Sunday, 20 September 2009



One of Time magazine’s Icons of the Century — Erensto Guevara de la Serna was born in Argentina on June 14, 1928. A doctor by profession, he played an important role in the Cuban Revolution of 1959. Later, he became the minister of industry in the Communist government under Fidel Castro. But, trappings of power did not subdue his dream of a world that is free of imperialism. So, Che ventured first to Congo in April 1965 to lead a struggle there; later, he went to Bolivia in November 1966 to organise a revolution against the military dictatorship in that Latin American country.Che recorded his day-today experiences during the Bolivian endeavour in the form of a diary. The diary has now been published in English, after additions and corrections, as The Bolivian Diary — The Untold Story of His Final Campaign.

The first entry in the diary is dated November 7, 1966; the last one is dated October 7, 1967 — a day before Che was captured by the Bolivian forces and executed summarily. And between these two dates, the entries show how Che and his companions did their best to plan and organise forces to uproot the military dictators. There were moments of hope, anxiety, despair, joy and introspection — that offer the varied facets of the man. In the entry dated February 15, Che remembers his eldest daughter Hilda Guevara Gadea. The diary reads: Hildita’s birthday. And it reminds the reader that the tough revolutionary Che was also a caring father.

And there are several dramatic moments too that vividly describe the battles between the revolutionaries and the US-trained Bolivian counterinsurgency forces. The entry dated April 25 is one such record where we see how the camping rebels’ plan to ambush the advancing soldiers go wrong and one of the rebels Ronaldo (Eliseo Reyes Rodriguez) is shot at the femur and bleeds to death, before the rebels can do anything. Che writes: “We have lost the best man of the guerilla force, one of its pillars, my companero since basically he was child, when be became the messenger for Column 4 [during the Cuban revolutionary war], through the invasion, and now to this revolutionary venture”.

One of the strong points of Che’s diary is that there is no effort to project himself as some sort of a hero. He is candid in his admissions of mistakes, for example, when an ambush is planned near a place called Taperillas on April 22. While reading the book one has to keep track of the numerous characters, like Monje Molina who resigned on January 1, 1967, from the revolutionary initiative. He was the first secretary of the Communist Party of Bolivia (PCB); he thought that the leadership of the revolution belonged to the PCB, and not the Cuban rebels.

I also found several references to Jules Regis Debray, the French left-wing intellectual who had met Che in March 1967. In the diary Che expressed his anguish over Debray’s trial after the Frenchman was captured in April 1967.

This book is a reader’s delight with the Preface by Camilo Guevara, and the Introduction by Fidel Castro. They offer the world view of those figures who were either closely associated with the watershed events, or themselves acted to change the course of human history. Adding up are the rare black-and-white photographs of the revolutionaries in Bolivia. Properly captioned, these photographs show Che in disguise, Che in La Paz Bolivia, a guerilla preparing hammock in the forest, Che fixing his rifle, the comrades posing happily in the jungle and many such moments that depict the rugged terrains and the hardships faced by the guerillas.

All in all, this book and other diaries of Che are worth becoming part of any collection.

Book: The Bolivian Diary
Author: Ernesto Che Guevara
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 303
Price: Rs 295