Che

Now I’m trying to use my recent achievements in Spanish to undertake another attempt to read Che Guevara’s «Motorcycle diaries» in it’s original language. Since my first trip to Cuba I have constantly been thinking that the Spanish-language-based style of political thinking is — and has always been — extremely different from the English one (as well as from Russian, certainly). And wishing not only to find a proof for it, but at some glorious moment to become able to describe these differences and specialities and peculiarities etc.

When you are thinking about politics in Russian, you cannot get rid of the feeling that even the words (especially terms) are corrupted, distorted, perverted, misconstrued. The very language itself is constantly lying to you, cheating on you and betraying you.

When you are trying to do the same in English, there comes another controversial feeling: that all your words and terms and thoughts are already coolly counted and measured and weighed by somebody invisible and are laying on the shelve for sale, even before you uttered them.

But in Spanish the feeling is completely different: you can say «liberal» or «national» or «communist» with absolute certainty that somewhere nearby there are many people, who can dedicate their lives to such ideas, who can die and kill for them without any doubt but with strong passion, and it’s absolutely normal. Because «La historia me absolverá», as once many years ago had Fidel Castro put it, young and beardless at that times.

Márquez in his «One hundred years of solitude» expresses and describes precisely this strange feature I’m speaking about: when Aureliano Buendia, also young and beardless, had listened at the first time about the «conservative»and «liberal» parties, in that very moment he became the great supporter of the last, and then for the rest of his life he was fighting for it in the endless civil war. Such story looks like something nearly impossible in the Russian cultural context: you need to read many books, fiction and non-fiction, discuss them with closest friends, argue with opponents in endless kitchen-debates, learn from some teacher the best theory, try to implement it in practice and so on. Or, in modern times, at least spend endless hours reading and writing and arguing online in forums and chats. And only a pile of proofs of having such experience gives you the right to have your own grown, ripe and respectful political position to uphold.

«Motorcycle diaries» is the beautiful example of a portrait of young person, grown in the coordinates of the great Spanish-language culture, and not suspecting at the time that once he will turn to a one of the most popular political icons of the XX century. As he lately expressed himself, «El personaje que escribió estas notas murió al pisar de nuevo tierra argentina, el que las ordena y pule, yo, no soy yo, por lo menos no soy el mismo yo anterior. Ese vagar sin rumbo por nuestra “Mayúscula América” me ha cambiado más de lo que creí.» In English: «The person who wrote these notes passed away the moment his feet touched Argentine soil again. The person who reorganizes and polishes them, me, is no longer, at least I’m not the person I once was. All this wandering around “Our America with a capital A” has changed me more than I thought.» But, in the same time, the true Che in the “motorcycle” version of him already exists and can be observed. It’s noteworthy that his friend and companion Alberto Granada in his memories calls their motorcycle «our little two-wheeled Rocinante» — compare with Che’s own farewell letter to his parents in 1965, before his final journey to the death: «Once again I feel beneath my heels the ribs of Rocinante«. Not only in 1965, but even in 1951, young and beardless and carefree, years before their world-famous adventures, they both already represented themselves as the ancestors of Don Quichot.

…It’s absolutely incomparable feeling — to read his famous farewell letter to Fidel in its original language and be finally able to understand it. Not the translation — the letter itself. It’s different, believe me.

Алексей Чадаев

Директор Института развития парламентаризма