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Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life Paperback – April 20, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Revised Edition edition (April 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080214411X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802144119
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,790 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Superb . . . Mr. Anderson does a masterly job in evoking Che’s complex character, in separating the man from the myth . . .”—The New York Times Book Review

“Excellent . . . admirably honest [and] staggeringly researched . . . It is unlikely that after Anderson’s exhaustive contribution, much more will be learned about Guevara.”—Los Angeles Times

“[Che’s] ideal, that curious mixture of resoluteness and recklessness . . . is brilliantly evoked in Jon Lee Anderson’s massive biography which traces, with exacting precision, the avatars of Che’s epic life . . . . The portrait is now as complete as it will ever be.”—The Times Literary Supplement (London)

“An enduring achievement. It is hard to imagine that any [other biography] will match the volume and detail of research here…. [Guevara’s victories and failures, equally spectacular, are part of our common history….Che lives, not only in this book, but in the world.” –The Boston Globe

“Groundbreaking. . . . Anderson’s book is an epic end run around the guard­ians of the Che legend.” —The New Yorker

“A masterly and absorbing account of Latin America’s famous guerrilla leader . . . Anderson’s book, easily the best so far on Guevara, is a worthy monument to a flawed but heroic Utopian dreamer.” —The Sunday Times (London)

“Remarkable . . . Anderson’s account is well rounded and far from uncriti­cal . . . [his] journalistic flair and hard legwork are evident.” —Foreign Affairs

“Exceptional and exciting . . . Anderson’s up-close look, with beauty marks and tragic flaws so effortlessly rendered, brings the reader face to face with a man whose ‘unshakable faith in his beliefs was made more powerful by his unusual combination of romantic passion and a coldly analytical mind’ . . . An invaluable addition to the literature of American revolution­aries.” —Booklist

“A solidly documented biography that succeeds, with brilliant effect, in stripping away the layers of demonization and hero worship that for so long have concealed the human core of this legendary figure. . . Thanks to Jon Lee Anderson, we now have the true story, the real man, a portrait of excep­tional substance to confound the myth and enhance our understanding of the facts.” —The Kansas City Star

“Jon Lee Anderson . . . draws upon an unprecedented wealth of new infor­mation . . . [an] assiduously researched and perhaps definitive biography.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“A skillful interviewer, Anderson elicited information from dozens of par­ticipants in Guevara’s life….Combining contradictory sources and an immense amount of detail, Anderson produces a multifaceted view of Guevara as a person, seething with ambiguities and complexities. This is an achievement that makes Che Guevara essential for anyone seriously inter­ested in Guevara or the Cuban revolution.” —The Nation

“Thirty years after his death, Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life gives an admirably balanced account of the Argentine adventurer, his real achieve­ments and glamorous Robin Hood appeal . . . . An excellent guide to the myth behind the martyr.”
The Independent (London)

“Exhaustive and convincing.” —The New York Review of Books

“The best [biography of Guevara] is Anderson’s epic. . . . A book that puts the evolution back in revolution, a meticulous record of this extraordinary life.”

“It is Anderson’s careful research that will define Guevara for the future.”
The Denver Post

“A thorough and unbiased biography of a little-understood man, dead 30 years, who remains a father figure to modern-day revolutionaries around the world . . . A book that sees the forest for the trees, and in a life as com­plicated and significant as Che Guevara’s, that was no small task.” —The Oregonian

“Detailed . . . the book tells as much as is likely to be known about Guevara’s end....As Mr. Anderson tells it, Che lives.” —The Economist

“The merit of Anderson’s work lies not only in the richness of details, but also in its objectivity. . . . Anderson’s book recounts in minute detail the chronology of an obsession.” —Latin Trade

