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The young Che Guevara’s lively and highly entertaining travel diary.This new, expanded edition features exclusive, unpublished photos taken by the 23-year-old Ernesto on his journey across a continent, and a tender preface by Aleida Guevara, offering an insightful perspective on the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

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.

David

A fantastic diary historical novella about two young men on their trip through Latin America. The reader must take in account that this is Guevara before he became 'Che', so much of what goes on here could have happened to any group of young men travelling in the same period.There are some delightfully funny anecdotes (especially one involving some peaches) that can't help but make you laugh, and you will struggle to not find a small bit of yourself in this tale.This is not a book that demonstrates much of Guevara's political leanings, as this was sometime before he was politcilly radicalised. There are hints of the man to come however, his critical commentaries on the treatment of the poor and the indigenous ethnicities of Latin America and his thoughts on pan Americanism give small hints of what is come.This a short, easy and interesting read. There is very little 'Che Guevara' to be had here, but 'Ernesto Guevara Lynch' is a man who is equally as interesting to read about.

JJ Lehmann

I have done research in the pan-Mayan movements within contemporary Guatemala. In addition to this, I help construct a undergraduate class about Indigenous religions of the Americas. I also took a class on the politics of the Carri bean. Part of all of this included studying revolutionary movements. So, I was already pretty familiar with el Che. Of course, I have seen the film based on this book as well. I believe it is a little unfair to judge this book as if he were a professional writer. This book was presented as a diary and never made illusions to be something else. He does state that he tried to polish some things up, but not dramatically. What we get is a snapshot of Latin America at this time as seen through the eyes of a Doctor in training, not a revolutionary in training. Though, of course, this experience profoundly affects him and can clearly be seen as a ingredient in his future philosophy and passion.I have seen other reviews that elude to Mr. Guevara and his future. Some have spoken of finding this part of him appealing, but in opposition to the 'monster' he becomes. I believe this evaluation of el Che is shortsighted and likely comes from one judging his life by what Mr. Castro later molded Cuba into. It is important to realize that Che left Cuba in 1965, nine years after the revolution. During the Cuban Revolution, he was observed giving aid, helping, and saving the life of soldiers he was fighting against. This is not a psychopathic killer. This is a man whom was moved by the inequalities he saw and was driven to try to correct these. How is this different from any soldier who fights for their beliefs. He was certainly not a terrorist. If he was, what was Mr. Washington? You may not agree with his politics or philosophy, but this doesn't negate his actions. I am not implying that I fully agree with what Che did, but I am attempting to show another side of him.

Mel Vincent

This book told me how Ernesto Guevara transformed from a humble and passionate medical student into a articulate, cunning and brilliant revolutionary who not only changed the face of the entire Latin American continent but shaped the perspectives and the thoughts of millions of people from all the world over.This book was eloquently penned and I thought that I was literally reading a novel. Che Guevara could have been a novelist or a writer and it would have produced a significant impact as well. How he relates and describes the events, the journeys, the places, the people, the emotions that he and Alberto and others felt and many other instances in this book was superbly elaborated with intelligence, humor, wit and style.It also showed us how simple this man was and how he truly embraced the belief of a Pan South American ideology prior to his rise as a revolutionary. From his early life, Che Guevara embodied the necessary traits, ideologies, beliefs and motivations that propelled him as the revolutionary and the icon that we now know today.

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.

Nikhil

This is a book which everybody in their 20s need to read. At a time when everyone is trying to settle down into a career which would reap harvests eventually, where you dream of going on your dream trips eventually, where you would want to read that book or draw the painting or write the poem, eventually; we have a book about a 20 something who does it all. The story of Che before he became The Che, when he still is a rash youngster hot blooded and filled with hunger for adventure. In spite of which, he displays a caring philosophical mind of a legend in making. Filled with good servings of humour, in this travelogue, you take the place of Alberto Granado and travel across South America with Che. There are so many lines which will remain etched in one's memory forever, like his description of the terminally ill lady. Read this book, if you dream of travelling, if you had dreams of travelling. May bea towards the end of it you just might want to live the life Che Guevara did.

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.

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.

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!

Matthew

This is a first-hand account of Ernesto "Che" Guevara's trip across South America with his good friend. Guevara is not a professional writer and it shows in his straight-forward delivery of the material. It's a diary and it reads like a diary. There is very little exposition here. It's just a blow-by-blow account of the events that took place.What I found interesting was that Che was a passionate medical student who just wanted to help people, quite in contrast to his later guerrilla life with Castro. It's amazing that such a caring, gentle person would go on to become such a vicious individual.I guess that's part of the enigmatic personality that has kept Che Guevara on people's minds for the past 50 years. I just wish all those Hot Topic kids would learn about the man behind that iconic image on their t-shirt. Some of them might not be so quick to wear those shirts in public anymore when they find out what a incompetent butcher he became in Castro's Cuba.

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.

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

Dhruv Goel

Very exalted after watching "The Motorcycle Diaries", I decided to buy the book and read it. For me Che Guevara was an inspirational figure, since, I watched a documentary on him when I was a child. Obviously I am entranced by the book but I will write this review as honestly as possible.It is like a travelogue which is a little vague on the places and a little study of the map of South America would greatly help in admiring the beauty described in the book. But as you will read you will observe that the narrator is drifting, here and there, towards the plight of indigenous people and also providing historical details of place. Sure the marks of future revolutionary can be clearly seen. While you are reading try to live their experiences, imagine them happening to you, dream that you are on a similar adventure, if you live in a post-colonial country then try to understand your people's past, then ask the question - Will you try such a travel again? Compare your answer with future endeavors of Che and you will understand my rating, as you may understand my answer.I am confident that you cannot finish this book without admiring the beautiful phrases in which he share his visions, knowing the future of the writer greatly helps in understanding those lines which, rather subliminal at first, fill you with wonder.

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.

trina

i loved this insight into the man before the myth. his writing is evocative, so you feel you are right there with him on the road, hungry, dirty, exhilirated, and seeing the world as it truly is for the first time. i can't imagine a person (who has a heart) journeying through latin america even today, especially from a doctor's point of view, and not concluding the same thing as che: things have to change. individual efforts here and there mean nothing in the face of such widespread poverty and injustice. really though, the book doesn't bludgeon you over the head with politics or ideology. he was just a kid, after all. mostly it's a very good adventure story.

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