This is a remarkable book describing the civil war in Angola in 1975 but at street level. The author describes in fascinating real-time the emptying of the capital Luanda as the Portuguese civilians and soldiers pack their crates and quit, leaving behind a brutal scrap for the remains of a city and a country. Kapuaeiñski does not give a typical Western correspondent's view, from the distance of a neighbouring country or the security of a short stay in a 5-star hotel, but rather one from the ground, from a position where he is one of the vulnerable, embroiled in events as well as observing them. He draws global struggles into the side streets, homes, shops and bars in a way that makes the randomness of death terrifying by its ordinariness. A wrongly chosen word of greeting at a checkpoint means death instead of life. He has the reader accompany him into his own terrible, ordinary, lottery of survival. You smell the sweat and the fear of war. I found myself expecting half-crazed soldiers to break into the room at any point and abruptly end his dialogue. There are moments where he telexes to his press agency and you realise there is an outside, normal world beyond this nightmare. As if it is game over and he has switched off the screen. But this is no fantasy.
Kapuaeiñski is a courageous man and writer. He flies in the opposite direction - arriving as others leave. In doing so he delivers a text that does not permit one to ignore the grubbiness of war. He keeps the balance of the political events rooted in the reality of vividly described individuals that walk with him through this book. After everything, he manages nevertheless to leave the reader with a sense of hope as he relates the small acts of humanity and determination for life which light up this frightening scene. A book I highly recommend.