“A sweeping biography of the Latino revolutionary and pop-culture hero. Anderson . . . steers clear of ideology, arguing that the Argentine-born Guevara was both a brilliant tactician and fighter and the truest represen­tative of the old international communist agitator the State Department warned us about. . . . Students of Che’s life and deeds need look no farther than Anderson’s volume.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Jon Lee Anderson has rediscovered the historical Guevara, and his authori­tative biography goes far in obliterating all the sentimental dross that has accrued around the figure of the heroic guerilla.” —The New York Press

“You would do well to read Jon Lee Anderson’s monumental biography, Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life....The book’s mere table of contents could serve as the syllabus for Che l0l.” —The Washington Post Book World

“[Anderson] has researched diligently and has had access to much unpub­lished documentation....This biography is…absorbing and convincing because of its wealth of new information and willingness to let Guevara himself speak, in quotations from unpublished letters and diaries. . . . An indispensable work of contemporary history.”
The Guardian (London)

“Five years of research and unprecedented access to friends, family and unpublished archives have allowed Anderson to fulfil his stated aim, to present the truth about Che Guevara.” —Literary Review

“A massive, painstaking biography of the Argentine guerilla leader who devoted his life to the ideal of a unified Latin American revolution.”

“A revealing portrait of the many Ches: the quixotic, freewheeling youth rambling around South and Central America in search of the good fight; the willful, asthmatic ‘Jacobin of the Cuban Revolution’; and finally...the holy martyr of armed rebellion at age 39. . . Che lives on as a paradox of his own time and ours.”
Time Out New York

“Jon Lee Anderson’s authoritative new biography shows both the passion­ate idealist and the cold-hearted disciplinarian.”

“Vividly detailed . . . Anderson weaves a compelling psychological profile of Guevara.”
The Buffalo News

“Che Guevara by Jon Lee Anderson may still be the best [biography of Che] for its deft stvle and its details of Che’s post-Cuba adventures. It is also the only one to carry interviews with Che’s widow, Aleida.”
Pub1isher’s Weekly

“His biography appears to be definitive . . . . Obviously a reporter of great energy and enterprise, he scored at least two major scoops in his research: obtaining Che’s uncensored diary of the guerrilla war in Cuba and discov­ering more or less where Che’s body was buried in Bolivia . . . genuinely gripping.”

“[Anderson] manages to reflect his subject’s ‘special gleam,’ the mix of quali­ties that made the Argentine-born adventurer irresistible to those of his contemporaries bent upon the violent overthrow of governments, and a durable icon for succeeding generations of revolutionaries. Che Guevara is the best treatment of its subject to date . . . . because the patient reader can distill from it a vivid sense of Che the man.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Neither Castañeda nor Taibo has written the definitive biography of Guevara. If anyone has, it is Jon Lee Anderson, whose Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life appeared earlier this year.” —The Boston Book Review

Customer Reviews

Very well written and extremely informative.
E. D. Sattes
Some might argue he's a villain or a hero, I am not bias towards him and if you feel the same way I do, I think you'll enjoy this book as well.
Simon M. Lam
I can't wait to finish this book and read others!

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 33 people found the following review helpful By lit-in-the-last-frontier on December 19, 2011
Format: Paperback
There is surprisingly little out there in English on the life of the legendary leftist guerilla Che Guevara, aside from his own writings and a couple of very poorly written biographies. To say that Jon Lee Anderson's work is the definitive tale would be an accurate statement. Anderson went so far as to move his entire family to Cuba for five years while writing this hefty tome. Che's family also gave the author tremendous support and access to many of his unpublished written materials.

For those unfamiliar with who he was, Che Guevara was an Argentinian from an upstanding family and a credentialed doctor. Initially, he had ideas to use his training to help those less fortune, but as he began to read the works of Karl Marx and others (Che, we learn, was a voracious reader), his ideas became gradually more leftist until he eventually became an avowed Communist. Anderson very clearly defines Che's ideological journey, making it a definite strength of the book. Che gained lasting fame as one of Fidel Castro's right hand men, second only, and sometimes even surpassing, Fidel's brother Raoul. One of the big surprises for me was that Fidel was not initially a Communist, and Che can certainly be credited with indoctrinating him and instilling Communism as the dominant force in Cuba. Therein lies his renown.

