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Works of Radical Imagination

Book cover for Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War
Book cover for Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War

Che's indelible account of the Cuban revolutionary war, the source of Che: Part 1, the 2008 film by Steven Soderbergh, starring Benicio del Toro

After a long pre-history, the actual Cuban revolutionary war itself only lasted, incredibly, a little over two years, from Dec 2, 1956, to January 1, 1959 — from the disastrous first battle, in which three-quarters of the expeditionary force of 82 revolutionaries that traveled to Cuba on the Granma were killed, to total victory at the beginning of January 1959. And there is no better account of the war than this little book by guerilla leader Che Guevara, assembled by Che from his campaign diary, first published in 1963, later corrected and edited by Che, and published here finally in an authoritative edition that not only includes Che's corrections, but also, in Part 2 a number of short essays and articles published by Che in those early years after the revolution's triumph. As always, Che's writing is intimate, searching, and self-critical. Written, like The Motorcycle Diaries, mostly in diary form, Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War is "more distinctive, refined" in style as his daughter Aleida Guevara notes in her foreword, but still with Che's "early sparkle and dynamism."

Having initially joined the Cuban expedition as troop doctor, Che describes his dilemma in having to choose between a backpack of medicines and a box of ammunition (he chose the box of ammunition). Within months, he is promoted to guerrilla commander. In another justly famous chapter of the book, "The Murdered Puppy," Che describes how he had to give the order to have a puppy killed. Throughout Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War, the sweep of history and matters of life and death are rendered in small and intimate ways. Originally published as a series of articles for Cuban papers, this thoroughly updated edition includes, for the first time, corrections made by Che himself to the first published edition, a foreword by Che's daughter Aleida Guevara, and 32 pages of photos and maps of the guerrilla campaign.

Book cover for Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War
Book cover for Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War

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Ernesto Che Guevara

ERNESTO CHE GUEVARA is profoundly radicalized when, as a young doctor traversing Latin America for the second time, a journey he later describes in Latin America Diaries/Otra Vez, he witnesses first the Bolivian Revolution, and then, in Guatemala, the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Jacobo Árbenz by U.S.-backed forces. After escaping to Mexico, Guevara meets up with a group of Cuban revolutionaries exiled in Mexico City led by Fidel Castro and immediately enlists in their planned expedition to overthrow Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. The Cubans nickname him "Che," a popular form of address in his native Argentina. The group sets sail for Cuba on November 25, 1956, aboard the yacht Granma, with Che as the group's doctor. Within several months, Fidel appoints him a commander of the Rebel Army, though he also continues to minister to wounded guerrilla fighters and captured Batista soldiers.

After General Batista flees Cuba on January 1st, 1959, Che becomes one of the key leaders of the new revolutionary government. He is also the most important representative of the Cuban Revolution internationally, heading numerous delegations and earning a reputation as a passionate and articulate spokesperson for Third World peoples. In April 1965, Che leaves Cuba to lead a guerrilla mission of some 200 Cuban soldiers to support the revolutionary struggle in Congo, a mission he recounts in Congo Diary. The book is characterized by Che's brutal, disciplined honesty, as he recounts the succession of failures and dead ends that characterized the mission, analyzing each one, and never losing sight of his innate optimism and clarity of mission. After returning to Cuba in December 1965, Che prepares another guerrilla force, this time to Bolivia, where he arrives in November 1966 with a small guerrilla force, intending to challenge the country's military dictatorship. He is captured there by U.S.-trained counterinsurgency forces on October 8, 1967, and murdered in cold blood the next day. His Bolivian diaries were later edited and published as The Bolivian Diary/El Diario de Che en Bolivia. Che's other works include Reminisces of the Cuban Revolutionary War/Pasajes de la Guerra Revolucionaria, I embrace you with all my revolutionary fervor/Te abraza con todo fervor revolucionario, and The Motorcycle Diaries/Diarios de Motocicleta. More of his political writings are collected in the Che Guevara Reader/Che Guevara Presente.

Other books by Ernesto Che Guevara