The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey

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Biography Currently Reading History Latin America Memoir Non Fiction Nonfiction Politics To Read Travel

About this book

The book of the popular movieSTARRING GAEL GARCIA BERNALNOW A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER The young Che Guevara’s lively and highly entertaining travel diary.This new, expanded edition features exclusive, unpublished photos taken by the 23-year-old Ernesto on his journey across a continent, and a tender preface by Aleida Guevara, offering an insightful perspective on the man and the icon. “As his journey progresses, Guevara’s voice seems to deepen, to darken, colored by what he witnesses in his travels. He is still poetic, but now he comments on what he sees, though still poetically, with a new awareness of the social and political ramifications of what’s going on around him.”—January Magazine “A journey, a number of journeys. Ernesto Guevara in search of adventure, Ernesto Guevara in search of America, Ernesto Guevara in search of Che. On this journey of journeys, solitude found solidarity, ‘I’ turned into ‘we’.” —Eduardo Galeano “When I read these notes for the first time, I was quite young myself and I immediately identified with this man who narrated his adventures in such a spontaneous manner… To tell you the truth, the more I read, the more I was in love with the boy my father had been…” —Aleida Guevara “Our film is about a young man, Che, falling in love with a continent and finding his place in it.” —Walter Salles, director of “The Motorcycle Diaries.” Also available in Spanish: DIARIOS DE MOTOCICLETA (978-1-920888-11-4) Features of this edition include:A preface by Che Guevara’s daughter AleidaIntroduction by Cintio Vintier, well-known Latin American poetPhotos & maps from the original journeyPostcript: Che’s personal reflections on his formative years: “A child of my environment.”  Published in association with the Che Guevara Studies Center, Havana

Reader's Thoughts

Joshin John

Honestly, I didn't like the literature much. But Che's rendering of first-hand experiences with poverty, disease and lives of the Latin American people wouldn't fail to touch you.

Fuentes

Understanding a legend or just going with the flow of the masses is what most people do. Understanding not just the man but also the cause of his actions is what this book will offer. Ernesto "El Che" Guevara is among one of the most recognized people all over the globe. This book gives you the answer as to why this young medical student who's aim was to become a Doctor became such an important figure during the Cuban revolution and a legend of his time. Love the man or hate him this book gives you a reason to understand the situations and the economic inequalities happening all over the world by leaders of a capitalist mentality. It is a diary of his travels, his concerns and his rage as he saw how people where being unfairly treated in their own land. This is the story that molds a man to become a legend.

Julia

Although it took me almost a month to read this relatively short book, I found it very interresting and written in a literary reflective style. It made me wish my journal sounded as coherent and intelligent. The Diary did a great job expressing the feelings and thoughts of a young man who changed from his journey through Latin America. It was really cool to get into the young Che's head and see how, why, and when he began to change into the revolutionary icon so many of us know him as today. Since this is a diary, it reads as one, and the events that create an overarching continuous story are loosely held together. However, where this lacks in story, the Diary makes up for in the analytical, internal musings of Che's mind.

Jim

Long before he became a martyred revolutionary icon made to order for hipster T-shirts, Ernesto "Che" Guevara was a goofy and even funny middle class kid from Argentina. While in his early twenties, he talked his fellow med student Alberto Granado into a trip across South America. How? Why, on Alberto's rickety Norton 500 motorcycle, nicknamed La Poderosa II ("The Mighty One II"). This book is the story of their journey, lasting approximately until he and Alberto split up in Venezuela, where the latter found work.In the meantime, La Poderosa managed to make it over the Andes (with considerable help) into Chile, where it gave up the ghost miles south of Santiago. From then on, the two were dependent on hitching rides, and even stowing away aboard a ship to Antofagasta. But they are caught and forced to work for their keep and play cards with their captain, who never seemed to sleep.The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey is actually a fun book to read. One could begin to see Guevara's sympathies for the downtrodden indigenous people in Peru, where there is considerable tension between the Aymara and the ladinos, the Mestizos who are intent on treating them like dirt. Eventually, after many a diversion, they make it to the San Pablo Leper Colony near Iquitos, where they spend some time before continuing north. Both Granado and Guevara had been interested in leprosy and made friends by their treatment of the patients as fellow human beings.The book ends with a speech made years later in Castro's Cuba entitled "A Child of My Environment," which, thankfully, is abridged for this edition. I liked Guevara a whole lot more when he was describing suffering from one asthma attack after the other while trying to find free food, accommodation, and transportation in Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela. In the end, the two med students were like hoboes -- but it is interesting that they frequently found the help they so desperately needed. Except for the speech at the end, the book is virtually devoid of any political content. In fact, Che seems to come across at the time as a supported of the Argentine dictator Juan Peron and his wife Evita -- though those scenes may have been only to make conversation with curious Peruvians.

