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A lovely final work
on 13 July 2007
Ryszard Kapinscinski was made Poland's journalist of the century in 1999 and judging by his writing must have been truly deserved. He wrote thrillingly of his travels as a foreign correspondant in the worlds toughest countries. Sadly 'Travels' is his final book due to his death in January this year.
Having recently read Shadow of the Sun I was eager to seek out more of his writing and was therefore delighted that this publication from 2004 has been translated. It does not disappoint.
This non fiction book covers three areas. His youth in post war Poland, his travels as a reporter for PAP in the 50s and early 60s and through out the book it is bulked up by his musings on the travels of the 3rd Century BC Greek Herodotus. All of this make fascinating and gripping reading.
RK always writes with humility and understanding of the hardship and bleak poverty he encounters. His empathy clearly stems from his childhood in Poland and he relates a moving story about himself at 10 years old with no shoes trying to fund a new pair for the cold winter by selling green home made soap door to door with very little luck. His stoicism in these harsh circumstances must have helped to give him his unique and intrepid personality. He goes forth with a sort of naive bravado setting foot in countries where there is civil war, disease and unbearable climate and in the begining at least unable to speak any language but Polish and Russian.
The stories of Herodotus are interspersed thorughout and are not always obviously relevant. Nevertheless it has made me want to read more about the Greek and I will be seeking a copy soon.
RK has perfected a simplicity of writing which is always interesting. He give the reader gold nuggets of information and insights into other worlds. His slightly gullible nature often leads to near misses including a close shave after being lured to the top of a ramshackle disused minaret in Egypt by a dodgy character.
This is a lovely final work by a great journalist.
From his thought of Herodotus - 'His most important discovery and that one must learn about them, because these other worlds, these other cultures are mirrors in which we can see ourselves. Thanks to which we understand ourselves better - for we cannot define our own identity until having confronted that of others as comparison'.