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The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat (Penguin Modern Classics) Kindle Edition
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It is a sequence of reminiscence-s of Haile Selasse's court,rendered by a bunch of flunkies,hangers-on and true believers,and they are amazing.When you read one of them arguing that periodic famine is good for Ethiopians,or another saying that education is bad because it's easy to go from the habit of reading to the habit of thinking,you are shaking your head in disbelief.
The second major theme in the book is the Red Terror(the fetasha)launched by the military committee(the Dergue)taking place as Kapuscinski is in Addis Ababa researching this book.His descriptions of crazed soldiers manning jeeps and roadblocks,searching everything and not being averse to opening fire on any real or imagined enemies,is a fantastic description of life under terror.
As you finish this,remember that Kapuscinski was a citizen of a Communist dicatorship in Poland.Is this book really about Ethiopia,or is it Kapuscinski writing about terror and dictatorship in general,a thinly disguised critique of Gierek's Poland?Some Poles I've spoken to about say the former,some the latter.Judge for yourself.
A fine piece of reportage,and well up to Kapuscinski's finest standards.Beware though-if this is the first of his books that you've read,you'll end up reading all of them.Start saving now!!
I was given it as a Christmas gift; having added it to my Amazon wish list !
I first came across Ryszard Kapuscinski after reading "The Shadow of the Sun: My African Life", which I also loved. I like Kapuscinski's reportage style, but I am particularly gripped by his insight.
As for the actual book; I think that the mechanism that Kapuscinski uses for telling the story - vignettes from different individuals - is a great way of telling a story. The reader receives a variety of perspectives, which on their own may not tell the whole story, but collectively form a mossaic which gives far more detail than simple reportage could ever do.
By the end of the book, I felt that I had a pretty good impression of life in the court of Haile Selassie, but I also felt that I had a much clearer understanding of life in the court of any autocratic absolute monarch - such as King Charles I of England or the Kings Louis' of France.
Highly recommended !
it looks like this was no easy study, as tracking down and interviewing the relevant people appears to have been a covert and risky operation, and must have been made amid much unrest and confusion. the interviewees all hold their former positions in great esteem, and nary a negative word is spoken against haile selassie, everything that went awry was the fault of someone else. absolute loyalty, or just fear? it's a complete other world.
suffice to say, this book is brilliantly put together (almost reads like fiction in passages - a barely believable fiction!), and serves as a reminder that this all took place not that long ago.
In typical Kapuscinski style, in 1974 he went to Ethiopia in the middle of a successful coup attempt to interview servants and associates of the soon-to-be-deposed Emperor Haile Selassie to discover how he ruled and why he was overthrown. The result is a wonderfully composed text that is practically dripping with irony, regret, and even humor.
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