cover image Companero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara

Companero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara

Jorge G. Castaneda, Jorge G. Castaaneda. Alfred A. Knopf, $30 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-679-44034-5

The second substantial biography of the nearly mythic ""Che"" this year (Jon Lee Anderson's Che Guevara was reviewed in PW on March 10), Castaneda'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 Castaneda 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. Castaneda, 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.)