 2008
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 Che. I mean what a deeply reflective thinker. What a passionate soul. A true inspiration is Che Guevara to one who needs a boost of courage to take the risk of following what they believe in, even if it means sacrificing the easy road of a lot of comfort and security in one's life.
Profile Image for Marc.
67 reviews
January 11, 2009
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 the most intelligent men of his era, but he is also a showcase for what can happen when a great mind is letting his emotions take over at virtually all time. After reading this book, it is clear that Che was and is misunderstood by a whole lot of people. In the end he was a flawed man, who believed that what he was doing was for the good of the poor and the oppressed. He believed that was worth to sacrifice his own comfort and ultimately own life. I can only respect him for that. I admit that I try to overlook his dark side a little bit in order to let him shine just enough.
And may I say it...this book changes the way I view things...
Profile Image for Kaśyap.
271 reviews123 followers
September 25, 2015
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 him to life.

Che is one of the most important and charismatic figures of the human struggle against injustice and oppression. This biography is meticulously detailed and comprehensive. John lee Anderson takes us from the social conditions of his childhood, his family whose independent spirit will be a great influence on him, his medical studies, to his famous motorcycle journeys and his later journeys across the Americas that awakened his political and social consciousness as he became a dedicated Marxist. The Cuban revolution after which he became the principal architect of its economic direction, and his return to Guerrilla warfare after he decided that the Cuban revolution was on the right path that eventually led to his death in Bolivia. The death that would give him such an enduring romantic legacy. The final section of this book has many poignant moments.

Che was selfless, strong-willed, honest, a lover of learning who constantly read books, and was totally dedicated to the cause of struggle against imperialism. While Fidel and Che shared the same goals and ideals, Fidel was a wily politician who presented a different face to the public from his private self and Che was honest to a fault who always spoke his mind. The author brings out both the passionate romantic and the cold rationale side of him.

As a guerilla he was a man embroiled in a violent struggle and was no saint. He was a great tactician and a charismatic leader who attracted undying loyalty from many. He led an ascetic life and expected everyone to live upto his standards. He was a strict disciplinarian. He was also very idealistic and utopian which shows in the unbridled faith and optimism that he showed even when people around him were failing him.
As an administrator he was the driving force behind Cuba’s land reforms and its successful health and literacy programs. As a Marxist, he wanted to diversify and industrialise the Cuban economy. In this he was critical of the soviet model and was more of a Maoist.

He was a dedicated internationalist and he held that socialism could only be successful with the creation of the "New Man". He believed that a change in consciousness should be simultaneous with the new material foundations. I think his idea of the "New socialist man" is his most important contribution to Marxist theory. He argued that capitalism produces incomplete alienated individuals that only a true socialist society enables a man to become a complete individual.

An excellent and inspirational biography of a truly selfless revolutionary. He dedicated his life to what he believed in and he ultimately died for it.

Profile Image for Amin Dorosti.
139 reviews85 followers
April 27, 2017
این کتاب یکی از بهترین بیوگرافی هایی هست که تا به حال خوانده ام و بی تردید بهترین کتابی ست که درباره چه گوارا تا به حال دیده ام، کتاب نه تنها خوش خوان و جذاب است، بر خلاف بسیاری از بیوگرافی ها اصلا کسل کننده و خسته کننده نیست. افزون بر این به نطر میرسد که نویسنده کوشیده است تا از موضعی بی طرفانه و یا حداقل با کمترین سوگیری به روایت زندگی یکی از بزرگترین چهره های قرن بیستم بپردازد.
کتاب را در سالهایی که سر پر شوری در گرایشات چپ داشتم و در فضای سیاسی دانشگاه به قولی خودم را یک چه گوارای کوچک می پنداشتم خواندم و به واقع با آن زندگی کردم، یادم هست در روزهایی این کتاب را میخواندم که امتحانات پایان ترم دانشگاه بود، و من به جای خواندن درس ها مدام این کتاب را میخواندم، در نتیجه همین کتاب یک ترم مشروطی را برای من به ارمغان آورد :-)

از این خاطره شخصی که بگذریم، این کتاب کوشیده است تا نگاهی صرفا شخصی و زندگی نامه ای نداشته باشد و در کنار روایت زندگی چه گوارا به حوادث و رویدادهای مهم میانه قرن بیستم هم بپردازد و از این رو به نوعی روایتی کلی از تاریخ مبارزات چریکی و به ویزه مبارزات و جریان های ضد امپریالیستی قرن بیستم ارائه میدهد.
به هر روی خواندن این کتاب را به تمام دوستانی که به شخص چه گوارا و تاریخ مبارزات چریکی و نیز تاریخ انقلاب کوبا و تحولات سیاسی میانۀ قرن بیستم و به ویژه دهه 1960 میلادی علاقه مند هستند به شدت توصیه میکنم.
Profile Image for Dani Levy ( Дани Леви ).
57 reviews28 followers
April 27, 2022
Here comes the Cuban born bookworm to leave a passive aggressive review on a biography about someone who has caused mass generational trauma that I was forced head first to live through, because if you haven't realized it yet, I am (probably) a genuine psychopath who searches propaganda fueled books to read.

