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5.0 out of 5 stars THE PEOPLE SPEAK AND THE PEOPLE FEEL, 21 Oct 2011
This review is from: Imperium (Paperback)
There are many factors that have mythologised and romanticised Russia in the minds of many: of course, the veil of secrecy that has surrounded the place since before, during and after the establishment of the U.S.S.R. has given it a mystique that cannot fail to arouse one's curiosity; its sheer size and location just beyond the comprehension of European consciousness give it a presence that cannot be ignored; and its cultural influence - in terms of its thinkers, its writers and its politics - serves to support and emphasise that presence. It has been, and will continue to be for a long while yet, the exotic-other on our door-step.

Ryszard Kapuscinski, with his typically naturally-flowing, significant-but-not-pretentious style, entertains and educates in equal measure, and shines a light on many of the places that have remained in the shade for far too long and far too easily, simply due to the fact that our eyes have been diverted or that the little is so easily consumed in the large that is Russia and was the U.S.S.R.

When I say 'places', it would be more accurate to say 'people' as this is where Kapuscinski's light really shines, and it is people and the human spirit that populate this book. Even in critical accounts of the machinations of whatever state or system, the impact upon the person-in-the-street, like you or me, often gets lost; the critique simply replicates the dehumanising effect the state or system is said to have: people remain statistics and, although to an argument rather than to a system, slaves. As always with Kapuscinski, it is the people first and the system second, yet this approach says so much more about the larger world we inhabit than any cool, detached analysis can ever hope to achieve.

I think it also reminds you that all of our thoughts and actions have an equal importance and the potential to have an equal impact: although we may feel powerless in an ever-more globalised world, much as we are affected as individuals, we can also influence as individuals and groups if we choose to do so. We may now feel we serve the systems that were created to serve us, but we did create them and, therefore, have the power to bring them down or change their course.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough: it educates, it enlightens and it entertains - what more could you want?
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