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... 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 the very picture of Bogdan ...

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 ...

War over a Handful of Corn

Adam Hochschild: Ryszard Kapuściński, 21 June 2001

The Shadow of the Sun: My African Life 
by Ryszard Kapuściński, translated by Klara Glowczewska.
Penguin, 336 pp., £18.99, June 2001, 9780713994551
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... most rare hour the first word of a verse arises in their midst and goes forth from them. Although Ryszard Kapuściński has earned his living as a journalist and writes in prose, and although we have to read him in translation, he is, in the soaring, pithy power of his best work, a poet. His finest verses are his four books, all but one of them ...


Karl Miller, 5 February 1987

Another Day of Life 
by Ryszard Kapuściński.
Picador, 136 pp., £8.95, February 1987, 0 330 29844 5
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... as areas of darkness, where coups and crises are glimpsed but may remain inscrutable. Another is Ryszard Kapuściński, an expert in what his new book calls ‘confusion’, who has attended 27 revolutions in the Third World. These revolutions, he believably reports, have been confusions. There he sat in his writer’s hotel room, venturing out into a ...


Jeremy Harding, 9 May 1991

Fishing in Africa: A Guide to War and Corruption 
by Andrew Buckoke.
Picador, 227 pp., £17.50, May 1991, 0 330 31895 0
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Africa: Dispatches From a Fragile Continent 
by Blaine Harden.
HarperCollins, 333 pp., £16.99, April 1991, 0 00 215889 2
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The Soccer War 
by Ryszard Kapuściński, translated by William Brand.
Granta, 234 pp., £2.99, November 1990, 0 14 014209 6
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... the Washington Post, Andrew Buckoke for the Financial Times and others. The third is by a writer, Ryszard Kapuściński, who spent many years masquerading as a correspondent for the Polish news agency, PAP. In covering epic misfortune of the kind one reads about in Africa, all three have learned to talk straight from the shoulder, although ...

How It Felt to Be There

Neal Ascherson: Ryszard Kapuściński, 2 August 2012

Ryszard KapuścińskiA Life 
by Artur Domosławski, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones.
Verso, 456 pp., £25, September 2012, 978 1 84467 858 7
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... prefer not to see their file at all. My view is different. ‘People’s Poland’ was the land Ryszard Kapuściński lived in, but left as often as he could. Many men and women there who despised the regime made bargains with themselves: if the price of getting a passport to a conference in Paris, or of befriending a Western foreigner, was to ...

What about Anna Andreyevna?

Michael Ignatieff, 6 October 1994

by Ryszard Kapuściński and Klara Glowczewska.
Granta, 336 pp., £14.99, September 1994, 0 14 014235 5
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... 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 driven by that combustible mixture of love and loathing for their neighbour which Poles seem to have felt since the days of Mickiewicz ...

Strange Love

William Boyd, 1 December 1983

The Africans 
by David Lamb.
Bodley Head, 363 pp., £12.50, August 1983, 0 370 30968 5
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African Princess 
by Princess Elizabeth of Toro.
Hamish Hamilton, 230 pp., £9.95, September 1983, 0 241 11002 5
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The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat 
by Ryszard Kapuściński, translated by William Brand and Katarzyna Mroczkowsa-Brand.
Quartet, 164 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 7043 2415 6
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... have some appeal, after all. A similar, though more sinister, regal shortsightedness is evident in Ryszard Kapuściński’s fascinating account of Haile Selassie’s downfall, made up of ostensibly verbatim conversations with palace officials and minor politicians, all of whom had access to the decrepit little emperor during his final months of ...

Cocoa is blood and they are eating my flesh

Toby Green: Slavery and Cocoa, 11 April 2013

Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery and Colonial Africa 
by Catherine Higgs.
Ohio, 230 pp., £24.95, June 2012, 978 0 8214 2006 5
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... in 1974 large numbers of Portuguese migrants hastily departed, their flight memorably described by Ryszard Kapuściński in Another Day of Life. The migrants, and the whole infrastructure of Portuguese Africa, were dependent on forced labour in parts of Angola that most colonists never saw. As for Cadbury’s, they started to buy their cocoa from the ...