Charlie

The more travel-themed books I read the more I realise that I'm not that into travel-themed books. This one was sort of different, since it was the actual diary of a well-known revolutionary before he was all that interested in revolution. He was a really good writer, but there were still things I didn't enjoy about the book, like all the references to weight, food, and sexual violence (the latter was only brought up twice, but it was mentioned insensitively and with the use of trigger words). I did think the letters to his mother were sweet, though, and I enjoyed the parts that showed off Alberto's sense of humour.

Riku Sayuj

These Diary notes provide us with an ernest and fetching account of a young Che, a middle-class kid, not yet embarked on the violent and heroic road that stretched past these early trails. Not particularly educational or insightful, but yet strangely moving. The carefree bikers turn into compassionate observers of humanity along the course of this journey, thus fulfilling the purpose of the journey, at least in retrospect. The passion and the compassion shines through the entire text and a youthful hope enlivens it, and that is part of its lasting appeal. As the following passage makes clear, how much of this book is observation and how much is later interpretation is hard to judge. All we can be sure is that this is how Che saw the journey as he looked back on it. In nine months of a man’s life he can think a lot of things, from the loftiest meditations on philosophy to the most desperate longing for a bowl of soup — in total accord with the state of his stomach. And if, at the same time, he’s somewhat of an adventurer, he might live through episodes of interest to other people and his haphazard record might read something like these notes.And so, the coin was thrown in the air, turning many times, landing sometimes heads and other times tails. Man, the measure of all things, speaks here through my mouth and narrates in my own language that which my eyes have seen. It is likely that out of 10 possible heads I have seen only one true tail, or vice versa. In fact it’s probable, and there are no excuses, for these lips can only describe what these eyes actually see. Is it that our whole vision was never quite complete, that it was too transient or not always well-informed? Were we too uncompromising in our judgments? Okay, but this is how the typewriter interpreted those fleeting impulses raising my fingers to the keys, and those impulses have now died. Moreover, no one can be held responsible for them.The person who wrote these notes passed away the moment his feet touched Argentine soil again. The person who reorganizes and polishes them, me, is no longer, at least I am not the person I once was. All this wandering around “Our America with a capital A” has changed me more than I thought. As the book slowly moves from casual observation, to detailed description, to heart-felt indictments and finally to loud declamations of a future that has to be wrought at any cost, the reader might find it difficult to follow the spiritual evolution of a middle-class kid that is compressed into this narrative - unfortunately, for modern middle-class readers, that is precisely what is expected of Che. Also, the structure of this progression was a little too neat for my liking, but with Che the myth is everything and is an essential component of enjoying these Diaries. Embrace it.

Neha

We all have read about great historical explorers born to be wild, to wander and discover new worlds. Their journeys sometimes lead to new lands, hidden treasures, ancient discoveries or sometimes nothing but one thing they do achieve and that is discovering oneself. These travels through unknown throw various challenges, opportunities, learnings, experiences, choices and threats.. and these change you by each day sometimes making you stronger by rising to the occasion and surviving the toughest, sometimes as the wiser by knowing the unknown, sometimes the leader bringing in the change where you go. All these experiences can change the course of your life setting it in a direction where home is the world and the world is your home. So if you are thinking that this book is a simple journey of two friends through the continent of South America giving you account of natives and places in South America like any travel book, then you are surely mistaken. It does have two simple guys on a journey with all the twists and turns of a drama but it brings a deeper meaning to travelling i.e. to belong. You can be a tourist looking at all the monuments and significant places staying in luxury hotels and travelling through comfortable modes of transport. But the journey turns real when you go with the flow as the life takes you. People say its about their motor cycle ride through South America but I felt that their real journey started when they left the bike and took to feet. Travelling by trucks, hitch hiking, walking through deserts or caravan, saving money for flights and hidden rides on ship. All this through bouts of asthma, hunger and cold weather, lack of money and begging, visits to leper colony or labour areas in mining cities. But the book is most popular as the author turned into to be the great revolutionary ‘Che’ and this journey was one of the things which changed the course of his life.So to summarise, this book is what someone rightly put coming together of ‘Easy Rider’ and ‘Das capital’.