But wait - I have some positives here! Hence the lack of 1 star.

2 stars for the immense detail this book has and for the attempt at being (cue italic font to imply sarcasm) *somewhat* neutral. One thing I cannot ignorantly claim is that Jon Lee Anderson does not do his research, because boy - he does. I must applaud him for such dedication in not just this book, but many of his books (which unsurprisingly all have similar pro-communist undertones) but alas. His research is so immense, fellow communist comrades of his leave ONE STAR reviews because it was "too boring" for them. They want to hear the ICON that (italic font) was CHE. They don't want to know about his details and life, they want to read about the (italic) HERO he was in the Communist world. Do you understand the intelligence one must have to write about a Communist (italic) hero and have comrades complain about the length of the book? Touché, Anderson.

Now, let's get into the issues - and this applies to most if not all of Jon Lee Andersons books.
Getting first hand accounts for a biography is always wonderful.. unless the first hand accounts are strictly and solely from the same side of a coin. We don't get a full grip as to who Ernesto really was when the accounts are based on those who saw the good and only the good sides to him. This book is lengthy, but had these accounts been from the other side of the coin, you know, the girlfriends he violently beat, the children he became a deadbeat to, the shoot outs, the racist slurs he's called those of indigenous lineage and African descended Cubans, the families he jailed for speaking up, the execution shoot outs in Angola and Cuba, his beliefs towards those in the LGBT community and anyone who simply had the unfortunate luck to come across his narcissist, egoist, power hungry psychopathic being, this book would be far more lengthy. And perhaps, something even Communists would then appreciate to read as it would, in their derange minds, paint Ernesto as the (italic) true hero he was.

Simply put, there is no accuracy in a biography written to demonstrate someones entire life if you only add the good parts and the slightly, superficially imperfect parts. As a 1 star review put it: the unfortunate truth is this man was one, and still one, to be on the same platform as Mao, Hitler, Staling and other corrupt and deranged dictators. Ernesto was simply, thankfully, executed before he received the chance.
Profile Image for Erik Graff.
5,008 reviews1,118 followers
November 7, 2018
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.
Profile Image for A.J. Howard.
98 reviews132 followers
January 3, 2016

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, but usually a Che shirt symbolizes that the wearer listens to Rage Against the Machine in their car stereos on the way to the mall to spend their parents money at the most convenient Hot Topic. As others have noted, the person who would be most revolted by this misappropriation of identity would be Che himself.

The cult of Che continues to make some sense, even after the end of the Cold War. Guevara was brilliant, curious, compassioniate, and utterly committed to his principal beliefs. Among the communist leaders of the 20th century, Guevara emerges as the one most faithfully committed to his principles. It's hard to imagine Che compromising Marxist principles for the sake of economic expediency, like Lenin, or for the accumulation of personal power, like Stalin. Che was willing to die for his beliefs, indeed he arguably actively sought his own eventual martyrdom.

Additionally, Che's legacy, like Kurt Cobain's or Jim Morrison's, greatly benefited from the relative brevity of his life. Che died soon enough that his entire life in still basked in the warm glow of revolution. Perhaps one of the reasons he appears so steadfast is that he didn't live long enough to compromise his legacy. There's the added benefit that Che was a pretty handsome guy, so we remember him as a dashing guerilla type. There is no footage of Che as a doddering 80 year old man still wearing army fatigues, rambling incoherencies.

In many ways, Che was an archetype for the baby boomer generation. Born into a middle class Argentinian family, Che spent his early years searching for a sense of meaning. He eventually found it in a sympathy with the poor and exploited peasants of Latin America. This further exacerbated an already present sense of anti-Americanism, that lasted throughout his lifetime. Contrary to U.S. Cold Warrior theory, it was antipathy to Americans that eventually led him to Marxism. To be fair, such feelings weren't exactly unjustified. Wherever there was a South or Central American corrupt dictator exploiting his people there was usually the government of the United States standing behind them. Communism was initially just the bugaboo used to justify intervention. The real reason the United States intervened in South America during the Eisenhower years was to protect the interests of United Fruit, Coca-Cola and other American companies. Guevara's sympathies for the downtrodden of Latin America eventually drove him to armed resistance. In Guatemala, he fought against the U.S. backed coup against a democratically elected president. The failure of this struggle taught Guevara many lessons, and was probably the last push that led to him becoming a full-fledged Communist.

After the coup in Guatemala, Che continued to Mexico City, which was at the time the exile capital of Americas. Here he connected with a group of Cuban exiles through whom he eventually met a young lawyer who had recently been let out of prison for a failed attack on a barracks, Fidel Castro. Here Guevara finally found the purpose that would consume the rest of his life. The rest, as they say, is history.

Che's life is a story of a young man's search for fulfillment, eventual satisfaction, and an attempt to, for lack of better words, "chase that feeling." The success of Castro's revolution is truly a remarkable story. A group of several dozen rebels led by Castro landed in Cuba in December, 1956. WIthin weeks their numbers had been reduced to less than twenty. Yet just a little two years after their disastrous landing, Batista's dictatorship had collapsed and the rebels were marching into Havana. I'm not sure what sure of this ultimate success can be apportioned to the leadership of Castro, Guevara, and others, but obviously a tremendous deal of luck was involved.

