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4.6 out of 5 stars
18
4.6 out of 5 stars
Another Day of Life (Penguin Modern Classics)
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on 14 June 2011
One of the finest books about modern Angola Kapuchinski's eyewitness accounts of the evacuation of the Portuguese, independence, the South African invasion and the beginnings of the Angolan civil war crackles with versimilitude, and reads like poetry.

He captures beautifully the city of Luanda and the sureality of its emptying of settlers in the face of decolonisation, the terror of road convoys through bloodily contested countryside, and ordinary rhythms of life that go on in the midst of cataclysm.

It is an extraordinary work of journalism, gripping as a thriller and moving as a tragedy. Beautiful.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 January 2011
... "I read many of the dispatches sent from Luanda in those days. I admired the opulence of human fantasy." This is Ryszard Kapuscinski's biting assessment of the quality of reportage by so many of his fellow war correspondents. Kapuscinski made necessity into a virtue. He was a reporter for the Polish News Agency, which could not afford the lavish expense accounts that so many Westerner correspondents had, who all too often had the tendency to file their dispatches from the 5-star hotel in the capital, after talking with those who frequented the bars at these hotels. Kapuscinski was either lucky, or quite prescient, (or both) managing to be in the right place at the right time. He was in Iran for the fall of the Shah, which he described in Shah of Shahs (Penguin Classics) and in Ethiopia shortly after the fall of Haile Sellassie, which he described in The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat (Penguin Classics) This book which describes the very last days of Portuguese rule in Angola in 1975 may not have the same intensity of insights as the other two books, but still, it is excellent, and is the only view that we have of these last days.

Angola is rarely in the news (or of interest in the West, particularly since the end of the Cold War). It was mis-ruled by Portugal for three and a half centuries, and its principal export was slaves. This trade was so lucrative and prolific that the country is still under populated. After the downfall of the Salazar dictatorship in 1974, Portugal's new democratic leadership quickly agreed to grant the colonies their independence, which included Angola, where a guerilla war of liberation was being waged for numerous years. There were three principal liberation groups, the MPLA which was backed by the Soviet Union and Cuba, the FNLA, backed by the Western powers and Zaire, and the UNITA, backed by the Western powers and South Africa. The front was "everywhere" literally, whenever one band of these groups might collide.

Kapuscinski's first chapter describes Luanda during the final days, and the exodus of the Portuguese. (Most went to Brazil.) Among the many useful insights, the author mentions the poverty of the whites, unique among European colonies. There were white children begging in the streets, and his hotel maid was Portuguese. The author went to the "front," and in so doing took at least as many chances as Filkens, the NYT correspondent who wrote The Forever War: Dispatches from the War on Terror Kapuscinski memorably describes approaching checkpoints, manned (or more accurately, "kidded") by heavily armed boys. One never knew to which side was their allegiances, and the wrong greeting could literally mean death. Later he took the first re-supply convoy (that got through!) from Benguela to Pereira dEca, near the border with Namibia. Angola was a place where the proxy wars of the Cold War were waged, and Kapuscinski reports on the Cuban involvement, and broke the story of the South African invasion.

There is an excellent appendix chapter, entitled "ABC", which covers most of the salient facts about Angola, the Portuguese mis-rule, and the war of independence. In the end the author admits an exhaustion with the living conditions and the constant dangers, and telexes home for permission to return, which was granted. In the process, he made a significant incorrect assessment: "It is more or less clear what will happen, which is that the Angolans will win,..." When he said it would "take a while" I suspect that he underestimated the extent and length of the fighting between the forces of Holden Roberto and Savimbi, which would last through 2002. Today Angola is still notorious for the number of land mines that plague the country.

Overall, the book is "another day of life", of Kapuscinski, who has written an excellent account, almost certainly the best we will ever have, of the last days of Portuguese rule in Angola.