Mahendra

His account begins: This is not a story of heroic feats, or merely the narrative of a cynic; at least I do not mean it to be. It is a glimpse of two lives running parallel for a time, with similar hopes and convergent dreams. In nine months of a man’s life he can think a lot of things, from the loftiest meditations on philosophy to the most desperate longing for a bowl of soup — in total accord with the state of his stomach. And if, at the same time, he’s somewhat of an adventurer, he might live through episodes of interest to other people and his haphazard record might read something like these notes.And so, the coin was thrown in the air, turning many times, landing sometimes heads and other times tails. Man, the measure of all things, speaks here through my mouth and narrates in my own language that which my eyes have seen. It is likely that out of 10 possible heads I have seen only one true tail, or vice versa. In fact it’s probable, and there are no excuses, for these lips can only describe what these eyes actually see. Is it that our whole vision was never quite complete, that it was too transient or not always well-informed? Were we too uncompromising in our judgments? Okay, but this is how the typewriter interpreted those fleeting impulses raising my fingers to the keys, and those impulses have now died. Moreover, no one can be held responsible for them. The person who wrote these notes passed away the moment his feet touched Argentine soil again. The person who reorganizes and polishes them, me, is no longer, at least I am not the person I once was. All this wandering around “Our America with a capital A” has changed me more than I thought.In any photographic manual you’ll come across the strikingly clear image of a landscape, apparently taken by night, in the light of a full moon. The secret behind this magical vision of “darkness at noon” is usually revealed in the accompanying text. Readers of this book will not be well versed about the sensitivity of my retina — I can hardly sense it myself. So they will not be able to check what is said against a photographic plate to discover at precisely what time each of my “pictures” was taken. What this means is that if I present you with an image and say, for instance, that it was taken at night, you can either believe me, or not; it matters little to me, since if you don’t happen to know the scene I’ve “photographed” in my notes, it will be hard for you to find an alternative to the truth I’m about to tell. But I’ll leave you now, with myself, the man I used to be… And it ends: I saw his teeth and the cheeky grin with which he foretold history, I felt his handshake and, like a distant murmur, his formal goodbye. The night, folding in at contact with his words, overtook me again, enveloping me within it. But despite his words, I know knew...I knew that when the great guiding spirit cleaves humanity into two antagonistic halves, I would be with the people. I know this, I see it printed in the night sky that I, eclectic dissembler of doctrine and psychoanalyst of dogma, howling like one possessed, will assault the barricades or the trenches, will take my bloodstained weapon and, consumed with fury, slaughter any enemy who falls into my hand. And I see, as if a great exhaustion smothers this fresh exaltation, I see myself, immolated in the genuine revolution, the great equalizer of individual will, proclaiming the ultimate mea culpa. I feel my nostrils dilate, savoring the acrid smell of gunpowder and blood, the enemy's death; I steel my body, ready to do battle, and prepare myself to be a sacred space within which the bestial howl of the triumphant proletariat can resound with new energy and new hope.This is a diary of perhaps the greatest journey that any individual has ever made. Coming from a well to do family and taking time off from studying medicine, young Ernesto and friend Alberto travels across Latin America and witnesses the human condition and the suffering it faces. He is very much affected and it is this experience that shapes his future political ideology and what fuels his revolutionary spirit. He vividly paints Latin America as it is, exploited and downtrodden. Ernesto leaves Argentina an unconscious and idealistic boy and returns a cynical and wiser man. One can see here the metamorphosis of a young Argentine to the world's greatest revolutionary. Patria O Muerte! Hasta La Victoria, Siempre!

Benny Livingston

This book gives you a very nice first hand (though somewhat biased) view of the state of Latin America during the cold war and the other countries interferences into it. Following young Ernesto and his good friend Alberto as they go on a motorcycle journey through Central and South America, seeing first hand the problems the people people of these places face and the unfairness they are subjected to. Written as a diary this novel gives you feel for Ernesto as it shows his feelings and his thoughts, allowing for the reader to truly see how Ernesto grows and matures over the course of the book. This book really gets you thinking and is very hard to put down, its one of the best I've ever read, and i cannot recommend this book enough to people who enjoy history, or politics. 5/5 Must read

