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SUPERBOOK: The Motorcycle Diaries

The book contains Che?s personal account of a journey that he took around South America with his friend and fellow adventurer, the pharmacist Alberto Granada.

india Updated: May 27, 2006 12:30 IST

The Motorcycle Diaries
Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara
Price — Rs 705
Publication — Ocean Press

The cult of ‘Che’ rules supreme amongst today’s youth, thanks largely to the excessive romanticisation of the revolutionary communist leader. The iconic image of a fiercely proud Che staring defiantly into the horizon is one of the most ubiquitous symbols of the 20th century and has found its way onto endless t-shirts, bedroom walls and CD covers.

What many don’t know is that he was born into the aristocratic set-up that he spent the majority of his life fighting against. Or that he started out as a doctor, only later switching to the considerably more exciting job of staging coups and running countries.

The book contains Che’s personal account of a journey that he took around South America with his friend and fellow adventurer, the pharmacist Alberto Granada. The majority of the writing is taken from the diaries Che kept at the time.

Guevara beautifully documents South America’s stunning sights, ranging from Chile’s mountainous lakes to the abandoned Inca cities of Peru. Though the original plan was to cover the entire continent on motorcycle, the two had to abandon the rusty and troublesome bike, nicknamed Le Poderosa (The Powerful One), early in the journey.

The constant accidents and bad roads, coupled with the bike’s already frail condition, caused it to literally fall apart, despite numerous ingenious repair jobs. The two then proceed to hitchhike the rest of the journey with their meagre monetary resources.

The book reveals the birth of Che’s political philosophy, including key moments that were to later justify, at least in his head, the ruthless methods he adopted to fight for power.

The jovial, buccaneering style of travel adopted by the duo got them into many sticky messes, humorously recorded by Che. What shines through, however, is the strength of spirit exhibited by Che throughout the journey, allowing him to bulldoze his way though the numerous obstacles.

It would be the same zeal and spirit that would later turn him into one of the most radical and heroic figures of the modern age.