No introduction is needed for the Argentine revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara. Generations of youth worldwide, has always found his life an inspiration to rebel against countless social injustices and dictatorial administrations. Over last few months I happened to read three of Che's reputed diaries written at various periods of his life, that helps us to understands the kind of person he is, the circumstances that led him to take the step towards rebellion and the historic background of the struggles that he has undertaken.
The Motorcycle Diaries is the most popular of his diaries, and is also made into a critically acclaimed movie. This book is an account of the journey by Che and his friend Alberto Granado made while he was a medical student, on a weathered motorcycle named la Poderosa. The intention was to explore South America and by the end of nine month and 8000 kilometer long travel, Che had seen enough poverty and social injustice that he was willing to fight for poor. At the initial stages we can see that Che and his companion are in a youthful, reckless and carefree mood. But as the journey progress, they become more sombre. After seeing and experiencing the exploitation, poverty and related difficulties faced by mine workers, communists, lepers and common people, the writing style becomes more reflective. As the diaries are edited before publication, The motorcycle diaries is the most readable of the three.
Back on the road, or Otra Vez as it is popularly known, is the chronicle of another journey made by Che after he became a doctor. It covers most of South America. It is after this journey that he experiences poverty and oppression first hand and it is the end of this journey that he meet Fidel Castro, which is a major turning point in the history of South America. The journal entries are not edited and this makes the reading a bit boring, as there are pages and pages of diary entries where the descriptions of endless waits for visas and permission to enter neighboring nations makes the reading tedious. The journey exposes Che to the finding that South America is actually not a group of small nations, but a big country that is divided by several colonial powers. The union of all South American nations into a powerful country was his ultimate aim. By the end of the Journal, Che has turned to a full fledged revolutionary, as is evidenced by several unnamed letters to his mother.
The third diary, The African Dream, is a description of the failed revolutionary war in Congo, in which Che had participated with the help of Cuba, to overpower the US backed government. One peculiarity that has to be noted here, is that Che never tries to downplay the defeat he had to undergo, nor does he try to justify the wrong tactics he and his Cuban comrades used in the guerrilla war. As a true hero, he accepts his tactical and managerial failures. At the same time he clearly mentions the major reasons it. The attitude of Congolese revolutionaries, underlying corruption among their leaders and non- rebellious attitude of general population comes under severe criticism. Even though he dislikes Kabila, the main rebel leader of Congo, he knew Kabila was the only man who has the potential to rise as a leader. This prediction came true when Kabila became a ruler of Congo after decades.