World Book Day


Two posts on one day! Inconceivable. But my friends with children have all made massive efforts to create costumes and “authentic Roman packed lunches.” I don’t have any children but I do have a *lot* of books. Which is why I had to give the 2 Polish guys who moved me into storage and out of storage into my house a rather large tip. Twice.

Anyway, because, as with children, dogs and motorcycles it would be invidious to pick a favourite, I have used a careful scientific formula and picked a book at random. And then another one because it wanted to be mentioned.

So my randomly chosen book for World Book Day is: Back on the Road, by Che Guevara. “Indispensable to get inside the iron-willed personality that Ernesto Guevara de la Derna successfully forged for himself with the written word as his constant accomplice.” [ISBN 1-86046-848-9]

I’m sure, like Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, everyone has their own idea of who or what Che was. For me, he was a man who never asked someone else to do something that he wouldn’t do himself. He was a man who questioned every assumption he grew up with. He was a traveller who wanted to see for himself how other people lived in Latin America. He was a man whose friends cherished him, which means he was doing something right. And, above all else, he was a great writer.

Another reason I love this book is for its foreword by Alberto Granado – the other one in the Motorcycle Diaries. Alberto wrote his own journal of his travels with Che, which is rather more fun to read and contains a lot of the more light-hearted moments that went into the movie.

Alberto finishes his introduction by considering why Che wrote so little about his first meeting with Fidel Castro. “Would I be wrong in thinking that as he wrote about it he was paraphrasing for himself the words of the Master, Jose Marti: Some things must be left in silence.” Which I need to remember for myself, in a world where it’s so tempting to share every passing thought in 140 characters or less just so that I can be sure I’m still alive.

The other book that fell into my hand as I passed the shelves was “Poetry to heal your blues.” My blues are at last wearing off, but there is always room for a poem.

Song
by Adrienne Rich

You’re wondering if I’m lonely:
OK then, yes, I’m lonely
as a plane rides lonely and level
on its radio beam, aiming
across the Rockies
for the blue-strung aisles
of an airfield on the ocean.

You want to ask, am I lonely?
Well, of course, lonely
as a woman driving across country
day after day, leaving behind
mile after mile
little towns she might have stopped
and lived and died in, lonely

If I’m lonely
it must be the loneliness
of waking first, of breathing
dawns’ first cold breath on the city
of being the one awake
in a house wrapped in sleep

If I’m lonely
it’s with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore
in the last red light of the year
that knows what it is, that knows it’s neither
ice nor mud nor winter light
but wood, with a gift for burning

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “World Book Day

  1. I can't read Guevara's Diaries without remembering that he was also a murderer, organising death squads for Castro after the overthrow of Batista and executing people without trial. He believed, amongst other things, in jailing homosexuals, and opposed freedom of speech, religion and protest unless it accorded with his rigid Communist ideals. For me, that rather spoils any motorcycle journalism that he wrote.

  2. I refer the honourable gentleman to my remark that everyone has their own view on Che…

    Batista murdered plenty of people as well, though of course that is perilously close to trying to turn two wrongs into a right.

  3. Did you at least like the poem? 😉

  4. You did indeed say that 🙂 Two wrongs certainly don't make a right, and I would be the last to defend Batista. But I don't think Che deserves the hagiographic status that many people accord him.

    The poem was fantastic and I loved it. It reflects my own feelings (mutatis mutandis) very well. I should have said that, too. Thanks for posting it.

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