Myth Makers

Good thing Che Guevara died young, otherwise film directors and book authors would be at a loss

Shouts, gunfire, glass breaking, gushes Menéndez's narrator. Cataclysmic events, whatever their outcome, are as rare and transporting as a great love. Bombings, revolutions, earthquakes, hurricanes -- anyone who has passed through one and lived, if they are honest, will tell you that even in the depths of their fear there was an exhilaration such as had been missing from their lives until then. In those first days of January, the air was clear, the nights were cool. It was like being young and knowing the joy of it as well as if one were old.

Cutting to the bedroom, Menéndez's prose is no less heated, often rising to Harlequin flights. If you've ever wondered what a naked Guevara smelled like while thrashing about on a bare mattress, look no further.

That image, Guevara as a studly Lothario, clearly rankles some. During Menéndez's recent reading from Loving Che at Coral Gables's Books & Books, the predominantly Cuban-exile crowd seemed equally fascinated and unnerved. Yet that reaction feels oddly right.

Author meets metaphor: Ana Menéndez's new novel 
imagines Che in a torrid love affair
Author meets metaphor: Ana Menéndez's new novel imagines Che in a torrid love affair

As Menéndez revealed that the book's Spanish edition would be retitled For the Love of Che, columnist Olga Connor of El Nuevo Herald burst out in mock horror: "That's even worse!" Connor subsequently launched into her own impassioned take on Guevara's legacy, making sure the entire Books & Books audience was properly schooled in his sordid past. But midspeech her tone softened as she recalled attending church in Havana as a young girl. During a prayer, she turned and spied Guevara and his second wife Aleida in a nearby pew. Connor drew up sharply, momentarily at a loss for words. All these years later, she still seemed slightly awed by this childhood memory.

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