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Jay Cantor: The Death of Che Guevara

Yes, it is based on the life of Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Cantor, who had been involved in the antiwar movement in the 1970s, did detailed research on the life of the real Guevara to produce this long novel. If you are a big fan of Guevara and are looking for a portrait of a larger than life, heroic revolutionary, you will probably be in for a bit of a disappointment, as Cantor’s Guevara is all too human, with his asthma, self-doubts and egoism. The book is divided into two parts. The first part is Che’s own account and the second part a mix of diary entries from Che and his fellow revolutionaries. One of the failures of this novel is that it appears to be the same voice in all cases, with little distinction between Che and the other, often far less educated, comrades. While Cantor, does, of course, give us much fiction – assumed conversations, psychological analysis and details which can only have been invented – he makes extensive and intelligent use of the documentation that is available but somehow it doesn’t seem to give us any more of a picture of the man. The problem with Che Guevara is that he has been so thoroughly mythologised, both by his supporters and by his enemies, that getting to the real man is rather difficult and, while Cantor makes a creditable attempt, ultimately he does not really succeed.

Publishing history

First published 1983 by Knopf