Skip to main content

Review: The Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevara


Che Guevara has always been a perplexing character to me. During my undergrad years, I have come across people who worshiped him, and several who disliked him. That was pretty much my first introduction to this character. Until last year, when I first saw the movie The Motorcycle Diaries. I absolutely loved it. I didn't know what to make of Che Guevara even then, but I could relate to the beginnings of his humanitarian interest.

Fueled by that impression, I started reading the journal on which the movie is based. There is something about reading journals that feels very raw. It was just as like reading Anne Frank's diary - a collection of daily thoughts jotted down to narrate some particular period in life. On its own, the diary is complete, but someone interested in the later life of Che Guevara will be interested in the implications of the diary records.

The Motorcycle Diaries is Che's account of his journey to explore South America with his friend, Alberto Granado, on an ancient Norton motorcycle. In the prologue, Che's father writes in the prologue,
I didn't realize then that his obsession with traveling was just another part of his zeal for learning. He knew that really to understand the needs of the poor he had to travel the world, not as a tourist stopping to take pretty pictures and enjoy the scenery, but in the way he did, by sharing the human suffering found at every bend in the road and looking for the causes of that misery.
I found the start of the book to be slightly shaky and unsure, but that could be just me getting used to a person's style of writing.

I found I could empathize with Che when he narrated the sufferings of the people he came across. The mindsets of some people were very primitive, especially where leprosy is concerned, but that more or less was the basic belief held by most people across the world. Those suffering from leprosy were usually isolated thanks to the predominant thinking that the disease can be spread by touch. What Che and Alberto tried to do for these people was quite touching. But occasionally, Che falls into the same trap of ridiculing one set of people while focusing on another. I can't say I very much agreed with his line of thought at those points.

Many times, his entries were hilarious as well. Alberto and Che formed a charismatic duo. I liked them in the movie, and enjoyed their company even more in the book. The respect each had for the other was very evident. They were broke most of the time, so they had a string of stories construed to evoke sympathy among the listeners. Sometimes they were lucky to impress their audience enough to earn their lunch or be invited to parties.

Che's transition in his beliefs and the changes in his character are quite evident as we go from the first page to the last. There are stronger and harsher opinions, more analyses of the bias that exist and the stark contrast between the ways of life of the rich and the poor. His criticisms also become more pointed and specific, while his dreams and wishes get a clearer outline. There were times I lost the thread of his thoughts, especially when I was treated to an extensive narration of the history behind a place or people. In the end, I feel that I enjoyed the movie more than the book, but the book gave me a better historical reference than the movie.

  

Check out this book published by Verso @ Goodreads, BetterWorldBooks, Amazon, B&N.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Comments

Rebecca Chapman said…
I have heard a lot about the movie, and it has all been good, but I have to admit that it hadn't really occured to me to read the book. It sounds fascinating though I will definitely keep an eye out for it when I am out book hunting.

I have a non-fiction account of his life on my book shelf that I have started many times but never been able to get into. I really admire people who are really able to live that they believe.

I am glad that I read your review.
bermudaonion said…
I know who Che Guevara was, but I didn't know anything about his motorcycle journey and its impact on his life. This sounds interesting to me.
Confession: saw the movie, but didn't read the book. It's the type of story that works better for me as a movie, I must say.
I'm surprised to say that I've never heard of the book or the movie! I'd love to check them both out, though. Probably the book first. Great review!
Ellie said…
I rather liked the film, but I wasn't as keen on the book. It all got a bit jumbled for me, and I didn't find it as... what's the word... complete? reflective? as I thought it would be. That said, I did just buy another book of his thoughts, 'Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War', and I might pick up the Bolivian diaries sometime. Think your review nailed the good and the bad right on the head!
Ellie
MissA said…
I too have conflicted views on Che Guevara. So many people adore him and others absolutely despise him. I think I'm in the middle, but your review has made me curious to both see the Motorcycle Diaries and read it.

Thank you for such an excellent review :)

Popular posts from this blog

Hell-Heaven by Jhumpa Lahiri (Short Fiction Review)

I first read Jhumpa Lahiri years ago, when her Interpreter of Maladies was making a huge buzz. At the time, I didn't catch any of the buzz, but for some reason, when I saw the book on the shelf at the store I was browsing in, I felt it just might be a decent read. Funnily, I read the entire short story collection without complaining about it, but for some reason, I cannot read any collection anymore without agonizing over its disjoint nature.

I did enjoy Interpreter of Maladies, but I did get bothered by the thread of loneliness and infidelity and distrust that laced through the stories. For that reason, I have been reluctant to read Unaccustomed Earth. However, when I came across Hell-Heaven at the NewYorker - a free short story from her book, I decided to go ahead and read it. I can't resist the pull of stories set in India or featuring Indian characters, and it is that same aspect that hooked me throughout this story.


In Hell-Heaven, the narrator contemplates the relations…

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Maybe that’s what religion is, hurling yourself off a cliff and trusting that something bigger will take care of you and carry you to the right place.
Bernadette Fox has a reputation. While her husband and her daughter Bee love her, there's barely anyone else who share the sentiment. Her neighbor Audrey loves to gossip mean things about her with her close friend, Soo-Lin. The other parents of kids at Bee's school look down on Bernadette because she doesn't involve herself in school affairs. Bernadette herself goes out of her way to avoid company.

And then one day, Bee comes home with an excellent report card and asks for her reward - a family trip to Antarctica. The very plan throws Bernadette into a panic but she has no other option. She hires a virtual assistant, based out of India to take care of all her demands, including getting prescriptions at her local pharmacy, doing her online shopping and taking care of some of the logistics of her trip. (It is ridiculous! Bern…

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson (Short Fiction review)

With the Hunger Games hype that engulfed us last week, it was hard to avoid all the discussion of similar works that existed. Of the many titles that I came across, two stood out particularly - a short story called The Lottery and a Japanese novel (and movie) called Battle Royale (which I'm reading right now and just cannot put down). The novel will be fodder for another post, so for now, I just want to rave about the awesomeness that was The Lottery.

In contemporary America, villagers across the country are gathering on the 27th of June (and some a day earlier) for an annual event called the Lottery. Children, women, men, all come to the main square of their village or town, where the lottery master keeps a black box full of paper chips. One of these chips is marked has a special mark on it to identify the winner (the person who draws that chip). Not everyone draws however, but only the head of the family. Husbands are viewed as the head of their families/households, and if the …