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Che's Afterlife

Che's Afterlife

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Add This - Che's Afterlife

Written by Michael J. CaseyAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Michael J. Casey

  • Format: Trade Paperback, 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • On Sale: April 7, 2009
  • Price: $15.95
  • ISBN: 978-0-307-27930-9 (0-307-27930-8)
Also available as an eBook.
about this book

In 1960, Cuban photographer Alberto Korda captured fabled revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara in what has become history's most reproduced photo. Now Michael Casey tells the remarkable story of this image, detailing its evolution from a casual snapshot to an omnipresent graphic—plastered on everything from T-shirts to vodka to condoms—and into a copyrighted brand. As Casey follows it across the Americas and through cyberspace, he finds governments exploiting it and their dissenters attacking it, merchants selling it and tourists buying it. We see how this image is, ultimately, a mercurial icon that still ignites passion—and a reflection of how we view ourselves.

“[Casey] suggests that the power of Che, the brand, is in its ability to be anything to anyone. . . . Readers interested in the impact of visual culture or in better understanding the elusiveness of intellectual property rights, particularly in a global marketplace, will find much food for thought [in Che’s Afterlife].” —Publishers Weekly

“A semiotic history of one of the world’s most widely reproduced, ideologically fraught photographs. . . . A comprehensive tour of the icon’s progress. . . . [Casey] maintains a clear focus on what the Korda photo says to him. For all Guevara’s failures as a revolutionary in the Congo and in Bolivia (where he was captured and killed), and for all the violent consequences of his idealism, Guevara remains to Casey a symbol of underdog resilience. Now that the image has been all but divorced from its initial context and meaning, he dreams that it can transcend ideology as well and become an icon of hope.” —Kirkus Reviews

“In this entertaining and provocative book, Michael Casey takes us into the realm where Che's martyrdom ends and his global branding begins. Che’s Afterlife is also a smart and sassy comment about our life and times; well worth the read.” —Jon Lee Anderson, author of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life

“Michael Casey’s notable history of how the Che Guevara brand was ‘produced’ by different creators has many readings. The most innovative may well be the one that explains how Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution used the myth and image of the Argentine revolutionary to disguise the conservative turn they took at almost the exact moment Guevara died. If Che had not existed, Casey suggests, Castro would have had to invent him.” —Jorge Castañeda, author of Compañero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara

“An interesting examination of the processes of mythmaking and commercialization working in tandem to guarantee immortality to a man who failed more often than he succeeded.” —Booklist

“Part detective story, part travelogue, Che’s Afterlife is the definitive account of the birth and dissemination of an iconic image. Michael Casey peers behind the photographs and posters of the guerrilla martyr Che Guevara, and finds a riveting tale of art and ambition, of rebellion and merchandising. It is illuminating and essential reading.” —Héctor Tobar, author of Translation Nation: Defining a New American Identity in the Spanish-Speaking United States

“Che Guevara’s death was a brilliant career move.  His image circled the globe, giving hope to the hopeless and profit to its exploiters. Lively and informative, Ches Afterlife smartly chronicles the explosive Guevara growth industry in the marketplace of ideas and icons.” —Tom Miller, author of Trading With the Enemy: A Yankee Travels Through Castro's Cuba

“A tour de force of pop cultural entertainment and analysis. Whether the iterations of the picture appear in an advertising campaign for tennis shoes, on the T-shirt of a Berkeley fashionista, or at a Hezbollah rally, Casey has extensively documented and perceptively explained the remarkable transposability of one of the most famous photographs of the 20th century (and beyond). Moreover, like the best students of humankind, he has shown us our own reflection in the icon—that is, how popular culture has come to dominate commerce, politics, even history. Che's Afterlife will inform historians and delight the public.” —David D. Perlmutter, Professor, University of Kansas and author of Blog Wars

“An evocative and well written account of All Things Che: chronicling the Argentine revolutionary’s remarkable life and early death—followed by his subsequent beatification and spectacular reincarnation as a global brand. Casey’s book is eagle-eyed on the merchandising on Che beginning with the cleverly-cropped Korda photo of the beret-wearing Che. There are insightful interviews with Che’s daughter Aleida and most especially with Che’s illegitimate son, Omar Perez Lopez, a dissident and poet who finds himself picking tomatoes in a labor camp in Cuba that had been established by his father.” —Ann Louise Bardach, author of Cuba Confidential and Without Fidel

Che’s Afterlife is worth the read for its historical clarity, Casey’s vivid storytelling, and his adroit analysis of the multilayered meaning of photography as both a vehicle for and a destroyer of ideals. . . . Rather than reciting the tired arguments against the appropriation of the image, Casey picks up where the martyr left off, by attempting to explain the global appeal of a single photograph, what it has meant for the last 49 years, and what it elucidates about our current relationship to visual culture.” — (America Online blog)

“Enthralling. . . . About as timely as a book gets. . . . Casey takes off on a quest to find the heart of the definition-of-seminal Che Guevara image. What he comes away with is a fascinating tale of the photographer, the history of the print itself and a global account of the countless places and people that exact image has touched.” —Weekly Dig (Boston)

“There are those who only know Fidel Castro’s comrade in arms as a commercial image festooned on fashion, bottles of booze, air fresheners and even condoms. Journalist Casey unlocks the iconic image taken by Cuban lenseman Alberto Korda in what Casey calls ‘a frozen millisecond’ in 1960 Havana.” —New York Post

“Fascinating. . . . Bracing and keenly observed. . . . Not only a cultural history of an image, but also a sociopolitical study of the mechanisms of fame. It is a book about how ideas travel and mutate in this age of globalization, how concepts of political ideology have increasingly come to be trumped by notions of commerce and cool and chic, and how the historical Che Guevara gave way, post-mortem, to a host of other Ches: St. Che, said to possess the ability to perform miracles; Chesucristo, a Christ-like figure revered for his ideals, not his advocacy of violence; an entrepreneurial Che, promoting the lesson ‘that individuals should honestly strive to produce their utmost for the good of all’; and the Rock n’ Roll Che, more representative of youthful anti-authoritarianism than of any political dogma.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Casey offers a comprehensive tour of the icon’s progress. . . . A heady exploration of a focal point of politics and popular culture.” —Kirkus

“[Casey] tap dances across history and the globe to examine intellectual property and iconography through the lens of the famous image of Che Guevara captured by fashion photographer Alberto Korda. . . . Readers interested in the impact of visual culture or in better understanding the elusiveness of intellectual property rights, particularly in a global marketplace, will find much food for thought.” —Publishers Weekly