Che spent the remainder of his life with the ambition to duplicate the Cuban revolution in his birthplace. Here's where Che's many faults came into play. Guevara had all of the arrogance and hardheadedness that came with being a steadfast ideologue. Just because something had been done once, Che believed that it could be duplicated in different situations by following a set of principles. This belief led to nothing but disasters of an increasingly hubristic nature. Che failed that his earlier success in Cuba made a repeat of that success near impossible. Now, Latin American governments and their U.S. supporters would not tolerate small bands of guerillas operating in the mountains, allowing them to build up their resources. Instead, they would be smashed quickly and brutally.

After seeing several of his sponsored guerilla groups destroyed, as a result of what he perceived as a failure to follow his instructions, Che decided to reenter the field himself. Ironically, these expeditions on a smaller scale resembled the situation the United States was concurrently experiencing in Vietnam. Che went into the Congo convinced that his leadership and Cuban support could inspire the disparate rebel groups there. Instead, the rebellion had been smashed within months and the path was set the stage for the 30 year Mobutu dictatorship.

Che's final venture in Bolivia was a complete and utter fiasco. The farce didn't even deserve the term revolution, it was more of a Cuban intervention in a sovereign country. Castro and Guevara decided that Bolivia was the appropriate launching spot for what they hoped would be a continent-wide uprising and they strong armed elements in Bolivia to provide the reluctant and feeble native backing. The struggle was essentially Cuban led, and mostly Cuban fought with an element of Bolivian support. Not surprisingly, it was a disaster from the start, and Che didn't follow his own rule book. Events culminated in Guevara's eventual surrender and execution.

Like I mentioned, Che had all of the strengths and weaknesses of an intellectual who lives in sole service of an idea. He was a moral man without hypocrisy, who could be charismatic, funny, and brilliant. But he served his idea to a faul. As much as he railed against the untoward influence of the U.S. over Latin America, his beliefs put Cuba into a much more subservient position toward the U.S.S.R. Even before his death, he left his children fatherless to serve the revolution. He was also uncompromising to a fault. He was willing to look favorably upon nuclear armageddon as long as it served his cause. In the romantic accounts of Guevara's life and death, it is not mentioned that he died in an attempt to spark World War III. His aspirations were that his uprising in Bolivia would lead to a continent wide uprising that would create a second Vietnam in the Americas. He hoped this would inspire China and the Soviet Union to set aside their sectarian differences to unite in a general struggle against the United States. He foresaw a more socialistic humanity emerging from the ashes of a nuclear conflict. He was willing to see the death of millions as long as it served his ideological beliefs. No matter his good qualities, this lessens the sense of tragedy surrounding his execution, for me at least.

Whatever the case may be, the life and death of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara is an epic tale, and Jon Lee Anderson does an admirable job in relating it. The investigative journalistic work that Anderson did oozes out of the work. Anderson spent years on this project, and lived for years in Cuba. In addition to reading almost everything written about or by Che, Anderson has interviewed scores of Guevara's contemporaries, in Cuba and Argentina, including childhood friends, Cuban officials, and fellow guerillas. What emerges is a balanced biography that is rare for such a polarizing subject. My review perhaps does not exhibit this quality, but this is more of a result of the conclusions I drew from the book and not a reflection on any inherent biases Anderson might have. Anderson does not seek to beatify or demonize, he seeks to report. Doing so, he actually was able to break news. It was his research in the course of writing this book that led to the discovery of Guevara's long lost remains near a airstrip in Bolivia in 1997. Anderson chips off the tarnish of mythology to prevent an evenhanded and reliable account of life of one of the most iconic figures of the 20th century.

Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,738 reviews1,468 followers
August 31, 2012
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 of his siblings, parents, children and wives are chronicled too. This book is comprehensive. His characteristics are exemplified through his deeds. You are not merely told that he is “a man of principle”, but you are shown how his deeds make him that. I admire Che Guevara and yet he went too far. At least in my opinion. He certainly wanted to help others. He certainly demanded high standards of others, but he demanded the same of himself.

This book is also about the ideals of socialism. It is about communism and how the Russian and Chinese diverge. It is about the guerrilla warfare. The book is about how these political ideologies spread in Latin America. You learn of how these ideologies played out in all of Latin America, not just in the country of his birth, Argentina, not just in Cuba, but in Nicaragua and Guatemala and Peru and Bolivia and Mexico. The history of all of Latin America from the 30s through the 60s is delineated. Why? Because he had a hand in much of it. You learn of the fight for socialism in the Congo too.

I am usually not interested in politics. But Che had such devotion to his principles that his enthusiasm spreads and you understand why he does what he does, even if it all goes too far in the end. The author made me understand how Che reasoned. And Che knew his own faults. You see in this book how people change and how they don’t change. How wonderful ideals can get all messed up.

I feel I know who Che Guevara is after reading this book. I learned a lot about Latin American history. Through his life I became very interested in this history. There are a lot of names and historical facts that will disappear from my head, but something will fasten.

