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The African Dream: The Diaries of the Revolutionary War in the Congo Paperback – October 7, 2001

4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"This is the history of a failure." With these words, Guevara, the Cuban revolutionary and leftist icon killed in Bolivia in 1967, launches into a brutally honest account of Cuba's disastrous 1965 intervention in Congo. Guevara traveled to Congo to foment a Communist revolution in a country that then as now was in a state of anarchy. But as he readily admits, he was unable to mobilize his Cuban forces and Congolese allies into a cohesive force. Much of the blame he lays at the feet of the Congolese, "the poorest example of a fighter that I have ever come across to now." But Guevara's ruminations about the frustrations of his insurgency are only part of these "war diaries." Guevara's correspondence with Congolese guerrilla leaders is also included, as are his often negative comments on these leaders. Throughout, Guevara, who was trained as a doctor, displays the analytical mind that made him famous. For example, in hindsight, his prediction that Laurent Kabila was the only guerrilla leader with the potential to rise to the top looks prescient, since Kabila ruled the Congo for a time in the 1990s. Readers looking for an introduction to Che will want to consult the recent comprehensive biography by journalist Jon Lee Anderson but no matter their ideology, readers will find that these writings further their understanding of one of the late 20th century's most intriguing historical figures. 8 pages b&w photos not seen by PW.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In June 1960, the Congo gained independence from Belgium following dramatic events led by left-wing Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. Following the assassination of Lumumba, Cuban revolutionary Guevara traveled incognito to the Congo to put his guerrilla theories and tactics to work for the Congolese people. These brutally honest, unabridged journals illuminate a two-year period (1965-67) during which he trained left-wing soldiers fighting to wrestle the Congo from the imperialists. Trained as a physician and a member of Fidel Castro's government, Guevara understood the limitations that life imposes on humans and the sacrifices demanded in guerrilla warfare. Here he shares his experiences in Congolese training camps, chronicles the challenge (and ultimate failure) of spreading Cuban political ideology, and sheds light on his relationships with fellow revolutionaries, including a young Laurent Kabila and Fidel Castro. An honest, detailed account of the life and work of a great 20th-century revolutionary, this work completes Guevara's life story. Recommended for specialized collections in large public and academic libraries. Sylvia D. Hall-Ellis, Denver P.L.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (October 7, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802138349
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802138347
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #326,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ernesto Che Guevara was born in Argentina in 1928. After fighting alongside Fidel Castro in the three-year guerilla war in Cuba, he became Minister for Industry following the victory of the Cuban revolution. In 1966 he established a guerilla base in Bolivia. He was captured and killed in 1967.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By sigfpe on December 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
While it might not have been intended as such this is actually a pretty funny read. 'Che' may have been motivated by high ideals but in his diaries he documents the nitty gritty of daily life and the trials of trying to whip a revolutionary army into shape. Frequently beset by attacks of 'the runs' (many times a day) and having to deal with Congolese soldiers who wanted nothing more than to run away from the first sign of trouble unless they had consumed their magic drink that made them impervious to bullets, the campaign seems to have been doomed from the start. If you want to get a different view of the reality of revolution from that presented in manifestos this strikingly honest diary seems like a great place to start.
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Format: Paperback
Unfortunately, many political ideologues of both the Right and the Left (especially the latter) are prone to expressing their perspectives in the form of strident and uncompromising catchphrases, opaque analysis and jargon-laden paragraphs. Lacking are the pithy insights that come from nuanced and objective scrutiny of complex situations which, like everything political are neither the one way nor the other. Surprisingly, given his pedestal on the Olympus of the Left, Ernesto Guevara manages in "The African Dram" to have crafted a generally subtle, sophisticated and perpetually topical analysis of the problems faced by "interventionists" in the Third World's Third World, Africa.

Guevara, noted mostly for his romantic self-sacrifice (having renounced a life of privilege as a physician to embark on a probably quixotic endeavor to overthrow the Batista dictatorship in Cuba and later on, abandoning a comfortable life as a high-ranking Cuban government official to foment revolution in The Congo and later on in Bolivia) maintained diaries of both his Bolivian and African adventures. "The African Dream" is a blunt and honest appraisal of the Cuban effort to install a socialist regime in yet another pre-capitalist (pre-industiral, even) society. In it, Che catalogues the endemic problems which persist in the region to the current date: rampant superstition, tribalism, conflicted loyalties, disease, corruption, theft, inability to absorb the necessarily dispassionate commitment to a professional organization (military, political, governmental), substitution of seductive First World ideologies and agendas for genuine reforms...the list of problems is almost endless and the catalogue of difficulties has grown exponentially over the almost four decades since the diary was written.
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I must commend Guevara for his courage and idealism. I also believe that the diary was a candid appraisal of the circumstances and events of the Congo war in 1965. The book is easy read, interesting, and at times funny (his description of the Congolese guerrillas shooting with their eyes shut was hilarious.) The book is not overburdened with ideological mombo-jombo.

Having read a detailed history of the Cuban Insurrection (Bonachea), the History of the Cuban Revolution (Thomas), and Guevara's own Bolivian Diary (which is also a very interesting book), I find Guevara to be a much better writer than he was military commander.

My reasoning is the following: The books speak for themselves; they are reasonably well written and honest. On the other hand, his military career started with a triumph; the Cuban Revolution. There was a country-wide insurrection going on in Cuba by the time both Castro and Guevara landed in Oriente in 1956. While most other anti-Batista leaders were killed during the next two years, Castro and Guevara survived to lead the insurrection to victory against the terminally corrupt and incompetent army of Batista at the end of 1958. As the old say goes: "the courage of your enemy honors you"...not much honor in that triumph. Batista's troops did not fight.

Six years later Guevara abandons everything in his quest for other struggles and revolutionary glory. It is now 1965 and he goes to Congo. He clearly (from his writings) counted on his fame rallying all the guerrillas to his banner and do an encore of the Cuban rout of 1958. He was wrong on both counts. Government troops fought well. He had to flee and he blamed the Congolese. Then he tried again in Bolivia. Once more he faced a determined enemy, his ego alienated the Bolivian communists, he blamed the Bolivians, and met his end.

Guevara was more of a Robespierre than of an Alexander.
But the book is good.
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This book has the wrong title (the subtitle "The Diaries of the Revolutionary War in the Congo" should be the title). And it has an introduction by liberal "Cuba expert" Richard Gott, who shows his expertise by writing "In her foreword to this book, Aleida March, Guevara's widow reveals how Castro had found the text "extremely interesting...." But anyone familiar with Spanish names or who even reads the foreword (you can skip the introduction, but definitely read the forward), can tell that the forward was written not by Che's widow, but by his daughter, Aleida Guevara March!

Aleida Guevara March starts out by disagreeing with Che's words "This is the history of a failure." She's not the only one with that assessment. Víctor Dreke, in his book From the Escambray to the Congo: In the Whirlwind of the Cuban Revolution says that "I think today, thirty-four years later, we see the positive result of that action. The action of those compañeros who fell in the Congo was not in vain. As Raúl Castro said in 1985, the Congo operation was multiplied in other actions in Africa. The experience we gained made it possible for us to aid the liberation struggles in Guinea-Bissau, Angola, and other places." Dreke's book should be read as a supplement to this.

Piero Gleijeses traces the history of Cuban involvement, including the importance of the Congo mission in
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