Ryszard Kapuscinski arrived in Africa in 1957, at the beginning of the end of colonial rule––the “sometimes dramatic and painful, sometimes enjoyable and jubilant” rebirth of a continent. The Shadow of the Sun sums up the author’s experiences (“the record of a forty-year marriage”) in this place that became the central obsession of his remarkable career.
From the hopeful years of independence through the bloodcurdling disintegration of nations such as Nigeria, Liberia, Rwanda, and Angola, Kapuscinski recounts great social and political changes as seen through the prism of the ordinary African. He looks at the rough-and-ready physical world and identifies the true geography of Africa––a little-understood spiritual universe, an African way of being. And he offers a moving portrait of Africa in the wake of two epoch-making changes: the arrival of AIDS and the definitive departure of the white man.
Kapuscinski’s rare humanity invests his subject with a dignity and grandeur unmatched by any other writer on the Third World, and his unique ability to discern the universal in the particular has never been more powerfully displayed than in this work. The Shadow of the Sun is a masterpiece from a modern master.
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When Africa makes international news, it is usually because war has broken out or some bizarre natural disaster has taken a large number of lives. Westerners are appallingly ignorant of Africa otherwise, a condition that the great Polish journalist and writer Ryszard Kapuœciñski helps remedy with this book based on observations gathered over more than four decades.
Kapuœciñski first went to Africa in 1957, a time pregnant with possibilities as one country after another declared independence from the European colonial powers. Those powers, he writes, had "crammed the approximately ten thousand kingdoms, federations, and stateless but independent tribal associations that existed on this continent in the middle of the nineteenth century within the borders of barely forty colonies." When independence came, old interethnic rivalries, long suppressed, bubbled up to the surface, and the continent was consumed in little wars of obscure origin, from caste-based massacres in Rwanda and ideological conflicts in Ethiopia to hit-and-run skirmishes among Tuaregs and Bantus on the edge of the Sahara. With independence, too, came the warlords, whose power across the continent derives from the control of food, water, and other life-and-death resources, and whose struggles among one another fuel the continent's seemingly endless civil wars. When the warlords "decide that everything worthy of plunder has been extracted," Kapuœciñski writes, wearily, they call a peace conference and are rewarded with credits and loans from the First World, which makes them richer and more powerful than ever, "because you can get significantly more from the World Bank than from your own starving kinsmen."
Constantly surprising and eye-opening, Kapuœciñski's book teaches us much about contemporary events and recent history in Africa. It is also further evidence for why he is considered to be one of the best journalists at work today. --Gregory McNameeFrom the Back Cover:
"This harrowing, at times shattering, chronicle of 40 years of adventures in Africa finds Kapuscinski in trouble again. . . . He crushes a cobra to save his life, moves with nomads through Somalia, and waits to die from thirst beneath a truck in the Sahara. Kapuscinski alternates between plain prose and shimmering imagery, using understatement to dispel easy stereotypes about Africa and Africans, and finishing a paragraph or two of spare exposition with some dazzling revelation or note of remorse that leaves you reeling. With rare exception, these distant episodes amaze." --Brad Wieners, Outside
"An astonishing piece of writing . . . as vital a book as any I've read in recent years, an outstanding introduction to the tangled threads of African culture and politics and a manual in the modes of human cruelty and redemption . . . Kapuscinski . . . may be the greatest journalist of our time. . . . Kapuscinski bears his historical baggae lightly through the African landscape, but his inability to tell the story in the dispassionate tones of an outsider is what gives this visionary book such power."
--Mark Levine, Men's Journal
From the U.K. :
"A dazzling narrative historian, using his own experience as the principal archive. . . . he is never less than clear and pungent; his short chapter on the genocidal hatreds of Rwanda is worth a hundred newspaper features. . . . He brings the world to us as nobody else."
--Ian Jack, The Observer
"Kapuscinski doesn't just 'cover' Africa--he knows it. His perspective is both vast and uniquely informed."
--Keith Wilson, Focus
"His book most successfully conveys the charms, frustrations, tragedies, comedies, brutalities, and kindnesses of life in Africa. . . . as an observer, and as a recorder of his observations, he is second to none."
--Anthony Daniels, Sunday Telegraph
"His is the first wide-ranging, elegant, aristocratic intelligence since Conrad's to bear on Africa in all its perplexity. . . . Kapuscinski is a master of the charismatic shorthand that leaves the reader knowing all there is to know, yet wanting to know more."
--Jeremy Harding, Evening Standard
"Both subtle and haunting, a book written with love and longing, as sharp and life-enhancing as the sun that rises on an African morning."
--Anthony Sattin, Sunday Times
"An elliptical picture of African life that is intellectually acute and emotionally rich."
--Will Cohu, Daily Telegraph
"He has given the truest, least partial, most comprehensive and vivid account of what life is like on our planet. He is an unflinching witness and an exuberant stylist."
--Geoff Dyer, The Guardian
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Book Description Knopf, 2001. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # mon0000155945
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