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Book Challenges: 50 Books A Year (no. 5)

“Why don’t we go to North America?”
“North America? But how?”
“On La Poderosa, man.”

Finally finished ‘The Motorcycle Diaries‘ this morning, and I am pleased to report that it was a very easy read. Guevara‘s image as a die-hard communist is somewhat challenged in this very personal account of his pre-guerilla years on the road as a humble middle-class medical student. He and his hearty companion Alberto, along with their ramshackle Norton 500cc (‘La Poderosa’, or ‘The Mighty One’) make for some extraordinary adventures, as they travel up the spine of the Andes, through Argentina, Chile, Peru and Venezuela meeting all sorts of people, and getting into all kinds of embarrasing situations. This diary offers those acquainted with the political aspect of Guevara’s personality, the chance to get to know him as a person. The events he recounts are full of humour, his writing style is also very fluent and engaging, drawing the reader in and guiding them through events that some might argue have been heavily edited for aesthetic purposes, and some of which in hindsight, became a major influencing factor in later years.
The diary itself reads both like a coming-of-age journey and a travelogue that The Times described as ‘Das Kapital meets Easy Rider‘. I can’t argue with that. At the end of the day, the young ‘Che’ was nothing but a man with dreams and ideals that most people during the 1950’s secretly hoped for. His drunken, impromptu speech on his 24th birthday of a unified ‘Pan-Americanism‘, gives us a glimpse of the passion this road-trip developed within him for the people of South America, laying the foundation for his communist philosophy. Everywhere he went he chronicled the hardships and the political incorrectness that seemed to cripple the native peoples. He saw first-hand what the lack of basic priviledges was doing to the continent, and like any hot-blooded, politically-motivated University student, wished to find a way to do away with the shackles of imperialist US forces.

As I said before, the diary reveals a human side to Che, that is not widely written about. It highlights a time in his life when he was at a cross-roads, and in the first chapter ‘So We Understand Each Other’, he states that he too, felt the changes that were about to happen to him, “But I’ll leave you now, with myself, the man I used to be…”

I give this 4/5 Stars.

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