I listened to an audiobook. The narration, by Armando Durán, was superb. He could read the facts with an appropriate tone. Equally well he made the reader understand Che’s emotions. Beware, this is a very long audiobook - 36 hours and 48 minutes! I found all of it compelling. To really know who Che is you must hear the details. These facts are not boring. The pronunciation of the Spanish names I found difficult to “spell out”. I couldn’t even see them because I had no book in front of me and they are pronounced fluently. Nevertheless I did remember most of who all these people were. Don’t ask me to write out their names because I cannot, but I did recognize who was who as I listened.

You must know that Che was really called Ernesto. Che means “you, there”! He used to say that all the time to others. That is why others started calling him that. He was trained as a doctor. When he was young he was not at all interested in politics. He had terrible asthma. Can you imagine fighting as a guerrilla with asthma in humid climates? These are just a smattering of some interesting tidbits.

No, I don’t believe in communism. No, I don’t believe in guerrilla warfare. I still admire Che Guevara. He is a fascinating person. If he didn’t know something, he set himself to learn it. I will put an end to this…..I cannot go on and on telling you about him. I highly recommend this book, but give yourself the time to read it properly.
Profile Image for Jason.
Author 9 books417 followers
October 28, 2009
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 anything about the history or what that shirt entails. Was it simply a cool symbol of rebellion to him, as it is to thousands of others? To me, a kid wearing that shirt seemed rude, somehow. Ignorant. But these judgements I gave so easily only made me a hypocrite; I had no real knowledge myself.

Jon Lee Anderson's opus takes us on Che Guevara's adventurous life from birth up until his death in the Bolivian mountains. Exhaustively researched, the timeline is flawless, from what I can tell. But what makes this book, and Che's life, so interesting, is the man himself: Che Guevara.

As a Capitalist Imperialist myself, an individual Che would have enjoyed shooting, I never thought I'd admire a communist. But there is a lot to admire in Che. Up until his death, he was a man who stood by his word. He walked the walk and talked the talk. If he was going to be a communist in a role of leadership, he wasn't about to abuse that power and live in a palace. He lived amongst the people, and expected no less from others in positions of power.

There was also a lot to hate. Che was a man bent on using violence to create social change within the world. Although this theory may hold some truth, in my opinion, the things Che wanted to accomplish in his lifetime were just insane. I'm thinking, for those who've read this work, his goal of many Vietnam-like wars, of personally provoking World War III, and his want of a global Marxist/communist government, thereby eradicating democracy, or capitalist imperialism.

I live in country where I'm allowed to read what I want, and think for myself, so I'm glad these things never came to pass. My country's politics are very flawed, but so is communism, in my humble opinion. It is also my opinion that there's no government that can operate perfectly, but that is another topic. Che was, however, loved by many people. His very presence in history was enough to spark even my own affection, as he was a rare and most interesting individual.

I highly recommend reading this, especially to those who've either worn the shirt, or have wanted to, but know nothing about the actual man. And remember, it is much a more attractive character trait to educate yourself before making judgements.
Profile Image for Ignacio.
445 reviews86 followers
February 28, 2023
La biografía definitiva del Che

La primera biografía que leí en mi vida. Pasé algunos años de mi adolescencia fascinado por la figura del Che Guevara, y el libro de Anderson sirvió entonces para alimentar mi devoción. Más tarde, fue también la base desde la que empecé a cuestionarme y replantear mis interpretaciones sobre este personaje histórico. El hecho de que el libro me sirviese para transitar ambos caminos muestra la justicia con la que Anderson trató a su biografiado, no menos admirable que el enorme trabajo de investigación que realizó. Pese a mi desencanto con su persona, y especialmente con sus ideas políticas, sigo creyendo que el Che era un hombre extraordinario. El Che supo ser siempre el protagonista de su propia vida. Tenía un exagerado y paradójico –dada su orientación política- sentido de la individualidad, y casi siempre hizo lo que se le antojó sin importarle mucho los demás, entendiendo por esta palabra la gente concreta que era parte de su vida, antes que las abstractas masas de trabajadores y oprimidos. El marxismo puede justificar cualquier cosa; incluso, en su caso, el desapego. Quizás no fuera un buen tipo para tenerlo como amigo, y mucho menos como dirigente, pero quién podría negar que fue un buen material para la leyenda.
Profile Image for G.d. Brennan.
Author 26 books12 followers
August 12, 2012
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 is difficult to write a biography about someone larger than life, hard to convey both the person and the myth, but Anderson has done a stellar job on both fronts. Besides being well written, "Che" is excellently and thoroughly researched, a far more difficult and important feat: given the timing of Che's life and the ages of his contemporaries, Anderson's interviews and discussions with many of the major players in his life and death mean that this book will remain the definitive work on the subject. Importantly, too, Anderson shows us not the blown-up and distorted figure so many have seen, but the true dimensions of a man and his actions.

On one level, those actions were considerable: the Argentinian-born Che lived a truly epic life. After a relatively secure youth, Che trained to be a doctor, then embarked with a friend on a continent-spanning motorcycle journey before his studies were up. It was, perhaps, a sign of things to come: throughout his life, Che seemed better at starting new things than at bringing old things to a successful close.