(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on April 15, 2009)
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on 22 September 2004
Kapuscinski's reportage is uniquely engaging, often showing close similarity in style to the 'magical realism' (forgive the term!) of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In this, perhaps his best book and probably my favourite work of reportage, he describes life as a Polish foreign correspondent caught up in the last days of the Portuguese empire, in Angola in 1975. He describes the changes taking place as the Portuguese leave and Angola descends into the hell of civil war. He is not afraid (or is afraid, but still does it!) to risk his skin, travelling as a sole outside witness in hair-raising circumstances to report to the world. Kapuscinski shows a close bond to the people that he writes of - one of his great strengths - and a strong sense of humour. If you are interested in 20th century African history, and want more that a dry text, this is one of several books to read by Kapuscinski! There is no equivalent.
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on 12 August 2013
This is a remarkable book describing the civil war in Angola in 1975 but at street level. The author describes in fascinating real-time the emptying of the capital Luanda as the Portuguese civilians and soldiers pack their crates and quit, leaving behind a brutal scrap for the remains of a city and a country. Kapuaeiñski does not give a typical Western correspondent's view, from the distance of a neighbouring country or the security of a short stay in a 5-star hotel, but rather one from the ground, from a position where he is one of the vulnerable, embroiled in events as well as observing them. He draws global struggles into the side streets, homes, shops and bars in a way that makes the randomness of death terrifying by its ordinariness. A wrongly chosen word of greeting at a checkpoint means death instead of life. He has the reader accompany him into his own terrible, ordinary, lottery of survival. You smell the sweat and the fear of war. I found myself expecting half-crazed soldiers to break into the room at any point and abruptly end his dialogue. There are moments where he telexes to his press agency and you realise there is an outside, normal world beyond this nightmare. As if it is game over and he has switched off the screen. But this is no fantasy.

Kapuaeiñski is a courageous man and writer. He flies in the opposite direction - arriving as others leave. In doing so he delivers a text that does not permit one to ignore the grubbiness of war. He keeps the balance of the political events rooted in the reality of vividly described individuals that walk with him through this book. After everything, he manages nevertheless to leave the reader with a sense of hope as he relates the small acts of humanity and determination for life which light up this frightening scene. A book I highly recommend.
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on 11 February 2015
This diary, as it is more or less a day-to-day narrative of what was happening in Angola in the dying days of the portuguese colonies, is amazing. If you want to understand why all the talk about "decolonisation" was just baloney, read it. Nothing makes sense at all unless you admit that one super-power was just trying to grab lands, people and the commodities (oil, diamond, ore, gold) that was under their bedroom.
Kapucinski has a knack to render the poignancy of the situation, which is Kafkaesque to say the least. It is a poignant book that I recommend to everyone.
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on 14 October 2015
This is a well written account of the arrival of Independence (and with it, civil war) in Angola. It is a book of two sections. The first, which I found infinitely more engaging, describes what happens to Luanda and its inhabitants as the Portugeuese prepare to leave. The second deals with the author's expeditions to the front line and his experiences of the war itself. Neither part makes for easy reading and the spare, matter of fact prose accentuates the horrors of day to day life. Interesting and insightful. A book about humanity.
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on 24 July 2007
This was the first book of Kapuscinski's I ever read(in about 1986)and I've been a huge fan ever since.Not the archetypal war junkie that western media outlets habitually send to Africa,Kapuscinski's humanity and gift for the arresting detail shine out in this book.Two highlights in a fantastic book are:
1-The passage describing roadblock etiquette.How vital it is to know the difference between "camarada"(comrade) and "irmao"(brother).Saying the wrong word at the wrong roadblock means instant death.
2-When he hears a radio broadcast saying that the MPLA are a bunch of communist stooges,lackeys to their Soviet masters,and that any communists would be hunted down.At this point in time,Kapuscinski is,as far as he knows,the only citizen of a socialist country anywhere in Angola.a terrifying moment which he puts across very well.
If only Kapuscinski knew that the war between the MPLA and it's enemies would go on for almost another 30 years.Fantastic journalism,and a good primer on the roots of Angola's post-independence nightmare.
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on 2 June 2013
Brilliant writing as usual from Kapuscinski. His account of the end of Portuguese rule in Angola and the country's descent in to bloody civil war is simply fantastic. Found his description of the Portuguese packing up to leave in Luanda particularly memorable, the docks piled high with wooden box's ready to ship to Lisbon or Rio, 300 years of rule over in the blink of an eye. Written with great insight but also humour, I really like Kapuscinski's sense of the absurd. Definitely read this book.
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on 20 June 2014
This excellent read really conveys how it feels to be in a war-torn African nation after the boat has sailed. Waiting for the rebels and wondering how they're going to treat a foreign journalist, and travelling dangerous roads under fire at night. And the stoic characters he meets long the way are painted in detail. I'll be reading more from him.
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on 16 July 2009
A vivid illustration of life in Angola during the end of the Portuguese occupation. It is a fairly short book but excellently written to capture the hell of Luanda during this time of turmoil. In fact, there are no real peaks or stand out moments but the minutiae of daily life is captured brilliantly.
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