Thursday, May 6, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 17 (Ernesto Che Guevara)

Bolivian Diary
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Guevara, Ernesto Che
Bolivian Diar

I think I bought this at St. Mark's Books, but I am just guessing. I know I bought it when I lived in New York. I recall seeing a documentary about Che at Film Forum, but I am not sure if I saw it after I read this or before. My recollection is of being disappointed at how mundane the diary is. I think I was expecting some kind of stirring political rhetoric or maybe an exploration of Guevara's ideas. Seems he was more a man of action than of ideas.

The entries generally discuss things like how far they have moved on a given day, problems of maintaining discipline among the soldiers, dealing with sickness, mosquito bites, lack of water, etc. All of it is described with a certain amount of detachment, although there is a certain fatal air that hovers about the narrative. A lot of entries begin with Che recounting his disappointment at their lack of progress or at various setbacks they encounter.

I found the documentary on the subject more informative than the diary itself.

When I was in Havana about ten years ago, I went to the Museum of the Revolution. It was a former palace of some kind where a major gun battle had taken place. You could still see the bullet holes in the marble staircases and in the walls. In a courtyard were enshrined scraps of downed U.S. planes from the Bay of Pigs fiasco. But the central feature of the museum was a shrine to Guevara. It outlined every moment of his life in minute detail, ending with his capture and execution in Bolivia.

The final diorama contained what were supposedly the bullets that killed him, as well as the surgical instruments used to remove them and the bed pan they were dropped into once they'd been removed. There was something chilling about the whole thing.

Later I bought a little handmade journal from a street vendor. It had a woven cane cover with a sketch of Che atop a Cuban flag. I never wrote anything in it, though.

from Bolivian Diary

January 16

Work continued on the trenches, which are still not completed. Marcos finished his task, building a nice little hit. El Médico [Ernesto] and Carlos relieved Braulio and Pedro, who returned with word that Loro had arrived along with the mules. He did not appear, however, even though Aniceto went to meet him. Alejandro is showing symptoms of Malaria.

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