Che: The making of a legend

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India’s Tribune newspaper has published a review of two books by Che Guevara recently published by HarperCollins. The review, by Rachna Singh, looks at how they encapsulate the elements that made Guevara “an icon of radical chic.” Here are excerpt from the review with a link to the complete review below.

Guevara’s Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War and The Bolivian Diary are both gripping accounts of the guerrilla war waged by him and his band of guerrillas against capitalistic regimes in Cuba and Bolivia. The Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War takes the reader back to July, 1955, when Guevara met Raul and Fidel Castro in Mexico and enlisted in the guerrilla expedition to overthrow the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.

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In November, 1956, Guevara began the historic armed struggle from Cuba’s Sierra Maestra mountains. In the initial phase of the struggle, Guevara, a doctor by profession, admitted to being faced with the dilemma of choosing between his “devotion to medicine” and his “duty as a revolutionary soldier”. Very soon, the revolutionary in him triumphed and he played a pivotal role in the two-year campaign that deposed the Batista regime. The blood and gore of the many skirmishes at La Plata or Bueycito, the final offensive at Santa Clara, the betrayal by “traitor” informers and the death of rebel companions is described in stark detail. The march on rugged terrain hunched under packs of ammunition and weapons, the scarcity of food and water, the low morale of soldiers et al take the reader to the very heart of the revolution. The photographs add to the quality of stark authenticity of the narrative. What comes through clearly in the narrative is the pledge of the rebels to “struggle to the last drop of our rebel blood to make this land a sovereign republic with the true attributes of a nation that is happy, democratic and fraternal”.

In 1966, Guevara left to challenge the military dictatorship in Bolivia and begin “a revolutionary movement that would extend throughout the continent of Latin America”. The Bolivian Diary is an account of Guevara’s struggle to put together a band of guerrillas and overthrow an America-backed dictatorship. The narrative of this account is short and pithy and in the nature of short dated notes made by Che. Initially, the struggle made good progress but it ended on a tragic note with the arrest and execution of Guevara.

The books are a compelling and vivid account of the revolution in Cuba and Bolivia. But it is the revolutionary fervour underlying the narratives that makes the account truly moving. The figure of Che with an army beret and a Cuban cigar becomes synonymous with iconic heroism.

For the original review go to http://www.tribuneindia.com/2009/20091108/spectrum/book1.htm

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