Two journalists—one a Paraguayan resident of Bolivia and the other a native Bolivian—have produced the best account yet of the last adventure of Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Luis J. González and Gustavo A. Sánchez Salazar interviewed officials, soldiers, and captured guerrillas and listened to tape recordings of prisoner interrogations in preparing The Great Rebel: Che Guevara in Bolivia. Although avowed anti-imperialists and admirers of Guevara, the authors have avoided stridency and achieved an impressive degree of objectivity. González’ service in the Chaco War enabled him to empathize with both the guerrillas and their pursuers, and Sánchez’ long experience in Bolivian politics and journalism facilitated the gathering and evaluation of information for this work. Their sources are clearly identified. The book otters no sensational revelations or startling conclusions, and it lacks literary polish, but it is honest reporting.
In the introduction to “Che” Guevara on Revolution Jay Mallin states: “Guevara believed that a small nucleus of well-trained men could be formed in, or introduced into, any country, and that this nucleus, with the use of proper tactics, would with surety grow into a revolutionary movement and would step by step weaken and ultimately destroy opposing forces.” Nowhere in the writings assembled in this volume does Guevara make such a sweeping claim for guerrilla warfare. While they do not support the editor’s contention that Guevara claimed to have a sure-fire method for seizing control of “any country,” the selections are well chosen and representative of the guerrillero’s thought. The reviewer can quarrel only with the introduction, in which Mallin oversimplifies Guevara’s beliefs, fails to distinguish between “mobile” and “conventional” warfare in the Chinese Communist context, and relies too heavily on Time magazine for biographical data. Time’s assertion (repeated by Mallin) that Guevara held a minor government post in Guatemala is not known to be borne out by Ricardo Rojo’s Mi amigo el Ché (Buenos Aires, 1968), which Mallin apparently did not consult.
Martin Ebon, a parapsychologist and free-lance “expert on Communism” is responsible for Che: The Making of a Legend. This is a scissors-and-paste job—one quotation from the English-language edition of Granma is seven pages long—that the author uses as a vehicle for his speculations on Guevara’s personality and on Soviet espionage operations. Ebon cites an East European document, which he calls the “ ‘ R’ Memorandum,” to establish that Guevara underwent psychiatric treatment in Cuba in the spring of 1965; the author then proceeds to diagnose Che’s alleged illness as an “identity crisis.” Ebon does not explain how he gained access to the “ ‘ R’ Memorandum,” nor does he give its location. His other sources are not so mysterious, and most are readily available in English. Of the fortyeight items in the bibliography, only one is in Spanish—a statement by René Barrientos published in a Bolivian newspaper. Among the many misspelled names are “Arevala” for “Arévalo,” “Manual” for “Manuel,” and “Alfredo Orlando” for “Alfredo Ovando Candía.” Ebon’s work is dilettantism at its worse.