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Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life Paperback – March 9, 1997

4.5 out of 5 stars 163 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Even to those without Marxist sympathies, Che Guevara (1928-67) was a dashing, charismatic figure: the asthmatic son of an aristocratic Argentine family whose sympathy for the world's oppressed turned him into a socialist revolutionary, the valued comrade-in-arms of Cuba's Fidel Castro and a leader of guerilla warfare in Latin America and Africa. Journalist Jon Lee Anderson's lengthy and absorbing portrait captures the complexities of international politics (revolutionary and counter); his painstaking research has unearthed a remarkable amount of new material, including information about Guevara's death at the hands of the Bolivian military. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The incredible life of the Cuban revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara is documented in this thorough, compulsively engaging 1997 biography and inspiration for Steven Soderbergh's 2008 biopic. Beginning with Che's childhood in Argentina, Andersen covers every possible aspect of his subject's life—from Che's first encounter with Fidel and Raul Castro in Mexico City through the Cuban revolution to his failed attempt at reform in the African Congo—leaving no event, personal or political, unanalyzed. Armando Duran gives a brilliant performance that captures Che in all his contradictions. Duran displays his inherent acting ability in this reading that does full justice to the prose and never fails to captivate despite the near 37-hour length. A Grove Press hardcover. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 814 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; 9th edition (March 9, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802135587
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802135582
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #314,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
With a figure this inspirational and controversial, it's amazing that no authoritative biography appeared on Che Guevara until Anderson completed this one three decades after his death. Anderson has really delivered an impressive and strongly researched bio into this interesting character. We learn that Che had a comfortable middle-class upbringing in Argentina and even earned a medical degree, but ended up fighting for the world's downtrodden. He also had severe asthma but still managed to become a rugged jungle revolutionary. After traveling around Latin America he ended up in Cuba as Castro's right-hand man during the revolution. This episode in Che's career contributes to the main problem of this book however. More than half of the book is dedicated to the years just before and after Castro's seizure of power in 1959. Che certainly had a large part to play here, but his life story is lost in Anderson's coverage of Cuban events and politics during those years. Thus for a while the book is no longer a biography but a political history that is only somewhat related to the main subject. Apparently in his research on Che, Anderson unearthed so much information on the Cuban revolution that he wanted to use all of it, and accidentally wrote a second book on Cuban history and placed it in the middle of this one. This is still useful if you're interested in that topic, but as a result this book becomes far more rambling, long-winded, and unfocused than it should be.
On the other hand, in the rest of the book Anderson definitely succeeds in showing all sides of Che's personality, both good and bad. Like the best of biographers, Anderson doesn't judge his subject and lets the facts speak for themselves. And what we have is a highly contradictory character.
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Format: Paperback
This is a very even-handed and thorough look at Che Guevara's life. As an anti-communist Cuban-American, I approached this book with skepticism, but ultimately thought it to be sound. John Lee Anderson is obviously sympathetic to Che, but how can you expect a biographer not to be. Additionally, I suspect that such sympathy is what allowed him access to previously unreleased documents held by the Cuban Council of State, as well as Che's widow. Anderson doesn't squander the opportunity and produces a scrupulous, yet eminently readable account. If you are looking to learn more about the Che--the good and the bad--this is undoubtedly where start.
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Format: Paperback
If you are looking for an excellent book on Che Guevara, this one is it. It has it all, from his parents and his birth to his death in 1967 and his eventual return to Cuba 30 years later.

This book is very descriptive and extremely in-depth, so expect more than a simple narrative. It is a big book, it will take a little while to read, but it is time well spent.

I believe this book was as 'neutral' as it could possibly be, considering the highly contentious intellectual atmosphere that surrounds academic discussion of Cuba and the Revolution. It does not gloss over the fact that Che executed people, both during and after the guerilla war. Similarly, the book does not avoid the obvious humanistic and loving episodes in the life of Ernesto Guevara de la Serna. For his neutrality and artful handling of such a complex historical figure, who lived his life against a backdrop of events still highly controversial today, I commend Mr. Anderson.

Before reading this book, Che was an icon to me: a heroic revolutionary with dreams of intercontinental liberation and universal justice.

After reading this book, Che the icon disappeared. He became, to quote his reputed last words, simply "a man."
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Format: Paperback
Anderson's biography of Che Guevara was passionately researched. Within the pages of this large book are the most detailed accounts of Che Guevara's life. The book begins with a history of Che's upbringing and forces you to realize how much this man was truly like any other man. Anderson finds importance in the travels Che makes as a young man across South America. Journeys which eventually became 'The Motorcycle Diaries'. Detail is given to the periods of life that influenced his radicalization.
This was a man who felt deeply for the exploitation of his people. He dreamed of a tomorrow where man did not trample on one another through competition and greed. Che Guevara sacrificed his life for what he believed in. There is no death more honorable. In reading Jon Lee Anderson's biography of this enormous figure, you will fell sympathy for his cause, respect for his determination, and awe for his accomplishments on the battlefield and in his study.
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Format: Paperback
Anderson's biography of Che Guevara is an impressive accomplishment, and an absorbing read. Having grown up a bit too late to have been aware of Guevara as a contemporary figure, I'm of the generation that inherited him as a cultural icon: quite literally, a "poster boy" for anti-imperialist revolutionaries. The thoroughness of Anderson's research is staggering, and he effectively synthesizes and organizes a huge volume of information. His unprecedented access to people like Castro, Guevara's two wives and other family members, and those who fought alongside him in the Cuban revolution and his expeditions to the Congo and Bolivia provide a plethora of fascinating, and enlightening, detail. Anderson also maintains a very objective, journalistic perspective, avoiding both naive hagiography and knee-jerk demonizing, allowing him to present a fully-developed portrait of a real person who found himself at the center of amazing historical developments. I agree with an earlier reviewer that the text could benefit from some tighter line-editing; Anderson will sometimes use the exact same phrases or descriptions several times within a paragraph. But the writing on the whole is lucid and engaging, and the book both an engrossing character study and thoughtful depiction of the political and social developments in which Guevara's character and legend were formed.
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