محمد على عطية

هذا الكتاب يسرد وقائع رحلة قام بها ارنستو (تشى) جيفارا مع صديقه ألبرتو جرينادو على ظهر دراجة نارية عبر أمريكا اللاتينية بدءاً من مدينتهما -قرطبة- بالأرجنتين و ذلك فى عام 1951/1952, و كان عمره وقتها 24 سنة و لا يزال فى السنة النهائية فى كلية الطب.من خلال السرد نرى بعينى جيفارا صورة لأمريكا اللاتينية فى هذا العصر, و إذا اعتبرنا أن هذا الكتاب من أدب الرحلات فبذلك سنبخسه حقه....فبأمكان أى منا أن يزور نفس الأماكن و نخرج بوصف قريب لها..أما البشر, فيعتمد هذا على إحساسك بهم....و لابد أنك ستتخيل ما هى نظرة جيفارا للكثير من المرضى و الفقراء و المقهورين الذين قابلهم فى عدة دول بأمريكا اللاتينية.عندما تجد أن الرجل قد كتب ما كتب و هو فى الرابعة و العشرين من عمره ستعلم أن الرجل كان متسقاً مع نفسه...إنه نفس المناضل الذى عرفناه بعد هذا التاريخ ب10 سنين كأحد أبرز قادة الثورة الكوبية..و أحد المناضلين ضد الإمبريالية فى العالم الثالث و خصوصاً أمريكا اللاتينية بطبيعة الحال.و إهتمامه الإنسانى المبكر بالعمال و طبقة البروليتاريا الكادحة , و كذلك تعامله مع مرضى الجذام بالصورة التى وصفها فى الكتاب يؤكد لنا مدى إتساقه مع نفسه كما ذكرنا.بحكم السن تبدو شقاوة الشباب واضحة فى سطور الكتاب و طريقة الوصف و المغامرات..لكن مع هذا تبدو ثقافة جيفارا....و لكم أعجبتنى بعض التعبيرات التى استخدمها - و كانت جديدة على - مثل قوله (أكلنا السمكة متبلة ببهارات جوعنا)..و هو مثل المثل القائل (الجوع أحسن طباخ) لأنك فى حال جوعك سيكون همك هو أن تملأ بطنك و يأتى الطعم فى مرحلة متأخرة من الأولويات..و انت مو انت و انت جعان :)))استوقفنى فى بداية عرضه للكتاب قوله:(أن الرجل الذى كتب هذه اليوميات توفى لحظة لمست قدماه تراب الأرجنتين...لأن السفر و ما رآه فى (أمريكتنا)قد غيرنى أكثر مما حسبت) .و كذلك استوقفنى الحوار فى نهاية الكتاب مع الرجل الذى قابله فى فنزويلا و كأنه يتنبأ له بدوره المرسوم فى النضال.و أتشوق لقراءة ما كتبه عن يوميات الثورة...إذا وجدته

Joyce

"The Motorcycle Diaries" documents the journey of young Ernesto Guevara through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela. Together with his friend Alberto Granado he travels through those countries on a motorcycle, between 1951 and 1952. This journal is not a dusty, political biography. And it's also not just an ordinary journey. It's so beautiful to see how Ernesto empathizes with ordinary people and how his political extremism is developed along the way. Guevara was a very important man, even before he became a great leader he did a lot for the people. He did amazing things for mankind and it's a truly inspiring story. The journey changed Ernesto and which in turn led him to try to change the world. I devoured this book in just a couple of hours, which means it was very good.

Adam

An travelogue by an unusual traveller. Young Che Guevara and a fellow medic set off on a motorcycle trip around the continent of South America. Soon, they have to abandon their vehicle and they continue their journey nevertheless.Che paints a very sympathetic portrait of a young man (himself!) discovering the problems of the world beyond his own doorstep. He might have become a great doctor had he stuck to curing illness rather than regimes.

Reyhan

Che is one of the figure I admire for his courage and idealism. And this is his diary which he wrote when he and his friend was having a journey crossing the South America from south to north by riding a motorcycle (well, at the beginning actually. Most half till the end they traveled by foot, hitch hiking, and rafting through the Amazonian river).OK, probably because this is a diary it doesn't contain a literacy magnitude that you could appreciate, but you could admire its "essence" of the journey itself. By reading this book we would know how great their journey was by meeting many people and coupling with many interesting events that touched the conscience of young Che himself.And after the Motorcycle Diaries journey, Che was never the same Che again.

