Travels with Herodotus
By Ryszard Kapuscinski
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9781400043385, 288pp.)
Publication Date: June 5, 2007
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From the master of literary reportage whose acclaimed books include Shah of Shahs, The Emperor, and The Shadow of the Sun, an intimate account of his first youthful forays beyond the Iron Curtain.
Just out of university in 1955, Kapuscinski told his editor that he’d like to go abroad. Dreaming no farther than Czechoslovakia, the young reporter found himself sent to India. Wide-eyed and captivated, he would discover in those days his life’s work—to understand and describe the world in its remotest reaches, in all its multiplicity. From the rituals of sunrise at Persepolis to the incongruity of Louis Armstrong performing before a stone-faced crowd in Khartoum, Kapuscinski gives us the non-Western world as he first saw it, through still-virginal Western eyes.
The companion on his travels: a volume of Herodotus, a gift from his first boss. Whether in China, Poland, Iran, or the Congo, it was the “father of history”—and, as Kapuscinski would realize, of globalism—who helped the young correspondent to make sense of events, to find the story where it did not obviously exist. It is this great forerunner’s spirit—both supremely worldly and innately Occidental—that would continue to whet Kapuscinski’s ravenous appetite for discovering the broader world and that has made him our own indispensable companion on any leg of that perpetual journey.
Ryszard Kapuscinski, Poland’s most celebrated foreign correspondent, was born in 1932 in Pinsk (in what is now Belarus) and spent four decades reporting on Asia, Latin America, and Africa. He is also the author of Imperium, Another Day of Life, and The Soccer War. His books have been translated into twenty-eight languages. Kapuscinski died in 2007.
“Kapucinski fashions an elegant homage to his literary ancestor, whom he helps us to see as the original foreign correspondent . . . Does an excellent job of bringing these ancient stories to life. Educated by the atrocities of his own time, he refuses to let Herodotus’s ancient atrocities become distant and abstract . . . Sheds light on his whole achievement as a writer . . . His books continue to live.”
–Adam Kirsch, The New York Sun
“Kapucinski’s rapture is contagious . . . In this dramatic telling by one of modernity’s ablest chroniclers, Herodotus stands for democracy, openness, and tolerance. The same can be said of the equally enigmatic, and certain to be missed, author.”
–Lawrence Osborne, Men’s Vogue
“Kapucinski saw more, and more clearly, . . . than nearly any writer one can think to name. Few have written more beautifully of unspeakable things. Few have had his courage, almost none his talent. His books changed the way many of us think about nonfiction . . . A nameless energy gathers as one reads deeper into Travels With Herodotus, and one begins to realize that, in many ways, Kapucinski’s previous books, however brilliant, were somewhat impersonal. Here, finally, we experience the early tremors Kapucinski underwent for the privilege to write them. Not all of it is painful; much of it, in fact, is delightful . . . When the last page of this book is turned, note how much smaller and colder the world now seems with Kapucinski gone.”
–Tom Bissell, New York Times Book Review
“A final gift, a call to wander widely and see deeply.”
–Patrick Symmes, Outside
“An apt concluding chapter to Kapucinski’s corpus, an attempt by a consummate observer to account for the route traced by his own life via the great Greek traveler and proto-historian. The two men, separated by 2 ? millenniums, shared a compulsive, openhearted curiosity . . . Who better to write about a man who could not sit still than a man who could not get still?”
–Ben Ehrenreich, Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Personally revealing . . . Kapucinski is not often didactic and never triumphalist. His luminous narratives are filled with odd juxtapositions and the ambiguities of real experience . . . Like Herodotus, Ryszard Kapucinski was a reporter, a historian, an adventurer and, truly, an artist.”
–Matthew Kaminski, The Wall Street Journal
“Extraordinary . . . Punctuated by wonder.”
–Elizabeth Speller, Financial Times