Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Diary of Che Guevara Touches Hearts in Italy Soon out in English, the Memoirs of Latin American Rebel Draw Fans

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Diary of Che Guevara Touches Hearts in Italy Soon out in English, the Memoirs of Latin American Rebel Draw Fans

Article excerpt

'IT'S like James Dean in the United States," says Elisabetta Castellani, struggling to explain the cult-star status of the late Ernesto "Che" Guevara in Italy. "He's a rebel."

This Argentine rebel had a cause, a big one. The leftist radical spawned Marxist revolutions throughout Latin America and became a leading force in Fidel Castro Ruz's Cuba. And Ms. Castellani has reason to be sympathetic: She is a journalist for the Rome-based Il Manifesto newspaper, which still describes itself as a communist daily despite the demise of the party's power throughout most of the world.

Che, as he is widely known, has been a legendary figure among Italy's hard left for years. Part of his revival here is the publication two years ago of his diaries, which recount his exploits on a motorcycle as he cruised through Latin America in 1952. The diaries will be published in English for the first time next month.

His troubled brown eyes and shocks of dark hair have stayed with admirers long after his death in 1967. "He was really good-looking," Castellani confesses.

In a moment when an entire class of politicians has been discredited in sweeping anticorruption probes, when the business world seems little more than dog-eat-dog competition, and high unemployment leaves young people little hope for the future, Che is seen as a moral individual living outside society's rules, a clean hero struggling against injustice, she adds.

Il Manifesto issued a series of four booklets last year, highlighting Che's political and economic views, but most of all focusing on his personality.

Che indeed emerges as a free spirit from the diary of his 1952 motorcycle tour published by Feltrinelli, a leading publishing company and book-store chain founded by an Italian revolutionary who blew himself up in the early 1970s while attempting to activate a bomb. The book has sold 120,000 copies total -- both alone and in tandem with the diary of Che's traveling companion, Alberto Granado Jimenez.

Che's developing political views emerge from the books. Alberto relates that in Miramar, Argentina, Che met some locals and went on for almost an hour in a passionate defense of socialized medicine in Britain. …

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