My biggest complaint was actually the painstaking detail in this account. A voluminous 814 pages, this one could easily have had 200 pages edited out. Truly, does anyone care to know exactly what was packed in Che's jeep for a inconsequential ride through the jungle? Or need a virtually hour by hour play-by-play of guerilla movements? Che's lifelong battle with asthma is also reiterated to excess, although that health issue does at least have relevance to the tale.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Dead Poet on October 13, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an exhausting book! It is more than you ever wanted to know about Ernesto "Che" Guevara because it takes you from birth to death in this man's life. Strangely, this interminable story leaves out the most important fact about this man. Che Guevara was a psychopathic murderer who killed hundreds, likely thousands (we'll never know the exact number) of innocent people with no more conscience than if he was killing some chickens.
He was also a bumbler who fumbled his way through military campaigns allowing many of his idiotic followers to be killed. A disgruntled and sick rabble-rouser who fomented discontent and created destruction wherever he went. I wonder if all the young people who proudly wear their "Che" T-shirts know that they are promoting a mythical figure who was one of the most murderous people of the twentieth century?
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dalcassian on February 7, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The great strength of this book is also its biggest weakness: the enormous length. Serious students of the man and his times, wherever they stand, will find it extremely useful and interesting. But those wanting either a quick introduction to or survey of Che Guevara and his record might become overwhelmed. Nevertheless, Anderson's book is far more good than not as a resource. And it is quite readable for the ordinary reader who is willing to commit the extra time and focus required.

(In honor of the book's length, this review is also painfully long.)

Turning to content, accusations of bias against Anderson are certainly fair. The author clearly admires his subject and the consequent weaknesses may confirm the old adage that "praise is the shipwreck of historians". Still, the book is not at all a "whitewash". A careful reader with a liberal (in the broad sense) view will find enough in here to accurately condemn Ernesto "Che" Guevara for his distorted and profoundly disturbing worldviews, along with the violence and tyranny that the Argentina-raised, Cuba-naturalized revolutionary chose to nurture.

On the positive side, Anderson's admiration did give him motivation and credibility to access very significant and fresh sources for the biography. Such material include family papers and former Soviet personages and documents. (The author's extensive personal investigative efforts also led to the finding of Che's burial location and remains.)

The living Che we meet is well-drawn. And he is far from the rather silly counterimage currently being propagated in right-wing anti-Che circles. That simple-minded anti-Che image is someone who is a sustained anti-black racist, a homophobe, a mad sadist, and a coward.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Stryder7 on November 23, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
John Lee Anderson's book is one of the most researched books on Che Guevara you will find anywhere. Although at 800 pages reading the book can look slightly daunting - it is an in-depth study of Che Guevara. The research is all documented in the back of the book. It is almost as fascinating following the research as it is to read the story itself.

This follows Che from birth to death and all the bits and pieces in-between. If you are looking for a book that enhances the popular Che of myth and legend this is not the book for you. This is a book of the good and the bad, the right and the wrong and as well balanced as any book could be.

It comes down to learning that Che wasn't really a likable person at times - in some ways misguided, arrogant and selfish, -he is also a passionate and idealistic visionary who was dedicated to helping the fight against the injustices of the lives of the `lower-class' citizens of South America -to start with.

The author provides an unbiased account of this idolised and basically unknown figure of recent history. He shows the human and humane side as well as the ruthless disciplinarian of the guerrillas, as he aided Fidel Castro in the takeover of Cuba and its almost disastrous change to communism. The insight into the relationship between Fidel and Che is fascinating.

Che brought to the forefront the awareness of the poverty and inequality of the people of the world. He was inspired by Marxism and was never swayed from his chosen path.

All in all it is a marvellously written book. It leaves it up to the reader to decide whether this man should be loved or hated and regardless of your decision you will have to admit that Che was an extraordinary person. A visionary of his time.
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