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4.8 out of 5 stars
92
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 4 November 2002
I've visited Africa several times and have read a number of African travel books, but for me this one stands out hand and shoulders above the rest. Based on the author's personal experiences as a journalist spanning the whole continent each chapter presents a fresh insight into African culture,physchology, beleifs and history . Whether it is describing the revolution in Zanzibar (where the author himself was taken hostage), the rise of the 3rd-rate officer Amin to president of Uganda or observations drawn from travelling amongst the ordinary villages and people the author allows neither sentimentalism nor predjudice to cloud a hugely entertaining and informative read.
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on 23 September 2014
An excellent book of travel blogs avant la lettre. Kapuscinsky is a brilliant painter of situations and conditions, in this case Africa, since the Fifties. His journalistic flair researches below the obvious and gives us a real insight in what it is/was like to live in Africa in tumultuous times, and in the "African spirit" which still survives. I find this a book we all need to read, as it will possibly diminish and possibly ban some prejudices which have gained ground in the West, because our world and our way of thinking is so different. The chapters all tell different situations and places, and each of them is a little pearl to be admired and thought about. Highly recommended! I am looking forward to reading some more of his books.
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on 10 July 2017
It's true. This is a must read if you are interested in a deeper look at African culture. And to say it with the author. There is no african culture as such. So the novel approach in his writing speaks to us between the lines, let's us feel Africa than trying to understand it. Absolutely recommendable.
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on 18 April 2017
Outstanding writing from a deep understanding of the continental. Very moving as well as highly informative.
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on 30 June 2004
Ignatieff is right - Kapuscinski does turn reporting into literature. But maybe he oversteps the boundary sometime....I catch myself wondering if things happened quite the way he describes them. His imagination is attracted by the the baroque, the sensational, and the extreme. That said, this was probably the reason he fell in love with Africa in the first place - his need for heightened emotions and extreme situations.

Even so, it's very worth reading this book, not so much for the reportage as for the analysis. His dispatches from civil war zones are amazingly lurid, especially from Liberia. But maybe too lurid to be food for thought beyond 'heart-of-darkness' similes.
What I particularly value in this book is his very lucid and measured analysis of the rise of Amin; of the ubiquity of the warlord and child soldier; of the genocide in Rwanda; of the class structure of independent Africa; of the perils facing even the most patriotic of African leaders (here, Eritrea; in his book The Soccer Wars he makes a similar point about Ben Bella in Algeria). And his vignettes of daily life are also fascinating: the witchcraft he used against burglars in Lagos, the merchant lady in Senegal.

In notice the cover of this book is plastered with glowing reviews - but not one is from from an African source or african writer. What do Africans make of it, I wonder...
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on 28 September 2014
The book is impressive in its scope; but then you come to realise - and this is to Kapuscinski's credit - just how huge the subject is. His argument at the end that we lack the vocabulary to understand Africa justifies his storytelling technique in the book.
However, there is a huge part of Africa we don't see: Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa, the history of Mozambique and Angola, the effect of the Cold War being fought by proxy States and the current boom in Chinese investment in the continent.
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on 17 January 2017
Gift
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on 6 July 2002
A quite wonderful book; humane, insightful, hugely enquiring - how would you categorize A Shadow of the Sun? It's at once a history of the development of the continent, from heady independence days as the book opens, to drought and corruption, and now to struggle and opportunity, a feeling that the worst is past, but improvement so hard to achieve; it's of course a dazzling travelogue, high and low he has been, from suffocating aridity in the desert to malarial downpours in West Africa, from Eritrea to Tanzania to Mali to Nigeria; it's almost a poem at times, to the spirit he so admires in the people he meets, the awe he feels as he sees the relationship between nature which is harsh, life-giving and taking, and the communities that live their lives around nature (how different to Europe!); it's an understated but lancing polemic as he depicts the day-by-day struggle of the urban poor, betrayed by their leaders, trapped in a society where interactions with Europe have yet to fully right themselves from the distortions of the colonial period; but the best thing about the book is that in the many snapshots and scenes he writes about, he is able to capture so well what it feels like to be there, sometimes intimidating, sometimes exhilarating, the space and light, laughter, wonder, infuriating and inspiring.
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on 12 July 2013
Difficult to get into this book but very thought provoking. Having been born and raised in Africa during this period in history I found the book made me aware of many things I had never understood before.
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on 4 July 2006
Such a big continent matched only by the breadth and expressiveness of Kapuskinski's writing, faithfully and skillfully translated. No wonder Poland counted him as the finest journalist from Poland in the 20th Century. Although I love travel and discerning travel books, I had no interest in Africa. That all changed with this book. It is wonderfully human, detailed and absorbing. For anyone else who is interested I think it is only matched by the writing of Anna Politkovskaya.
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