Review: The Motorcycle Diaries

The review of the book this week was a little overdue but then I was able to finish the book only by yesterday. The book this week was “The Motorcycle Diaries” by Ernesto Che Guevara.

I mentioned a little about Che Guevara in my last post, that he was a Cuban revolutionary who was also a part of Fidel Castro’s government when he came in power.

This book gave me more insight into Che’s life. A series of chronological events are printed in the first few pages of the book which gives us more information about his life. I never knew that he was captured and killed in Bolivia.

This book is basically a travelogue and covers the time when Che as a young man along with his friend Alberto covered the South America on their motorcycle named La Poderosa II between 1951 and 1952.

Both friends were leprosy doctors and they started their journey from Argentina (from where Che originally was from). The book is a collection of the notes that Che kept during the entire journey.

It is a vivid depiction of life in South America at that time and Che along with Alberto got to experience the real South America. They traveled from Cordoba to Miramar to Santiago de Chile, Valparaiso, Chuquicamata and many other places during this journey. They didn’t have enough money so they worked in between, took to hospitals which can give them place to stay for a few days and some food. They visited leper colonies and enjoyed food and music with them.

Leprosy at that time was a big disease and these two having being specialized in this field of medicine tried to help out as much as they can. South America at that time was ruled by different dictators and there was widespread poverty in almost all the parts.

The book is well written but then again I feel some of the soul is lost in translation. It provides an insight into the mind of Young Che and this journey could well have laid the foundation of his revolutionary mindset. The way South America was ruled back then poverty flourished, travelling wasn’t easy between different countries, there were lack of infrastructural facilities, lack of sanitation facilities etc. and all of this was experienced up close and personal by Che and Alberto.

His description of the plight of people is heart rendering, whatever your nationality you can identify with the problems that Che is talking about. I really liked a few passages such as where in both visit the mines of Chuquicamata and where there is no life except for working in the mines, then how Che and Alberto mingle with lepers in leper colony and how lepers enjoy their company as they are more happy that someone is treating them as humans by eating with them, shaking hands, playing with them.

The difficult part was pronouncing the names of some of the South American places and sometimes understanding Che’s state of mind while he writes letters to his mother.

Overall its a good book and I am happy to have read it and will look forward to the motion picture that is based on it.

This also prods me to learn about the great revolutionary Che Guevara.

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