So-so Skinny Latte

James Francken: Giles Foden’s Zanzibar, 19 September 2002

by Giles Foden.
Faber, 389 pp., £12.99, September 2002, 0 571 20512 7
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... the known world’. Zanzibar was an important point on the route; in The Shadow of the Sun, Ryszard Kapuściński stresses the fact that a number of the great travellers – ‘Livingstone and Stanley, Burton and Speke, Cameron and Thomson’ – sent their telegraphs from the island. Kapuściński admires the ...

The Fall of the Shah

Malise Ruthven, 4 July 1985

Shah of Shahs 
by Ryszard Kapuściński, translated by William Brand.
Quartet, 152 pp., £9.95, March 1985, 0 7043 2473 3
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The Pride and the Fall: Iran 1974-1979 
by Anthony Parsons.
Cape, 160 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 224 02196 6
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Iran under the Ayatollahs 
by Dilip Hiro.
Routledge, 416 pp., £20, January 1985, 9780710099242
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Obbligato: Notes on a Foreign Service Career 
by William Sullivan.
Norton, 279 pp., £13.95, October 1984, 0 393 01809 1
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Envoy to the Middle World: Adventures in Diplomacy 
by George McGhee.
Harper and Row, 458 pp., £15.95, January 1984, 0 06 039025 5
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The Persians amongst the English 
by Denis Wright.
Tauris, 273 pp., £17.95, February 1985, 1 85043 002 0
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... formally committed to the doctrine that revolutions are the inevitable concomitants of Progress, Ryszard Kapuściński is unusually qualified to provide us with an answer. He understands – as few Western writers can – how a regime can be based largely if not exclusively on terror; and that since the instruments of terror are primarily ...

Not Quite Peru

Leo Turner: Daniel Alarcón, 19 July 2007

Lost City Radio 
by Daniel Alarcón.
Fourth Estate, 257 pp., £12.99, April 2007, 978 0 00 720051 1
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... the cause of peace, frightening potential subversives). Lost City Radio demonstrates what Ryszard Kapuściński (an influence on Alarcón) referred to as war’s ‘incommunicability’. In war, philosophy can kill. ‘I was cold and angry,’ the narrator says in ‘Lima, Peru, July 28, 1979’: ‘Hurt by too many German philosophers in ...

Star-Crossed in the Congo

Mark Hudson: Ronan Bennett, 20 August 1998

The Catastrophist 
by Ronan Bennett.
Headline, 313 pp., £14.99, July 1998, 9780747222101
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... a very good question. Significant attempts to fictionalise the period have so far been oblique. Ryszard Kapuściński included imaginary scenes from Lumumba’s life in a grimly humorous account of his own incarceration and near-execution by Belgian paratroopers in The Soccer War. V.S. Naipaul’s magnificent A Bend in the River looked at a slightly ...

Orders of Empire

Keith Kyle, 7 March 1985

Waugh in Abyssinia 
by Evelyn Waugh.
Methuen, 253 pp., £9.50, September 1984, 0 413 54830 9
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Remote People 
by Evelyn Waugh.
Penguin, 208 pp., £2.50, January 1985, 9780140095425
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Haile Selassie’s War 
by Anthony Mockler.
Oxford, 453 pp., £17.50, November 1984, 0 19 215867 8
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... very much further in the thirty years that followed the Emperor’s restoration in 1941, and, as Ryszard Kapuściński illustrates so vividly in his book of interviews with courtiers of the overthrown ruler. The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat, the vocabulary of development and progress, which was the vocabulary of the court, came less and less to ...

Berlusconi in Tehran

Slavoj Žižek: The Rome-Tehran Axis, 23 July 2009

... legitimacy: its exercise of power is now perceived as a panic reaction, a gesture of impotence. Ryszard Kapuściński, in Shah of Shahs, his account of the Khomeini revolution, located the precise moment of this rupture: at a Tehran crossroad, a single demonstrator refused to budge when a policeman shouted at him to move, and the embarrassed policeman ...

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