September 18, 2020
I'm going to start by declaring that the more I read his books, I have found a certain personality/academic affinty with Nassim Nicholas Taleb. I tend to attribute this “closeness” to the fact that he is one of the few people that I have read recently who have written non-fiction in a way where the personality and style of the author really shines through. [I wonder how many fights he must have had with his editors...] The fact that he is also an avid humanities, philosophy and classics reader (yes, please!) shines through his book. However, I can see how people would be bored by that and would deem those references as pretentious or even pernicious to his core argument. I've heard many people say that in order for your argument to be effective with a wide audience, you need to make it as easy as possible (I don't think you always want/need to appeal to a wide audience). I'm pretty sure that Taleb wrote it in such a way where the book would find its audience and not à l'envers. After all, appeal and fame is not everything, according to him. Moreover, it would seem that he derived much more pleasure from writing it his way rather than conforming with editorial directions. In spite of the possible critiques that one could make to his style or the extensive usage of references to epistemology, philosophy or greek classics; if you are into those things (as I am), you will like it.
April 19, 2020
This mammoth of a book came into my hands highly recommended – not only by the wise internet crowds and professional book reviewers at prestigious news papers – but also by trusted friends: the very few that were brave enough and had the discipline to read through the sometimes immensely emotionally taxing 1288 pages of this book (well, that's the count on the edition I was able to procure from my favourite bookshop before it closed down because of COVID-19).
As with all accounts of historical events there's no 'absolute truth' and in 1200 pages you are most certainly going to find inaccuracies and mistakes. However those faults do not take any merit away from the point that Fisk was trying to make in his 'opus magna'. In fact and, if anything, the central motivation of this book was summarised by him quoting Amira Hass: “There is a misconception that journalists can be objective ... What journalism is really about is to monitor power and the centres of power.” This is his account of Middle Eastern history and a very personal one at that.
'What made you decide to operate in our country?'
'Can't you see the state in which the peasants live?' Che asked. 'They are almost like savages, living in a state of poverty that depresses the heart, having only one room in which to sleep and cook and no clothing to wear, abandoned like animals ...'
'But the same thing happens in Cuba', Selich retorted.
'No, that's not true,' Che said. 'I don't deny that in Cuba poverty still exists, but the peasants there have an illusion of progress, whereas the Bolivians live without hope. Just as he is born, he dies, without ever seeing improvements in his human condition.'
This biography achieves what I thought was inconceivable when dealing with a figure like Ernesto “Che” Guevara: being relatively objective.