Che's journey helped crystallize the sentiments that would underpin his life: ever after, he retained a pan-Latin American sensibility, a sympathy for the region's poor and downtrodden, and a belief that the United States was to blame for the region's ills. In support of those beliefs, he first played a bit part in Guatemala's ill-fated revolution, then joined Fidel Castro's revolution-in-training in Mexico.

Castro and company's subsequent landing in Cuba seemed like a quixotic undertaking: he, Che, and a mere handful of men were attempting to foment an island-wide revolution. But they succeeded, against seemingly impossible odds, driving Batista's regime from power and finding themselves triumphantly holding the levers of power in Havana. And that success was, in many ways, Che's undoing.

At the ripe old age of thirty, Che found himself one of the most important men in Cuba. And, mindful of the Guatemalan revolution's untimely demise, Che helped Castro cement the Cuban revolution by ruthlessly purging the island of those who weren't committed to it. But his temperament remained that of the brash revolutionary, not that of the patient technocrat he was asked to become, and when it came time to actually run the country, to make the revolution a success, Che and his ilk were failures.

Anderson does a masterful job in describing how disasterous the Cuban revolution was for Cuba. In distancing themselves from the United States and putting their country in the Soviet orbit, Castro and Che wreaked havoc on the Cuban economy. Che was a fanatical and austere idealist truly committed to his cause, but few shared his level of committment; many of those with the technical know-how to keep the nation's sugar mills running fled the country rather than work for a man who knew a little about revolutions but very little about running an economy. "Cuba's revolutionaries clearly had not thought through the consequences of going for a complete break with the United States," Anderson writes, going on to describe the myriad problems that brought the island nation's economy to a grinding standstill: sulphuric Soviet petroleum that corroded the piping in American-built refineries, Soviet technicians unable to deal with modern American technology, and even metric Soviet tools that couldn't be used to fix American-built machines.

Given these setbacks, it is little wonder Che lost patience with the life of the bureaucrat and sought to reprise his signal triumph by fomenting revolutions in the Congo and, later, Bolivia. For a brief moment in time, the revolutionary dream seemed real and powerful again; Che envisioned a worldwide struggle against what he viewed as American imperialism and saw himself as the man to ignite this revolutionary world war. Not until bin Laden would the United States find a similarly implacable and mysterious foe willing to do battle and inspire followers at every corner of the globe.

But Che the myth was more powerful than Che the man. In both the Congo and Bolivia, Anderson writes, Che made the mistake of "foisting himself unannounced" on a pre-existing local rebellion, acting as if his presence alone would make the difference between success and failure. Such tactics didn't endear him with the local Communist leaders, let alone the populations-at-large in those nations; rather than leading a popular revolution in Bolivia, Che and his men found themselves alone and on the run, abandoned even by many of their fellow Communists, hounded into the mountains by government forces aided and abetted by the CIA, there to be finally captured and executed.

Still, the myth lived on; austere, handsome, and devoted to his cause, Che became more useful in death than he had been in life, more successful as a poster child for Cuba's revolution than he had been as a man helping to run it. Consequently, his life retained its allure even after the death of the ideology for which he gave it.

There are some faults in Anderson's book. It could have used one more edit; this reviewer found a couple typos which will hopefully be corrected in subsequent editions. More importantly, although Anderson excellently conveys Che's character, both his strengths (determination and idealism) and his weaknesses (hubris and naivete), he doesn't do as well in describing others in Che's life: some secondary characters remain ill-understood at the book's conclusion. Lastly, he gives relatively short shrift to some rather important events, like the Cuban Missile Crisis.

What we do learn about that episode is fascinating, though, and speaks to the strength of Anderson's book: Che seemed quite willing to have his adopted homeland vaporized in a nuclear war for the sake of the revolutionary ideal. It is in such details that Anderson illuminates the dark side of the Guevara myth, and for that, we must thank him, for he has painted a full and complete portrait that rounds out our knowledge of this fascinating man. Those interested in him need look no further than this book: before reading it, I understood little about Che; after reading it, I felt I knew the man.
Profile Image for Ashok Krishna.
346 reviews54 followers
January 9, 2019
‘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 reason too. In transforming himself from a radical reformist of one region into a global revolutionary, Che upturned Maslow’s famed pyramid of human needs. For Che, his socialist cause, self-actualization through Revolution, was the most primitive need while food, sleep, love of friends and family, or even personal safety, did all become luxuries. Power and position did not even figure in his scheme of things. Such was his commitment that he spurned all imaginable comforts like an ascetic, missed the opportunity to be with his dying mother, gave up the pleasures of being a doting father, a loving husband. All because he wanted to uplift the downtrodden and destitute, no matter which part of the world they belonged to.

There are people who adopt a cause and devote their lives to it. Then there are some who are born destined for the cause. Ernesto Che Guevara belongs to the latter category. His romantic passion towards his socialistic cause, the sheer determination with which he went about achieving it despite opposition from even closer quarters are all lessons for ages of young minds to come. This biography by Jon Lee Anderson is a comprehensive guide to understanding Che and his ways.

