The Shadow of The Sun BOOK review [Ryszard Kapuscinski]

Book Reviews
The Shadow of The Sun BOOK review [Ryszard Kapuscinski]
Apr 17, 2001, 03:29


THE SHADOW OF THE SUN by Ryszard Kapuscinski; Knopf

All right, there's no doubt that Kapuscinski is the ur-journalist of his generation, possibly of the century. He is the most insightful, gutsy, and tremendously lucky writer you're likely to ever read on the end of Europe's colonial empires and grass-roots revolution. Kapuscinsky, who has, over the past 40 years, covered 27 coups, including the fall of the Shah and most of the colonial revolutions in Africa, and who has been sentenced to death four different times, writes like a dream. He covers events without, seemingly, any fear of death or bodily harm, and holds the deep seated belief that an easy ride is the quickest route away from whatever story needs to be told.

While the Polish journalist seems to have the knack for being in the right place (depending on your particular frame of mind) at the right time, he also has a tremendous ability to avoid telling the surface story, and instead gets to the underpinnings of what's really going on, the mass psyche, the opinions of the people on the street, the effects of day-to-day life, and the repressive actions the state.

The Shadow of the Sun is about Africa and it spans 40 years of colonial revolution, repression, poverty, and violence. Kapuscinski weaves stunning tales of corruption and revolution with quiet and understated stories about Africa's citizens. The book is full of both insights and history, from Liberia's displaced system of slavery to commentary on the reasons why both Sudanese rebels and the military seem to target women and children. Scattered throughout the whole book are casually told tales of Kapiscinski's African adventures, which are nothing short of jaw dropping. Anything from the journalist's near fatal attempt to escape revolutionary Zanzibar by boat—there was another revolution that needed covering—to breaking down in the middle of the Sahara and drinking water from a Goat leg. Kapuscinki is one of our best contemporary political writers, but he also offers some the most exciting accounts you'll find in modern journalism.

-Jason Cons

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