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June 13, 2003

Free Reads -- Lawrence Osborne on Che Guevara

Friedrich --

Che Guevara: idealistic and charismatic, the James Dean of revolutionaries? Or a spoiled, ineffective, vain man whose escapades came to nothing? And why does he continue to fascinate Western media and arts people? Lawrence Osborne, writing in the New York Observer here, spells out a lot of useful things.

Sample passage:

All of Guevara’s books seem to come with sheaves of photographs, as if everything in his life were constantly being prepared for mythology. And in these, we see Che as he probably was: a pretty, convivial, quick-tongued Latin American prince off on a peripatetic lark. He sizes up people according to whether they are "useful" or not; he badgers his mother for supplies of mate tea.



posted by Michael at June 13, 2003



I had trouble finding the useful information that you suggest is available here. Osborne addresses an interesting question, of course, but apparently like any competent lawyer answers with what he already knows and only to air out his own counter revolutionary sentiments with this artful middle finger salute.

But he does quote Robert Conquest ("persistence to this day of an adolescent revolutionary romanticism, as one of the unfortunate afflictions to which the human mind was and is prone." and also has him quoting a British diplomat on Che, "cold blooded killer" and Gary Hart's novel (I think that's still fiction,

The Conquest observation is a variation on the story of the French General who when he is told his son is a communist opines, "If you are not a communist when you are twenty you have no heart and if you are still a communist when you are thirty you have no brain."

There were three creditable and credible biographies of Ernesto Guevera published in, I think, 1997. Jon Lee Anderson's, Paco Taibo's and Jorge Castenada's. No mention by Osborne of these authoritative works, right? I read the Anderson book and know the other two and these must not be the books that come with "sheaves of photos" that he is referring to. But they do have useful information as opposed to this pastiche (Osborne's) that tidily encapsulates the lives of Ernesto Guevera and Fidel Castro and the triumphant Cuban Revolution into a pile of verbal turds.

The victims of this artful iconoclasm are as always readers who haven't spent much time getting past the screeds that are regularly published about Cuban history in the US. I would recommend the eloquent Eduardo Galeano's Cuba Hurts
(http ://
for a something a little different about that benighted island nation.

Posted by: Robert Birnbaum on June 13, 2003 5:33 PM

"Che Cuevara, the Rudolph Valentino of the revolution"-someone I forget

Didn't Camille Pagila say that pop culture siphons charmismatic young men away from politics and into show biz? I think its a good conduit. Charmismatic leaders have a bad history.


Posted by: JLeavitt on June 14, 2003 1:30 PM

A bar in Tucson called Che's Lounge is all the rage among the hip set now, it started a couple of years ago as THE place were Democratic Party worker hung out and plotted local machinations.

I keep saying "well if it's Che's, shouldn't the drinks be free, or at least priced on a sliding scale?"

Posted by: David Mercer on June 14, 2003 8:03 PM

Ah, David, you must review your Marx. Piecemeal bourgeois reforms of that kind merely act as an anodyne for the oppressed proletarian class and postpone the day of the glorious revolution.

Posted by: Aaron Haspel on June 15, 2003 11:12 AM

LOL! Good one Aaron!

Posted by: David Mercer on June 15, 2003 2:05 PM

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