Writing the biography of any famous figure, let alone that of someone as charismatic as Che Guevara, is a tough task. Be too overawed by the person, the book runs the risk of becoming a hagiography. Be too distanced, one ends up presenting a dry tome, listing the chronological order of events. It takes a rare mind to treat the subject with respect and at the same time present a faithful perspective. Jon Lee Anderson manages to it pull off. Che is presented as he was, playful as a youngster, one who did sow his wild oats, flirting around, having casual flings, playful and funny. His maturing as a rebel, growth in his social consciousness that was assisted in great measure by his motorcycle journeys across the continent, first by himself and then with his friend Alberto Granado have all been presented in great measure. Che’s gradual pull into the volatile political situation of Central America, his introduction to Fidel, their collaboration in the guerilla war to liberate Cuba, Che’s ascension to the role of Minister of Industries, his life during those calm (before the storm) days in Cuba, his eventual return to the field – literally – to spread revolution around the world, the debacle at Congo, and the tragic-but-glorious end at the nondescript Bolivian village of La Higuera are all laid out in such detail that one can only wonder whether Jon Lee Anderson was present in the times of Che, documenting history as it unraveled. Tremendous efforts and research have gone into this book.

Che was a man so ahead of his time, just like every great human being that came before him. Like those great minds, political or otherwise, he had ideas that were too progressive to be grasped by his contemporaries. He was revered by many, feared by many more, loved by a lot of people, hated by equally so many, praised by multitude but understood completely by very few. Like the many heroes before him, he understood his strengths, realized his weaknesses, pushed his companions to emulate his strengths, strived to overcome his weaknesses, and led by being a shining example. Simply put, he practiced what he preached.

It won’t be a blasphemy, though an irony, to compare Che with Jesus Christ. Both men were born ahead of their times, amidst people too narrow-minded to think about purposes greater than themselves, hoped that the people around them would see the worth of their arguments, wanted to make humans realize their potential and become better, but in the end were left to carry the cross for the sins of people that were too petty-minded and incapable of appreciating their worth. While one man tried to achieve mass deliverance through love and peace, the other chose to use bullets. In the end, betrayal by their own people took them both to their graves. One emerged from his grave three days later and went on to become a god. The other took three decades and has attained an almost equal mystical status amidst droves of youngsters, even amongst those that don’t even know his complete name.

Whether Che’s methods were right or wrong is a topic for debate. But his place in the pages of human history, as a persona that future generations can look up to, is undisputed. This unbiased, authentic work by Jon Lee Anderson is an ultimate guide to that Heroic Guerilla’s life and times, as good as any autobiography that Che himself could have written. Must read, must own.
Profile Image for K.D. Absolutely.
1,820 reviews
May 24, 2009
This 700+ page biography of Che Guevara is definitely definitive. While reading it, I had a feeling that I was taking a Rizal course in college. The story included all the years and phases of Che’s life as an asthmatic child with his small group of playmates, as a teenager traveling the countryside of Argentina in his bicycle, his unrequited first love, his funny years a medical student and finally his life as communist revolutionary. When I picked the book in December last year, I said that I would like to know the man because I have been seeing his image printed on cool t-shirts since I was a kid. A few years ago, I bought and viewed some parts of the movie Motorcycle Diaries but I did not know that it was about the teenager Che Guevara. After reading the novel, I think I know everything that I need to know about the guy. Thanks to this well-researched book of Jon Lee Anderson. I look forward to reading his other books like the one about the Fall of Baghdad that he wrote only a few years ago.

Did I like Che Guevara as a person? Definitely, yes. He stood to what he believed was right. Did I believe he was right? Well, had I read this before the fall of Berlin Wall or the disintegration of USSR, maybe it could have been an emphatic yes. Being an asthmatic child, he spent most of his time reading and the fact that the Guevara’s home was full of books (to the point that there were no more chairs for guest to sit on) helped him pursue this hobby. Philosophy and literature (including poetry) are his greatest interest and this broadened his thinking and developed his critical reasoning. Then his sojourns in the countryside opened his eyes to the injustices to marginalized people in Argentina. With Fidel Castro by his side, he succeeded in Cuba but failed in Argentina, Honduras and Bolivia leading to his death on October 9, 1967 (I was only 4 year old then).

I don’t say that it was just a waste. He was able to serve the poor as a doctor in the years in the mountain. He was able to train and inculcate in the minds of many young men and women in those countries the true meaning of one’s love to his/her country. However, now that the Lenin-Marx models were proven as not as effective, I have a second thought that his short life (he died in the age of 39). He could have succeeded more as a allergy scientist.

