Ryszard Kapuściński

Ryszard Kapuściński, a Polish journalist, is the author of two studies of Third World potentates: The Emperor, about the last years of the reign of Haile Selassie, and Shah of Shahs. His memoir of the Congo in the present issue was translated by William Brand and Katarzyna Mroczkowska-Brand.

I’m looking at you, grandma the way you’re sitting in stiff lace in a long skirt in front of the cottage in Rakocice the date under the photograph 1913.

You still don’t know what I’ve known a long time that in a year it all breaks loose the armies roll,

but for now it’s quiet here few people I hear only girl calling girl ‘the one in the Austrian uniform is...

Out of Africa

Ryszard Kapuściński, 3 July 1986

I would like to tell the story of the time lived through after the night when Stanleyville learned that Lumumba had been murdered, and that he had died in bestial circumstances, in a way that trampled all dignity. Someone’s penetrating shout woke us up in the morning. We jumped out of bed – I was sleeping with Duszan in one room, and Jardawas next door – and dashed to the window. In the street in front of our hotel (it was called the Résidence Equateur), gendarmes were beating a white man to within an inch of his life. Two of them had his arms twisted in such a way that he had to kneel and stick his head out, and a third was kicking him in the face with his boot. At the same time we heard shouts from the corridor as other gendarmes went from room to room dragging whites out into the street. It was obvious that the gendarmes had begun a morning of revenge directed at the white colonists whom they blamed for the death of Lumumba. I looked at Duszan: he was standing there, pale, with fear in his eyes, and I think that I too was standing there, pale, with fear in my eyes. Now we listened to hear whether the clumping of boots and the banging of rifle butts against doors was headed our way and, nervously, hurriedly, we started getting dressed because it’s bad to be wearing pyjamas or only a shirt in front of uniformed people – it puts you at a disadvantage right away. The one in the street was screaming more and bleeding a lot. In the meantime the gendarmes had pushed a few more whites out of the hotel; I didn’t even know where these people were coming from, since our hotel was usually empty.’

‘For the sake of a single verse,’ the famous passage from Rilke runs, one must see many cities, men and things . . . One must be able to think back to roads in unknown...

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What about Anna Andreyevna?

Michael Ignatieff, 6 October 1994

Ryszard Kapuściński’s is the most passionate, engaging and historically profound account of the collapse of the Soviet empire that I have read. Caustic and lyrical by turns, it is...

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Jeremy Harding, 9 May 1991

Two of these books are by real journalists – Blaine Harden for the Washington Post, Andrew Buckoke for the Financial Times and others. The third is by a writer, Ryszard Kapuściński, who...

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Karl Miller, 5 February 1987

We live at a time when reporters go to foreign countries where there is trouble and come back to write books in which they say that it was hard to make out what was going on. When they say this,...

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The Fall of the Shah

Malise Ruthven, 4 July 1985

The Iranian revolution of 1978-79 is the most massive popular upheaval to have occurred in a developing country since the Second World War. Within a period of a few months the Middle East’s...

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Strange Love

William Boyd, 1 December 1983

In an African country, an Englishman – a senior consultant engineer for an oil company – checks into the best hotel in the capital city. The next morning, eating his breakfast by...

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