In the Prologue to his recent history of Cuba, Richard Gott, a British journalist of pronounced left-wing sympathies, remembers Ernesto Guevara’s arrival at a reception at the Soviet Embassy in Havana in 1963, at which he too was present: “Guevara strode in after midnight, accompanied by a small coterie of friends, bodyguards, and hangers-on, wearing his trademark black beret, and with his shirt open to the waist. He was incredibly beautiful.” There is no accounting for taste, of course, and I never had the advantage of seeing Guevara in the flesh. To my mind, however, his appearance in all post-revolutionary photographs of him, save the most famous one by Alberto Korda, is that of a man distinctly unwashed. No doubt this accounts for a proportion of his continuing popularity among youth.

Some purists, or rationalists, might object that one’s aesthetic response to Guevara is rather beside the point. The trouble...


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