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The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey Paperback – August 1, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 175 pages
  • Publisher: Ocean Press (August 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1876175702
  • ISBN-13: 978-1876175702
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (122 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A freewheeling account of an extended youthful road trip undertaken in the early '50s by the future poster boy of Communist insurrection.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Das Kapital meets Easy Rider.” (Times)

“A Latin American James Dean or Jack Kerouac.” (Washington Post)

“…Ernesto Guevara in search of Che. On this journey of journeys, solitude found solidarity, ‘I’ turned into ‘we’.” (Eduardo Galeano)

“An extraordinary first-person account. … It redoubles his image and lends a touch of humanity with enough rough edges to invite controversy.” (Los Angeles Times Book Review)

“For every comic escapade of the carefree roustabout there is an equally eye-opening moment in the development of the future revolutionary leader. (Time)

“There is pathos in these pages — the pathos of Che himself, ever thoughtful, ever willing to sacrifice all, burning with guilt over his own privileges and never letting his sufferings impede him.” (New Yorker)

“This candid journal, part self-discovery, part fieldwork, glimmers with portents of the future revolutionary.” (Publishers’ Weekly)

“A revolutionary bestseller… It’s true, Marxists just wanna have fun.” (Guardian)

“What distinguishes these diaries… is that they reveal a human side to El Che which historians have successfully managed to suppress.” (Financial Times)

“This book should do much to humanize the image of a man who found his apotheosis as a late ‘60s cultural icon. It is also, incidentally, a remarkably good travel book about South America.” (The Scotsman) -- Review

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Customer Reviews

A good look at why Che Guevara became what he was.
Amazon Customer
If given the choice, I would read the book first, as many of the monologues heard in the movie are just straight quotes from the writing.
I found the book to be an excellent read; it was very entertaining.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

106 of 119 people found the following review helpful By F. Orion Pozo on October 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
The hooks are obvious: charismatic revolutionary Che Guevara on a continent spanning motorcycle trip of South America. However, this book is by Ernesto Guevera, a 23 year old middle-class medical student looking for a break from his studies, and the motorcycle doesn't last through two countries. It is a rare glimpse into the young mind of a major cultural revolutionary. The book is also a unique look into the everyday life of South America in the middle of the 20th century. The point of view is of sons of privilege wandering the countryside and living off the land. Sometimes they are encountering the workers and experiencing their simple hospitality and honest struggles. At other times, they rely on their social class and education to open doors to more polite society. What I found compelling about this book is that in such a brief work the author was able to present a sweeping portrait of South American life. it was, for me, a wonderfully human introduction to the people and lands of this vast continent.
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99 of 113 people found the following review helpful By Elderbear VINE VOICE on March 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
I grew up in Loma Linda, a University town with a medical school. I never heard of anybody taking off on a motorcycle, even after graduation, for a journey like this. But Che Guevara was an exception to the rulers. The young (Everything he did was young--he didn't live to see 40.) Ernesto "Che" Guevara, left the university & his life of privilege for seven months on the road, touring South America, first on a motorcycle, then as a vagabond, with his compadre Alberto.
The two of them posed as Argentinian Doctors, specialists in the treatment of leprosy. This gained them food and lodging, as well as special treatment at times. It also gained them face-to-face experience with the impossible living conditions of people suffering from this disease.
Alberto & Che traveled on their own resources. When money got tough, they scammed & stowed-away, sometimes even working for a meal, but they didn't cable home for money or assistance. During this experience, Che became personally acquainted with the poverty and disempowerment prevalent in South America.
Reading the book was a delightful experience. Che has a poetic way with words. He doesn't take himself too seriously, telling tales of purloined wine, of scamming for sustenance, of bravely shooting a "puma" in the dark of night. By daylight it turned out to have been a local rancher's dog. He tells of hiding with a shipment of melons, hoping to stow away on a boat, but getting busted when sailors noticed melon rinds floating by the dock. Ernesto & Alberto were indeed a couple of scallywags, but loveable, the kind you'd sit down with for a stein of beer or a cup of mate.
This book tells a human story, one that's unselfconscious enough to be truly enjoyable. Almost enough to make me want to sell the house, buy a motorcycle ...
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By John D. Sherwood on October 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
Over time, Che Guevara has emerged as a larger than life figure. It's difficult not to spot someone wearing a Che t-shirt in downtown Lima or Mexico City. The film, "The Motorcycle Diaries," attempted to tap into the cult of Che Guevara, and also create a road movie in the tradition of such Hollywood films as "Easy Rider," "Thelma and Louise," and "Rain Man."

While I enjoyed the cinematic version of "Motorcycle Diaries," the book is even better because it's more honest. Reading Che's notes about his Latin American journey allows one to see first-hand how his revolutionary consciousness begins to develop over time from his chance encounters with numerous dispossessed peoples. I decided to read this book after a recent trip to Peru and was astounded by how accurate Guevara's observations are even today. The bourgeois still sip coffee in their gated communities in Lima while the poor suffer horribly in the countryside, either mining or trying the eek out a living from the harsh land.

This book, though, also contains the humor and adventure one would expect from a classic travelogue. That he and his companion had very little money on the trip and had to rely on their wits and the kindness of strangers to survive makes this book that much better. Unlike many modern travel writers, who stay in five star hotels, and write glowing descriptions of their surroundings for "Travel and Leisure," Che slept with pigs, traveled with cows, and suffered constantly from the elements and frequent asthma attacks. In short, there's often not much physical separation between him and the poor people he observes, and that makes for a better yarn. Regardless of what you think of Che and the revolution he ultimately helped to lead, this book should be read by anyone interested in traveling to South America.
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48 of 60 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 11, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I think the title of this book was a calculated effort to sell this book to people like me--people who care more about motorcycles than revolutionaries. If you pick it up determined to read about a guy who rode a motorcycle all over South America, you'll be disappointed. If you're seeking an adventure touring story, you won't be. I finished the book in a few hours and walked away glad I didn't give up when a youthful Che's motorcycle broke for good 30 pages into the book. The rest detail the travels of Che and a friend, total slackers posing as doctors and leprosy experts (which they were, in loose senses of the words), as they scam their way across the continent by hitching rides, sucking up to cops and brown-nosing anyone with food, booze and a warm place to sleep. The reader gets the feeling that this journey was perhaps the defining experience in Che's pre-revolutionary life, and that his worldview really came into focus based on the things--beauty, oppression, generosity, treachery--that he saw on his bohemian-style trip. This compelling read changed my impression of the man we call Che--much for the better.
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