This is the very best book to encourage any interest in the former USSR it is a truly truly amazing book. It starts in Pinsk, Poland in an area now called Belarus which was occupied by the Soviets during Ryziards childhood and he describes the cruel deportation of 200 000 people to Siberia and how his family avoided it, with his mother staying awake all night long to alert the children if necessary to go into hiding, moving and poignant. He then moves around to different parts of the USSR and there is always a great tale to tell about places most of us havent heard of from the oil fields of Azerbejan to the desert of Turkmenestan. Snippets of information, stories, anecdotes, for example how Stalin demolished the beautiful cathedral next to the Kremlin with a plan to build a skyscraper 5 times the size of the empire state building with a statue of Lenin atop. So bizarre, so interesting. Funny, sad, gripping and so true to life in desciptions of human nature. Do read this if you are even vaguely interested in the USSR, it is great.
on 1 October 2009
Ryszard Kapuscinski has fast become one of my all time favourite writers since I discovered him last year. He is so much more than a travel writer, although this is not to dismiss is incredible ability to evoke far-off times and places. He has the ability to select one small aspect of a person, country or regime and through it create a clear view of the larger picture. In this book he uses the example of barbed wire, it's production and installation, to demonstrate the inevitable failure of the Soviet project; 2 pages of inspired commentary that I read and reread in awe.
In addition to sharp political observation RK is a poet, even in translation his words are alive - the paragraph describing people leaving shapes of themselves in the cold left me speechless.
Imperium and Shadow of the Sun I believe to be his masterpieces and I encourage everyone to read them.
on 15 April 2015
Not a mere travel document! but more a meditation on the story of the old Soviet empire. They were years of terror and tragedy for many of the peoples involved. Kapuscinski was a man of deep understanding and compassion, who had a compulsion to travel, search,
talk to those people, and tell the story to the world.
I confess I was startled by some remarkably prescient observations.
I think anyone who is interested in their fellow human being would want to read this book.
on 11 February 2010
Blessed with seemingly watermellon-sized balls and a talent for observing the detail , Mr . Kapuscinski lived an exciting and courageous life , travelling to the most unassuming corners of the earth as regimes were falling apart and the world was changing . Whether in Angola as it was struggling for independence or El Salvador when at was with Honduras , he was always up for the challenge to go there , explore the situation , witness the horror and talk about it . The 1995 study of his on the disintegrasion of the Soviet Union is easily one of the best books written about the topic and along with " The Shah Of Shahs " , maybe his best work ever . Kapuscinski was a talented storyteller with a sharp tongue and a vivid writting style and what's most admirable for me is the ever-present humanity in his political analysis . This book is just mesmerizing and his body of work simply stellar .