http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/world/christ-like-che-guevara-wanted-to-die-a-martyr/article/504180

'Christ-like' Che Guevara 'wanted to die a martyr'

Posted Oct 4, 2017 by Aurélie MAYEMBO (AFP)
Ernesto "Che" Guevara was not just a guerilla fighting for his ideals, he was a man "haunted by death" according to Argentine-born author and academic Marcela Iacub.
A journalist places in Valle Grande  Bolivia  a copy of a picture of Che Guevara's body taken o...
A journalist places in Valle Grande, Bolivia, a copy of a picture of Che Guevara's body taken on October 10, 1967 by AFP photographer Marc Hutten
AIZAR RALDES, AFP/File

Ernesto "Che" Guevara was not just a guerilla fighting for his ideals, he was a man "haunted by death" according to Argentine-born author and academic Marcela Iacub.

Her psychological study of one of history's most celebrated revolutionaries -- "Le Che a mort" (roughly translated as "Che to the Death") -- has just been published in France to mark the 50th anniversary of his death.

- Why has Guevara become a legend? -

"There are two legends about Che: the Castro legend and the 'Christ' legend which you see in Steven Soderbergh's 2008 Hollywood film 'Che'," Iacub told AFP.

"For many Che became a Christ-like figure through the photograph of his body taken after he was killed. Maybe the myth would never have existed without those shots taken a few hours after his execution by the Bolivian army (in 1967).

"Because the photographers who had arrived at the scene were using flashes, Che's eyes seemed full of light," she said.

"The whole world saw this perfect photo, where Che seemed like a Christian martyr because it appeared that he had been delivered to his executioners in a state of grace and serenity."

But in fact his corpse "had been cleaned up", Iacub said, (his hair was cut and formaldehyde injected into his face).

Che Guevara became a revolutionary cult symbol after his death
Che Guevara became a revolutionary cult symbol after his death
Mladen ANTONOV, AFP/File

However, other photos taken "just after his execution were hidden for 20 years", Iacub said. "They are horrible and would never have led to such a cult."

- Was Guevara always idealistic? -

"When he was a teenager he was neither a Communist nor politically engaged but he had decided to die very young as a martyr, and you can see that from some of his poems.

"He has condemned himself to die as hero. In 'The Motorcycle Diaries'," which Guevara wrote about his 8,000-kilometre (5,000-mile) trip through Latin America in 1952, "he already imagined his destiny.

"I based my psychological analysis of him on his writings. I wanted to let him speak for himself all the more so because he was a good writer. I think he invented this idea of himself very early from reading adventure stories.

"He set the bar high for himself probably because his family had been aristocratic but had fallen on hard times. First he wanted to save humanity by becoming a great scientist. When that didn't work out, he studied to be a doctor. He wanted to save humanity and was ready to die in doing so."

- What is his legacy today? -

"We are a much more pacifist society now than we were in the 1960s and 1970s. It is no longer accepted that armed struggle is a way of imposing political ideas," Iacub argued.

"What remains of him is the myth of the martyr, the idea that if he killed and eliminated his opponents, it was to stop something worse happening. If it is not that, you have to ask why have so many other Communists been forgotten but not him?

"In his relationship with death I believe that Che had perhaps something in common with today's jihadists -- the hunger for glory, the idea that he was already dead...

"The two phenomena are not exactly the same but there are resemblances, the idea that death is an act of propaganda to send a message.

"He was looking for a total and definitive war with capitalism... he felt humanity should die fighting even if that combat ended in defeat."