Red and Dead

Jon Lee Anderson's definitive biography of Che Guevera is newly revised.

Book Cover Back in the closing years of the last century, Jon Lee Anderson, who currently writes lucid and useful dispatches from the world’s hotspots—current and future—for the New Yorker, hied himself and his young family to Havana and wrote what is currently the definitive biography of Ernesto Che Guevera. A newly revised and updated edition of Che Guevera: A Revolutionary Life (Grove Press) is now available. Here’s what the Boston Globe wrote:
Among the remarkable things about Jon Lee Anderson’s monumental biography…is its distinction as the first serious attempt in English to chronicle Guevara’s life. In this the book is an enduring achievement. Other biographies are in the works, but it is hard to imagine that any will match the volume and detail of the research here [the biographies by Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Guevara, Also Known as Che and Jorge Castenada’s, Che Guevara: Compañero didn’t—RB]. More important, Anderson has rescued Guevara as an essentially American figure, in the hemispheric sense of the word, one whose victories and failures, equally spectacular, are part of our common history.… Che lives, not only in this book but in the world.
Jon Lee writes:
I revised this edition of my book on the fiftieth anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. It seemed a fitting moment to polish and refresh Che’s biography and to think about what he means to a new generation of readers. His surviving comrades are old men now, and Cuba is nearing the end of an era. For better or for worse, the revolution is part of Che’s legacy, although he has already transcended it. Che’s face and name have been emblazoned on snowboards and wristwatches and millions of T-shirts. But what exactly does the mythologized and commodified Che represent? More often than not, whatever the image signifies, has little to do with Che himself. The resurrected Che—handsome and long-haired with flashing eyes—is in many ways as unreal as the virtual heroes and villains of a video game. The real Che Guevera, who was only thirty-nine when he died, has been canonized and demonized. However much the facts of his life are documented, I suspect that his paradoxes and his place in popular culture will insure that is always so. But neither school of opinion will ever be able to claim him entirely.
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