The Shadow of the Sun

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9780713994551: The Shadow of the Sun

'Only with the greatest of simplifications, for the sake of convenience, can we say Africa. In reality, except as a geographical term, Africa doesn't exist'. Ryszard Kapuscinski has been writing about the people of Africa throughout his career. In astudy that avoids the official routes, palaces and big politics, he sets out to create an account of post-colonial Africa seen at once as a whole and as a location that wholly defies generalised explanations. It is both a sustained meditation on themosaic of peoples and practises we call 'Africa', and an impassioned attempt to come to terms with humanity itself as it struggles to escape from foreign domination, from the intoxications of freedom, from war and from politics as theft.

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Review:

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 McNamee

From 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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