10 September 2012

What‘s in a Name challenge review: The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, translated by Alexandra Keeble

Here is my second What‘s in a Name challenge read, no. 5, the something you‘d carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack, that thing being a diary.

The Motorcycle Diaries shows famous revolutionary Ernesto Guevara as young, roguish and immature but already beginning to form the ideas and ideology that would later lead him to join the Cuban revolution and attempt to carry through revolutions in the Congo and Bolivia, the latter which would cost him his life. How much of that revolutionary spark that can be seen here and there in the book is his own fiction and how much is true is impossible to know, as he edited the diary he kept of the journey and may have added to it to make it more interesting for his political brethren. The final chapter, his mini-manifesto of support for the downtrodden and for the revolution he believes in, is certainly a later addition, written to give the book a climax and a real ending.

For the most part, however, this book is about the joys of travel. Guevara and his travel companion set off on a motorcycle with more optimism than money to explore South-America. They abandoned the vehicle when it broke down irrevocably and continued on foot, horseback, in the backs of trucks, by boat and, on one leg of the journey, by air. On the way they saw beautiful nature, visited interesting places, met the sick, poor and disenfranchised and bummed food and accommodation off anyone who would give it, turning sponging into a sport out of necessity. They shivered through freezing nights and sweltered in the heat of days, drank and ate immoderately one day to compensate for the hunger of the previous and following days, became stowaways on a boat, visited leper hospitals and colonies and generally did as they pleased, although their dream of visiting Easter Island never came to frutition. It‘s really the kind of adventure many backpackers dream of when they set out on their journeys.Recommended, even if you don't agree with Guevara's ideology.

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