Sindy Li

For the past few days I traveled through South America's pampas, forests, mountains, lakes and the Amazon on Che's motorcycle and had the most amazing time. I never imagined Che Guevara would be one of my favorite authors, but now I adore his writing which is full of humor, compassion, romanticism, childlike sincerity and youthful charm. I did not fall in love with him, but rather I felt that we were the same person--it also helps that he was exactly my age while on the trip (turning 24). His book really reminds me that we are only young once, and he did what I think is exactly that which one should do when young: going on an adventure to see the world, its natural wonders as well as the beauty and suffering of its people, and then deciding to do something to make their lives better (though I'd choose development economics rather than socialism to achieve that). (I'll wait a while before I read his other diary, that of a grown-up and revolutionary Che)

Lit Bug

I have always been intrigued by this charismatic, utterly good-looking, athletic man who was instrumental to the toppling of the Cuban government, and who is now largely forgotten, remembered only as a mythological figure in legends about faraway lands. Suddenly this May, I chanced upon a biography of his in a book fair and grabbed it. At that time, I’d only heard of his name. I knew he was some kind of revolutionary. But nothing had prepared me for what was to come. The biography tormented me for weeks on end, and I spent days thinking about him. It was traumatic for me. And it wasn’t as if I was over-sensitive to accounts of extreme violence, bloodshed or revolutions, or a sentimental, weepy girl. But I was not prepared to meet a man so deeply committed to the cause, without bothering which country he was fighting for.It was enigmatic for me how Guevara, born into an affluent family, immensely good-looking, lively, easy-going, friendly and with a prosperous future earmarked for him, would later become one of the most determined, daring and charismatic guerilla leaders. Here was a compassionate man not only outraged by political, social and economic injustice, but also one who transcended nationalistic barriers, the roots of which were, undoubtedly, sown in his travels through Latin America. An Argentine who fought for Cuba, and then, instead of resting on his laurels for the rest of his life, went off to fight in Congo, coming to his end in yet another warfare in Bolivia.So now I didn’t lose the chance to read this little book. I did not find it particularly useful in any way. I’d looked for insights, but I didn’t get any (that I hadn’t already gained). It did not entertain too well. It wasn’t sloppy or anything, but it wasn’t as extraordinary as I’d expected. Of course, I’d wanted some new revelation about his motorcycle tour through Latin America. In that sense, I was disappointed. But then, it was about Guevara, and I eagerly lapped up every little detail I could, like a star-struck fan clamoring for every single gossip about her favorite celebrity.What I clearly liked about the diary is that it was humorous and light-hearted in tone, but not flippant. Che’s compassion showed through in his reflections on poverty and his accounts of indigenous people, his awareness of the richness of a Latin American culture, which, though distinct in every country, was, as he realized very soon, still bonded with each other through a common tradition and race. The historical bits thrown in with his account were quite interesting, and whetted my appetite for Latin America, which Allende's "Daughter of Fortune" and Neruda had already aroused some years ago.By itself, it is little more than disjointed, hasty vignettes of their journey (in 1951-’52 with his friend Alberto Granado on a motorcycle they called La Poderosa II/The Mighty One), punctuated by humor, amusement and compassion – despite the lightness of the prose, which is, in fact, quite charming in many places, it is of little value in isolation. It is obvious it was a personal diary, not intended to be published. Without Che being who he was, these serve as nothing more than a light-hearted, one-time read. Its appeal lies in the fact that this was one of those times that struck a deep root in Che’s mind, which was later to prove crucial in making him what he was. It was one of those little, seemingly unimportant incidents that shaped his already conscientious nature. It was not a turning point – rather, it was one of the slight turns that happen in degrees, imperceptibly, that in the long run, changed the course of his life, and that of Cuba – it is well-known now that but for Che, Castro would not have had his landmark victory.‘A Note in the Margin’ provides a comparatively deeper idea of what Che was, and it was further sealed by the appendix at the end, titled A Child of my Environment (Speech to medical students, 1960). It is clear that Che’s Hippocratic Oath came from the heart, not from a book. His speech elucidates what he considers the duty of a doctor, and also throws light on his political views.The three stars are for the book – objectively. The fourth is for Che – because I read this not as a travel-memoir, but as a way to understand Che. In that young, handsome 20-something lad, I was seeking the sparks that were to make some youngster called Ernesto, “Che Guevara”. I read it in an attempt to gain insight into a man who has not been adequately honored. A man who was selfless to the very core. A man who threw away his family, his children, his clearly prosperous, comfortable life to serve an ideology.Here was a remarkable man who was as passionate and compassionate as he was intelligent; who was more alive to the sorrows of the poor than he was to his own comforts. He was determined and daring. No one has affected me so profoundly before. The fourth star is in his memory, a mark of respect. Despite this being a one-time read for me, I refuse to give an objective three-star rating.

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