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Guevara, Also Known as Che Paperback – August 19, 1999

4.6 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

Mexican novelist Taibo (Leonard's Bicycle, 1995, etc.) offers his political adventure-story take on Latin America's revered revolutionary, with heavy use of excerpts from Guevara's diaries and interviews with other sources. In the third biography of Guevara this year, Taibo spends little time investigating the revolutionary's personal life, which was detailed by Jon Lee Anderson (p. 343), and is similarly brief with his subject's initial political development and his changing views, which was Jorge Casta¤eda's focus (p. 1174). While acknowledging that he was a prolific reader of political tracts, revolutionary poetry, and a wide array of fiction, Taibo notes that when it came to the politics of revolution, ``as far as Cuba was concerned, Che was no more than a country intellectual who had never set foot in a city.'' It is Che the rebel fighter who became an international icon, and it is this aspect of his life that Taibo stresses--one third of the biography is dedicated to his successful year as a soldier and commander in Cuba. While his troops rested between battles, the tireless Che took charge of rebel training camps, gave basic reading lessons, tended to the wounded, and launched the guerrillas' own newspaper and radio station. Once, as Batista's forces were known to be preparing an offensive, Guevara took time out to prepare a splint for a wounded bird. In addition to his individual military victories, Taibo notes that the revolution's success was also due to Guevara's ability to step up the pace of assaults in late 1958 to take advantage of the crumbling dictatorship. After five frustrating years filling various roles in the new Cuban government, Guevara departed in semi-exile to do what he did best--but his expeditions in the Congo and Bolivia ended in failure and eventually in his execution. A sentimental tale of revolutionary exploits, in which Che's own voice is clearly heard. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"Taibo's unorthodox style makes particularly effective use of Guevara's own extensive writings, quoting him often and without introduction in a distinctive typeface."—The New York Times Book Review

"With effortless insights . . . Taibo paints a vivid picture of Che's two-year love affair with guerilla life."—The Washington Post Book World
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 2nd edition (August 19, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312206526
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312206529
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.6 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #625,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By O. M. Suarez on May 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
In the US, Paco Taibo II is better known within the mystery readers' crowd for his accomplished police stories with a touch of irony and a shrewd writing style. For this reason with certain apprehension I started reading this biography. In fact it was the first complete and serious Che's bio I have ever read. Later I grabbed Jon Lee Anderson's one... Of all Che's bios Paco's is the most enchanting one. It may lack the huge documention of Anderson's book, but it compensates it with an amazing style. Paco cannot divorce his own admiration of Che from his subject, but, hey, that is exactly why this book becomes so much enjoyable. I still recall grabbing the book (700 hundred pages!) one morning and going that same night to bed with the book in my hands! I couldn't stop reading it! Che's story is reflected under the light of an amazing storyteller. The episodes of Che's story are exquisitely threaded together in a masterful way. His life becomes flesh and blood in Paco's hands. The icon, the symbol of rebellion and struggle for social justice turns a man, an incredible, passionate and admirable human being throughout the book. The end cannot be better: it is ghostly but hopeful with a lot of energy and sadness and beauty: a song to Latin American history of struggle.
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Format: Hardcover
As other reviewers have said, this is the best of the Che biographies. Paco Taibo does the research and tells the story in a way that brings life to a myth as few other biographers in any era have been able to do. This is Ernesto Guevara as he lived and died, and you can understand how he became "El Che" the icon of the "Unredeemed America", and what drove him inexorably towards the bullet that ended his life in the dilapidated schoolhouse at La Higuera. For anyone who has seen "The Motorcycle Diaries", this book is necessary reading. I bought it five years ago and read pretty much the whole thing in a couple days. Since then, I will often grab this book and start reading at some random point, and not put it down for an hour or so. As mentioned by someone before, once you start turning the pages it is difficult to stop. The reason for this is twofold. First, the life portrayed here was an epic journey and second, Taibo is a not only a storyteller par excellence, but has a keen sense of the history of the times and is able to inject his own commentary to illuminate many of the seminal events during the course of Che's life. He is also relating to Che from a Latin American perspective, distinctly different from what North American readers may be used to. For instance, his Mexican roots are in evidence by his comparison of the legendary Mexican comedic actor Cantinflas to Che's own occasional sense of the absurdity of life. It is these touches that also help set this biography apart from the others on Che. We see another side of the legend.

The biography starts with Che's family in Argentina, and their somewhat bohemian background. We learn how the young Ernesto suffered greatly from asthma, an affliction that would shape his stoic character all his life.
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By Spagoli on October 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
I was walking around wearing one of those 'Che' T-shirts and a guy asked me some questions about him. I felt pretty stupid not knowing more than I did. So I started reading about Che. That was 3 years ago.
I have read his diaries, speeches, FBI files, everything I could find....THIS was the BEST.
The author is truly a Che fan, but he still points out mistakes Che made, but the best thing is he provides everything in its context. He builds the background of where Che came from, what his life was. The reader FEELS 50's 60's Latin America so you can really emphasize with the actions and emotions of the integral characters.
Sum it up, even though it was a factual biography I still was totally engrossed reading 500 some pages in about 3 days, and still re-reading it.
A pleasure.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Taibo's book sheds a bit of new light on Che Guevara's guerrilla expeditions in Bolivia and the Congo. Given that there are close to a dozen similar books available to the reader on the same topic, this book does not get my highest recommendation, but the author has a unique style and above all else, he strives to separate fact from fiction and mythology, and calls out ideologically driven lies. When he set out to write the book, he swore that he would go where the facts led him, and not try to mythologize or flatter Guevara's image. I think he did a pretty good job of that. He also points out some of the contradictions in other author's works. He compares them to the interviews he conducted with a number of the surviving guerrillas and government functionaries. Taibo has a nice narrative style, and the book is well organized and easy to read. Recommended
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Format: Hardcover
Of two most recent books on the life and death of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, this is the most personal and personable. Paco Taibo's translated writing touches the reader with the untouchable moments of Che's life, leaving behind the hype, the political interventions and propositions, and the devious subterfuge of reading into or out of events the vision of Che as a misguided revolutionary. Taibo tells us about a naive man who only near the end came to the beginnings of understanding how revolutions cannot be institutionalized. However, this excellent book is one star shy of perfect because of numerous typos and misspellings as well as horrible mix-ups of words and phrases in the middle of what would have been otherwise a seamless joy to read. Buy the book and read it, but have a blue pencil in hand so that, once you find the butchery of the text, you can excise it in true revolutionary fashion, so that others who come to read later will not have to suffer the confusion of trying to understand a very understandable man. Para que el Che viva, lo podremos creer.
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