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Chasing Che


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A motorcycle journey in search of the Guevara legend

About the Author

Patrick Symmes is a journalist who writes about Latin America, politics, and Third World travel for a number of magazines, including Harper's, Outside, Conde Nast Traveler. He lives in New York City.


In 1952, a 17-year-old, prerevolutionary Che Guevara lit out with a friend on a motorcycle trip through Latin America. It was, as he wrote in his Motorcycle Diaries, a journey that would shape his attitudes toward politics, people and revolutions. Symmes, a freelance travel writer, traversed the same route in 1996, with entertaining and illuminating results. Fluidly moving between the past and the present, he tosses out observations about Che's expedition while chronicling his own adventures. In Argentina, Symmes encounters a defensive German who insists he is not a Nazi; in Chile he visits a utopian settlement founded by a wealthy and radical environmentalist; in Peru he visits a leper colony, the same one Che visited in 1952. Refreshingly, Symmes avoids digressions of self-discovery, instead letting his book serve as a primer for recent Latin American history and his own take on the region. Symmes's prose, like the Latin America he writes about, is spotted with gems. He says pointedly, "The funny thing about a dictatorship: it was great for culture. If there was one sure way Pinochet could support poetry, it was by staging a military coup." Unsentimental and funny, this book combines the spiritedness of a gonzo journalist with a serious reporter's sense of purpose. First serial rights to Talk magazine. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

The last two years have seen a resurgence of interest in Ernesto (Che) Guevara, the Argentine-born Cuban revolutionary. Several biographies and numerous books have added significantly to our knowledge about this important 20th-century figure. Now Symmes, a journalist, contributes an account of his attempt to re-create Che's 1952 eight-month motorcycle journey across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru--a trip that has been called the seminal, radicalizing event of Guevara's life, the inspiration for his politics and life work as a revolutionary fighter. Although Symmes set out on the trip eager to discover the early Che, the one who wasn't involved in revolutionary activities, he ends up writing much more about himself than about Che and more about current issues in Latin America than about the 1950s. Of interest to libraries with travel collections.--Mark L. Grover, Brigham Young Univ. Lib., Provo, UT Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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