'Only with the greatest of simplifications, for the sake of convenience, can we say Africa. In reality, except as a geographical term, Africa doesn't exist'. Ryszard Kapuscinski has been writing about the people of Africa throughout his career. In astudy that avoids the official routes, palaces and big politics, he sets out to create an account of ...Read More'Only with the greatest of simplifications, for the sake of convenience, can we say Africa. In reality, except as a geographical term, Africa doesn't exist'. Ryszard Kapuscinski has been writing about the people of Africa throughout his career. In astudy that avoids the official routes, palaces and big politics, he sets out to create an account of post-colonial Africa seen at once as a whole and as a location that wholly defies generalised explanations. It is both a sustained meditation on themosaic of peoples and practises we call 'Africa', and an impassioned attempt to come to terms with humanity itself as it struggles to escape from foreign domination, from the intoxications of freedom, from war and from politics as theft.Read Less
Along with Imperium and Travels with Herodotus, this is one of Kapuscinski's best books. It's a panoramic book about Africa, full of characteristic insight and harrowing experiences. No one who reads this book will ever think about Africa as he or she has done before. And it is gripping throughout.
Nov 13, 2008
Ryszard Kapuscinski was a Polish journalist who was given Africa as his beat after WWII.. He suffered appalling hardships and life threatening illness in his travels covering the various independence movements. He conveyed as no other writer apart from fellow Pole Joseph Conrad the torment and human suffering that continues to give Africa its reputation as the Dark Continent. European colonialism was a mixed blessing at best, but Africa was a terrible place before and remains one now. It is riven by superstition and savage tribal conflicts on a scale the West doesn't want to know about. Kapuscinski was a humane man who recorded with dry clarity the unspeakable misery he witnessed as well as the stoicism with which it was accepted . Travelers are struck by Africa's desperate impoverishment as viewed from vehicles. Kapuscinski walked the burning deserts and malarial jungles to see lives of subsistence scarcely worth living. If you wonder why Africa stumbles from genocide to endless wars and slowly sinks back into barbarism, start with this book.
Apr 3, 2007
What a find
Someone had suggested this book to me several years ago, but it somehow made it to the bottom of my pile. Then I recently read a review of another of the author's books and decided to pull this one out and give it a try. I can't believe I waited this long to read it. It is a fascinating portrait of Africa, in the form of a number of vignettes or articles. It is a type of travelogue in that he describes his experiences with hotels, tranpsortation adventures, and his personal hardships including bouts of malaria and attacks by hordes of tropical insects. He intersperses this with bits of history, political analysis, and descriptions of people he meets along the way. The writing is rich and emotional and sometimes humorous. You suspect he exaggerates somewhat, but maybe not that much. It leaves you feeling stunned and somewhat depressed about the state of affairs in these countries. Having read the book, I feel better equipped to understand and evaluate some of the things going on in African countries today.
Publishers Weekly, 2001-04-09 Colorful writing and a deep intelligence highlight these essays' graceful exploration of postcolonial Africa. A Polish journalist who has written about the continent for more than three decades, Kapuscinski provides glimpses into African life far beyond what has been covered in headlines or in most previous books on the subject. The dispatches focus on the awkward relationship between Europe and Africa. Kapuscinski, whose books have been translated into 19 languages (they include The Emperor and The Soccer War), makes this clear through his own personal struggle with malaria soon after he first arrived on the continent. This emphasis also comes through in his dispatches on African nations such as Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Rwanda, which detail how the giddy optimism of the immediate postcolonial era disintegrated into corruption, poverty and conflict. But even as he describes a familiar story, his keen observations make it fresh. Writing about the provincialism of Rwanda, he says, "A trip round the world is a journey from backwater to backwater, each of which considers itself... a shining star." But political observations are just one of the strengths of this book. Kapuscinski's seemingly effortless writing style makes daily life come alive whether he's covering an Arab vendor making coffee or the efforts made at night by lizards to catch their mosquito prey. (The lizards' "eyes are capable of 180-degree rotation within their sockets, like the telescopes of astronomers....") Ultimately, this book is a personal and political travelogue of one man's rocky love affair with a continent of nations. Those looking for an engaging, literary introduction to Africa or even for some additional knowledge should look no further. (Apr.) Forecast: Kapuscinski is a very popular writer in Europe but has never broken out here. With a cluster of books on Africa coming out this season, this will get some media attention and may sell better than his previous books. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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