Companero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara

Companero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara

by Jorge G. Castañeda

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Cuando llegó el momento en que fue muerto en las selvas de Bolivia, donde su cuerpo fue exhibido como un Cristo destronado, Ernesto "Che  Guevara se había convertido en sinónimo de revolución en todas partes desde Cuba hasta los terrenos universitarios de los Estados Unidos. Esta biografía extraordinaria por uno de los más…  See more details below


Cuando llegó el momento en que fue muerto en las selvas de Bolivia, donde su cuerpo fue exhibido como un Cristo destronado, Ernesto "Che  Guevara se había convertido en sinónimo de revolución en todas partes desde Cuba hasta los terrenos universitarios de los Estados Unidos. Esta biografía extraordinaria por uno de los más prominentes analistas políticos de Latinoamérica revela la leyenda del Che Guevara para mostrar el carismático e inquieto hombre detrás de ella.

Tomando de los archivos de tres continentes y de entrevistas con la familia y asociados de Guevara, Jorge Castañeda sigue al Che desde su niñez en la clase media argentina hasta los años de peregrinaje que lo hicieron un revolucionario dedicado. Castañeda examina las complejas relaciones entre Guevara y Fidel Castro, quien lo hizo su mano derecha aún cuando el Che se convirtió en la conciencia política de Fidel. Y Castañeda analiza las fallas de carácter que forzaron al Che a irse de Cuba y dar sus energias y, finalmente, su vida a aventuras quijotescas en el Congo y Bolivia. Una obra maestra de erudición y simpatía literaria, Compañero es el retrato definitivo de una figura que continua fascinando e inspirando a gentes del mundo entero.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The second substantial biography of the nearly mythic "Che" this year (Jon Lee Anderson's Che Guevara was reviewed in PW on March 10), Castaeda's is neither as involving nor as reliable as its predecessor. Handicapped by a halting translation ("His entrancement with the project of revolution was tempered by the lucidity he had already displayed on several occasions..."), it reads in places like a treatise ("This analysis will consequently focus on the campaign's successive tribulations..."). Although Castaeda is informative on Latin American political radicalism, and fits Guevara, whom he views as decent, noble and even Christ-like, into its complexities, he sees "Che" as motivated by restlessness and an obsession to export revolution beyond Cuba. Castaeda, who teaches history at New York University, also targets Guevara's lifelong struggle with asthma as a motivating factor, goading him toward quickly achieved goals, yet disabling him during his futile guerrilla campaign in Bolivia. His account of how and why Guevara grew away from Castro after their success in Cuba and why he dabbled in distant radical movements in Africa and South America follows a path well trod by earlier biographers. This book is dated, too, by such recent events as the return of Guevara's mutilated body for burial in Cuba in July. Further, a biography that characterizes "Che" as "fluent to some extent" (in French) and describes the squalid circumstances of his execution in the Bolivian outback in 1967 as "a death worth reliving" is likely to be read with some exasperation. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Library Journal
With the partial opening of Cuban archives to foreign scholars and increased access to Cuban historical individuals come back to back two important new biographies of the Argentinean-born Cuban revolutionary leader and ideologue, Che Guevara. First there was American journalist Jon Lee Anderson's Che Guevara (LJ 4/15/97) and now this one, by one of Mexico's leading political writers and a professor of international affairs (New York Univ.). Though the two volumes cover similar territory, they are not the same. Anderson's volume is the larger and occasionally includes greater detail on aspects of Che's life, but Castaeda takes more of an academic approach and is better at placing Che in the context of Cuban and world history. Anderson writes journalistically, while Castaeda is perceptive and creative. This biography is an important addition to our understanding of Che and the Cuban revolution and will be valuable to any library interested in the history of the 20th century. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/97.]Mark L. Grover, Brigham Young Univ., Provo, Utah
Kirkus Reviews
In the second Guevara biography this year (after John Lee Anderson's Che Guevara, p. 343), chronicler of the Latin American left Castañeda (Political Science/New York Univ.) distinguishes himself from other biographers by stripping Guevara of myths while bowing to his role as the principal icon of the '60s.

Despite the left leanings of his grandmother and mother, Guevara developed his political views slowly as an outgrowth of his sense of outrage at the conditions and treatment of the poor he witnessed throughout the region. Although disgusted with the US- backed ouster of Guatemalan reformist Arbenz, it was only after Guevara met Fidel Castro in Mexico in 1955 that his bookish attraction to Marxist-Leninism (and his preference for the Soviet Union over the US as a model of political development) gave way to a revolutionary commitment. Once he was entrenched in Castro's inner circle, Guevara's sympathies with the USSR rose and fell with exactly the opposite timing of Castro's. Castañeda notes that in battle, Guevara's impulsive strategic decisions required the collaboration of a highly organized commander such as Castro. Without him, Guevara's extreme egalitarianism, revolutionary zeal, and strong will proved insufficient for repeated victory. As this became clear, Castañeda suggests, Castro opted against a rescue mission for the ailing revolutionary in Bolivia, as Guevara had become more useful as a martyr than as a fighter. Finally, the author dismisses the popular myth that Guevara went down with his guns blazing—he was executed by Bolivian authorities. Along the way, Castañeda presents some interesting, if quirky, theories on Guevara's psychological development. For example, he postulates that asthma played a key role in the revolutionary's predilection for armed struggle: Combat produces adrenaline, providing natural relief from asthma, while the deliberation of ambiguities brought on attacks.

A solid yet easy to read account, with ample footnotes to satisfy serious readers.

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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