A review of this — 6 years ago
I’ve mentioned before my difficulty regarding biographies. By definition, a biography is going to introduce the bias and opinions of the author, and reflect any limitations in that author’s research.
This book is phenomenal and chronicles Che’s entire life from a priviledged birth to his world famous execution. It is well researched and it is evident that the author spent years researching and writing this book. He has personally spoken to some of the most central figures in Che’s life and as such, this text is valuable simply because that chance may never be seized again by any other biographer.
It was only after I finished the book and began to look up sources on the Internet that I discovered a potential flaw in this biography.
The flaw centres on the author’s portrayal of Che as slightly hapless and naive, supported by his constant representation of Che as a “Christlike figure” who was betrayed by his closest aides. Many sources, even those supposedly in support of Che Guevara, will acknowledge that Che was extremely intelligent, calculating and often ruthless in his execution of his ideals. An example can be seen here: Guevara exhibited great courage, skill in combat, and ruthlessness and soon became one of Castro’s ablest and most trusted aides. Guevara took responsibility for the execution of informers, insubordinates, deserters and spies in the revolutionary army. He personally executed Eutimio Guerra, a suspected Batista informant, with a single shot from his .32 (7.65 mm) pistol. The remainder of this article appears to be extremely fair and even reverent with regard to Che’s life story.
The author portrays Che as an absolute victim in the Bolivian expedition and in the circumstances leading up to his death. Even in his own Bolivian diary, Che acknowledged the mounting setbacks and failures but he did not present as an innocent victim.
I guess the facts speak for themselves, but knowing of Che’s intelligence and ruthlessness doesn’t detract from his beliefs or accomplishments and so it wasn’t altogether necessary for the author to try coat his image in cotton wool. The one thing the text does do though, is neglect the fragile chess game that Che engaged in during his fight for survival in both the Congo and in Bolivia. He strategised and executed plan upon plan to survive, even though it is evident he made mistakes, relied upon mistaken assumptions, was “betrayed” by desperate and defeated cadres and was quite frankly abandoned by Castro.
Nevertheless, I absolutely recommend this book, but recommend too that it be supplemented with a healthy dose of independent research.