On the other hand, with your image printed on shirts being worn by young people even 40 years after your death, is it not an achievement enough?
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Julio Pino.
926 reviews43 followers
December 30, 2022
I once knew a woman on the left who pointed at a photograph of Che' Guevara in her home and yelled out to the rest of us, "Those eyes! Those are bedroom eyes!" Guevara was an unoriginal thinker (see his manual GUERILLA WARFARE, LA GUERRA DE GUERRILLA) and failed revolutionary (Congo, Bolivia) who nevertheless continues to fascinate the world. Why? Not ethics, not politics but aesthetics. He looked like a Hollywood revolutionary. This biography, released during the Guevara-mania of the 1990s is exhaustive but fails to make the case that Che' is our contemporary, as opposed to a love object.
Profile Image for Scott  Hitchcock.
779 reviews223 followers
February 13, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Micah.
Author 6 books177 followers
August 2, 2021
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.
Profile Image for Danial.
59 reviews3 followers
August 19, 2017
چه گِوارا - زندگی انقلابی
نوشته جان‌لی اَندرسن و ترجمه علیرضا رفوگران و انتشارات چشمه
.تا الان (94) این کتاب به چاپ سوم رسیده
:نوشته پشت جلد
.جان لی اندرسن، حرفه خبرنگاری را در دهه هفتاد میلادی در امریکای لاتین آغاز کرد
.او اکنون خبرنگار و عضو ثابت کادر نویسندگان نشریه نیویورکر است و او را خبرنگار خبرنگاران لقب داده‌اند
،شیوه نگارش اندرسن و تعهد او به ارائه گزارش‌های مستند، که بازتابی از موقعیت ممتاز حرفه‌ای اوست
.چشم‌اندازی کم‌نظیر از زندگی چه‌گوارا و همچنین تاریخ اجتماعی و سیاسی امریکای لاتین در اختیار خواننده می‌گذارد
،این کتاب که در پانزده زبان زنده دنیا به چاپ رسیده است
کامل‌ترین زندگی‌نامه چه‌گوارا به شمار می‌رود و زندگی استثنایی این انقلابی جذاب را که رویای حماسی‌اش خاتمه دادن
به فقر و بی‌عدالتی در امریکای لاتین به وسیله انقلاب مسلحانه بود، دنبال می‌کند؛
،از دوران مرفه کودکی تا میدان‌های نبرد انقلاب کوبا
.از تالارهای قدرت در دولت کاسترو تا شکست در مبارزات کنگو و جان باختن در بولیوی
اندرسن دسترسی بی سابقه‌ای به آرشیو‌های شخصیت چه گوارا پیدا کرد
.که در اختیار همسر گوارا بود
او مصاحبه‌های متعددی با همرزمان چه گوارا - که برخی‌شان برای اولین‌بار در اینجا سخن گفته‌اند - و افسران بولیویایی و مأموران سیا که او را از پای در .آوردند، انجام داده است
همچنین اندرسن محل دفن جنازه چه گوارا را که پیش از این مخفی بود
.فاش کرد که نهایتا منجر به نبش قبر و انتقال بازمانده استخوانهایی گوارا و تشریفات تدفین در کوبا شد
،ویژگی نسخه فارسی این کتاب تحقیقات مضاعفی است که مترجم ایرانی آن با ارجاع به کتاب
.در سفرهایی به امریکای لاتین و اروپا و مصاحبه با شخصیت‌های آن انجام داده است
کتاب در 1003 صفحه همراه با پیوست های آخر هر فصل و بغیر از پیوست آخر و پیوست تصاویر ترجمه شده است
کتاب خیلی خوبیه، حوادث و جزئیات بسیار زیادی در بَر داره
شخصیتهای خیلی زیادی مطرح میشن که گاهی آدم رو گیج میکنه و شاید یادش بره که "کی"، "چه کاره" بوده
البته طرح شخصیتهای فراوان نمیتونه امتیاز منفی برای کتاب در زمینه بیوگرافی باشه.
.کتاب دارای پیوست تصاویری‌ست که اغلب از دفتر امور تاریخی شورای دولتی کوبا برگرفته شده اند
در نهایت میتونم خوندن این کتاب رو به اون دسته افرادی که علاقه به مطالعه انقلابها بویژه انقلاب کوبا دارند، توصیه کنم

Profile Image for Lisa.
630 reviews7 followers
January 24, 2012
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 people are not willing to give up the good life to the benefit of all. Che was an enigma in this sense that he did just that. Communism also won't work because too much choice and freedom has to be taken away, case in point, they eliminated studies at the university because they wouldn't benefit society as a whole. Humans whether we like it or not are individualistic for the most part, altruism on a grand scale just doesn't happen. All in all the book was extraordinarily researched if not overly long. For people who laud the man they may be able to start seeing his faults. In the end I just didn't care about him enough to enjoy the book.
Profile Image for Ernesto Lopez.
72 reviews69 followers
September 5, 2019
Fantástica biografía.

Después de mi visita a Cuba en verano de este año, quedé cautivado por este personaje. Como alguien tan contrastante, violento y hasta cierto punto sociopata pudo convertirse en la imagen de la revolución. Un símbolo de protesta contra el sistema y El status Quo.

Jon Lee Anderson es el mejor biógrafo del Che, y por lo que investigué, está definitivamente es la mejor biografía. Está narrada de una forma sencilla, super interesante, cautivante y en ciertas partes hasta conmovedora. Te muestra al Che cómo guerrillero, diplomático, pero aún más importante: un ser humano.

