The Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevara
This book tells the tale of a young man finding his way in the world. It’s a story of adventure, friendship and growth written in a straightforward style that captures the essence of what it is to be young. A baby faced doctor and his friend Alberto set off from Argentina to broaden their horizons and see more of the world. Although travel is not possible for everyone, it is aspirational and relatable in many other ways. Ernesto “Che” Guevara is known the world over as a revolutionary icon and although I do believe he was a good egg I worry that he is somewhat deified. The diaries help to show that Guevara was just like everyone else, a human being. Naive, cocky and somewhat idiotic at times it makes for a more relatable read than I first expected. At some points, I couldn’t believe how honest the account is, some stories are embarrassing enough to have remained between the parties involved. Accidentally killing a dog and shitting out of a window onto an unwitting host’s garden were entertaining to read about yet clearly would have been an absolute shambles at the time. Lurching from one disaster to another was a factor in forming the revolutionary and this gives me hope.
Beyond the buffoonery, the two adventures spend most of the time travelling across South America, mixing with people of various backgrounds and witnessing the challenges they faced. Poverty and illiteracy are prominent features throughout as every country the adventurers travelled through was and still is struggling with both. There are flickers of the man Guevara is to become as his own struggles with lack of money, food and transport are put into perspective. This is particularly evident when Che and Alberto stay at a leper colony which was an eye-opener for both of them. I don’t want to go into much detail as it is only a short book and my summary would never do it justice. What I will say is that the adventure is as gripping as any fictional tale, but it also has the grit of reality that is often glossed over in favour of more glamourous stories to make the writer look good. Che looks good because no effort is made to do so, he is himself and that’s all there is to it.