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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 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 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 18 April 2017
Outstanding writing from a deep understanding of the continental. Very moving as well as highly informative.
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on 17 January 2017
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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 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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on 5 August 2002
There is not a great deal that I can add to this book, given what previous reviewers have written, which perfectly summarises why this is such a valuable book: in short this is an unbiased, open-minded, warn-hearted, honest, lyrical, perceptive and brilliant insight into Africa. Anyone who wants to understand just how different Africa and Africans are from elsewhere should read this book - it shows just how wrongheaded the West is in trying to force Africa into its own way of doing things, and how doomed this appraoch is to failure. It should be read in accompaniment with YURUGU: AN AFRICAN-CENTRED CRITIQUE OF EUROPEAN CULTURAL THOUGHT AND BEHAVIOUR by Marimba Ani, which is perhaps an even greater masterpiece than this, and underlines the cultural faultlines between Europe and Africa, and Europe`s deep guilt for what has happened in Africa over the past 500 years.
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on 13 March 2017
The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuscinski is an aspirational and insightful journal of 'Africa and its people.' The author endears himself -and the outcome is poetic and heartfelt in his affection for the African nation. I love his style of prose: The clarity; the detail; especially flourishing in light humour, which is ever present amongst the people -and notably expressed in the chapter, 'Madame Diuf Is Coming Home,' which is delightfully funny -actually reminding me of the characteristic short novel of 'Marcovaldo' by Italo Calvino.

The travelogue propels a striking image -by way of a personal and factual journey of observation- gathering newsworthy stories across the great continent: Stories of upheaval and troubles, that now loom in the shadow of the present, but sadly haunting the uncertainty of tomorrow: with the ever increasing threat of wars and tyranny -disease; and the fear of starvation, and the excessive heat and drought. And yet, the author notes that the people of Africa 'endure their toil with astonishing patience and good humour.'

The zeal and the passion of the author is remarkable: when he asked, 'Where would be the best place to meet the Tuareg nomads of the Sahara?' The reply in response was treated with an outburst of laughter and amusement as though the author had lost his mind and wanted to commit suicide? The Tuareg: '...A nomad, a man of open spaces...' singularly in command, they are 'eternal wanderers in the Sahara...' They are known to be fierce warriors -the 'Cossacks of the Sahara...' ( chapter: 'Salt and Gold' )

This is a beautiful book about the African nation: breathtaking; a treasure and a luxury to own in print! I highly recommend.
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on 30 October 2002
Please read this book.
If you have ever been to Africa, the hairs on the back of your neck will stand up. You'll recognise the places, people and situations as Kapuscinski's beautifully crafted accounts of his travels throughout the continent come alive in your memories.
If you've never been, this book will make you want to go. A seasoned African campaigner, Kapuscinski brings home the uniqueness that makes Africa not a place to fear and avoid, but one to explore and - as he is continually helping you to do throughout the book - understand.
Tracing a line from the triumphal emergence of African independence to its most recent and darkest turmoils, Kapuscinski combines a "Western" concept of time, geography and politics with an "African" view rarely conveyed in the news reports. In doing so, he also reminds the reader that "Africa" is too narrow a term to use to describe the myriad cultures, traditions and conditions which exist in this huge continent.
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