Si quieres conocer al Che con lo bueno y lo malo par hacer tu propio juicio, esta es una excelente fuente.
47 reviews
February 10, 2013
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.
Profile Image for mimissyouu.
76 reviews14 followers
May 17, 2022
i pretty much cried my way through the last chapter. having gone into this already with a lot of background knowledge on che’s life, i still felt like i was learning more about him and his motives, beliefs & convictions with each chapter. i especially appreciated the details regarding che’s anti revisionism and his position on the great debate / soviet social imperialism.

the main issue (which is a small one at that) that i have with the text is the lack of detailed elaboration and evaluation of che’s policies during his brief leadership of cuba’s national bank. still, john lee anderson’s biography an expansive comprehensive account of che’s life, his values, and the relationships he formed. but besides all of this the biography will forever have a special place in my heart because studying and learning about che and his unwavering dedication to revolutionary struggle was one of the main reasons i radicalized - it gave me an example of undivided revolutionary fervor and love, of endurance through incredible hardship, and of the promise for a better world forged through struggle. although i no longer fully and unconditionally agree with and idolize che’s actions the way i did when i first became a communist, my respect for him continues and grows regardless.

and “at the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.” <3 <3

Profile Image for Kurt.
30 reviews
October 27, 2022
Three weeks and the whole of this very informative book later, I still don't know what to think about Che Guevara. He'll continue to be a figure I don't truly understand. What I do know and understand, however, is that Chris would LOVE this book. Chris would LOVE Ernesto 'Che' Guevara.

"Shoot, coward. You are only going to kill a man."

I was sad when he died at the end, but this quote, oh buddy, let me tell you. Frankly, one of the most last words of all time. This quote alone is a certified four-pack Goodreads patriot banger.
Profile Image for Andreea.
43 reviews17 followers
April 21, 2014
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 importance of their revolution. With respect to this, our trip to Santiago de Cuba contributed to making things more clear. This book was also eye opening regarding Central and Latin American history, a topic that is superficially thought in schools, usually reduced to how the mighty well educated Europeans discovered them.

The author tries to be very objective in his portrayal of Che. He is trying not to make any personal comments, although he was one of the people directly involved in the discovery of Che's body in Bolivia in 1997. The guerrilla fights in Sierra Maestra were depicted in a very realistic tone signalling inconsistencies between Che's diary from that period and published material. They are not presented gloriously, but as they actually were: people defecting, chivatos being executed, days when they didn't have food or medicine for their wounded.

The book also describes the relationship between Che and Fidel, which looked like a great friendship. This can be also deduced from their correspondence and public speeches. The depiction of Fidel is also quite interesting.

Che seems like a very idealistic and rigid man. He tries not to let himself controlled by emotions and be an example of discipline for his men. He was disappointed by the way communism was implemented in Russia and wanted to make Cuba an example. He didn't manage to do this, but his legacy was actually in Latin American politics of today, not regarding communism but the position towards the U.S.

It was quite an experience for me to visit Che's Mausoleum in Santa Clara, Fidel's Comandancia in the Sierra Maestra, the Moncada barracks and see the Granma Yacht for real after reading about them.
Profile Image for Monica.
767 reviews
September 4, 2009
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 uneducated in poor conditions while some people have way too much. 8/20/09 I'm having difficulty posting an update - the browser/goodreads is stalling -- page 543 -
A hundred pages back I was beginning to feel a struggle -- too much information -- but, compared to the prismatic complexity of Rivers of Gold, and the encyclopedic excesses of Cuba and it's Music, this is a linear, remarkably thorough, coherent account of Geuvara' short life and his tremendous impact on the world. His single-minded devotion to equalizing the playing field with the U. S. created havoc and hardship; his own friends didn't recognize him. He hated Yanqui imperialism, yet he was the U. S. counter culture's darling. Young radicals believed in justice for the poor and likewise hated the military but would have been horrified by the details of guerrilla warfare in the Sierra Maestra, the swamps, tribunals and requisitioning of private land. What if indigenous Americans, or any other group decided to overthrow our government/personal property and way of life? What if the government did a take-over of healthcare?! :-) I'm feeling the loss of this book even though there are a couple hundred more pages.
Profile Image for Matt Albers.
23 reviews15 followers
January 22, 2015
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! All that said, it's a smooth read. The book is massive, and the minutia of early 60's Cuban/Soviet/American politics might bog you down near the middle, but not to worry, Che will soon be back to the jungles of the world trying to free the oppressed. Yeah, Che was a communist, and yeah, he ha appeared on far too many t-shirts, bumper stickers, book bags, posters, etc. in the capitalist world, but that's just how his legacy has been perverted. The book tells the story of a strong and amazing man, who believed all people deserved to be free from the yoke of imperialist tyranny. Definitely worth a read.
Profile Image for Kamil Salamah.
118 reviews26 followers
October 10, 2011
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 profoundly believed in UNIVERSAL SOCIAL JUSTICE. A man who refused positions of power and materialist gains. A man who believed that the individual by himself is worthless but being part of a successful society that had shared values and practiced social justice is PRICELESS. A man that faced death in the face when it a took a corrupt drunkard soldier to assassinate him saying to him," Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man".


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