Che, My Brother

Juan Martin Gue­vara Armelle Vin­cent Andrew Brown, trans­la­tor

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction / Adult Nonfiction -

Polity Hard­cover $25 (240pp) 978-1-5095-1775-6

Juan Martin Gue­vara wants Che to be re­mem­bered as a hu­man be­ing, not as a myth.

Fifty years af­ter his death, Ernesto “Che” Gue­vara re­mains one of the most charis­matic and con­tro­ver­sial fig­ures of the Cold War era. In this mem­oir, his younger brother Juan Martin Gue­vara of­fers an in­ti­mately per­sonal look at the life and fam­ily of the man who be­came the le­gendary guer­rilla sol­dier.

He be­gins where his brother’s life ended: at La Higuera, the re­mote Bo­li­vian vil­lage where Che was killed by gov­ern­ment troops in 1967. Vis­it­ing the site of his brother’s death for the first time, Juan Martin is dis­mayed to find self-ap­pointed guides de­mand­ing pay­ment from vis­i­tors and ven­dors sell­ing tacky mer­chan­dise. He also finds peo­ple who sin­cerely idol­ize his brother as a Christ-like fig­ure. “Che would have hated be­ing turned into an idol,” Juan Martin states. “It is this myth I in­tend to fight, by giv­ing back to my brother his hu­man face.”

Juan Martin’s ac­count has the di­rect­ness and de­tail that only a fam­ily mem­ber can give, pro­vid­ing in­ti­mate glimpses of Che’s par­ents, sib­lings, and child­hood. We also see boy­hood quirks that later be­came en­dur­ing mo­tifs of Che’s life, like the love of vig­or­ous ac­tiv­ity that helped him over­come child­hood ail­ments, his early de­light in thwart­ing au­thor­ity fig­ures, and his life­long love of pseu­do­nyms, which sug­gests that he was aware from an early age of the value of con­sciously cre­ated per­sonas.

This book pro­vides only in­di­rect de­scrip­tion of Che’s life af­ter leav­ing his fam­ily. These parts of his life are rep­re­sented by Juan Martin’s ac­count of the fam­ily’s ex­pe­ri­ences, rec­ol­lec­tions of conversations with his brother, and ex­cerpts from Che’s clever, some­times self-dep­re­cat­ing let­ters. Much of the book is de­voted to de­scrib­ing the long af­ter­math of Che’s life, as his fam­ily strug­gled for years to learn the truth about his death.

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