Thursday, January 25, 2007

The poetry of reality

Mr. Kapuscinski (pronounced ka-poos-CHIN-ski) spent some four decades observing and writing about conflict throughout the developing world. He witnessed 27 coups and revolutions. He spent his working days gathering information for the terse dispatches he sent to PAP, often from places like Ougadougou or Zanzibar.

At night, he worked on longer, descriptive essays with phantasmagoric touches that went far beyond the details of the day’s events, using allegory and metaphors to convey what was happening.

“It’s not that the story is not getting expressed” in ordinary news reports, he said in an interview. “It’s what surrounds the story. The climate, the atmosphere of the street, the feeling of the people, the gossip of the town; the smell; the thousands and thousands of elements that are part of the events you read about in 600 words of your morning paper.”

From the 1970s on, these articles appeared in a series of books that quickly made Mr. Kapuscinski Poland’s best-known foreign correspondent. They later drew international attention in translation. The books included “The Soccer War,” which dealt with Latin American conflicts; “Another Day of Life,” about Angola’s civil war; “Shah of Shahs,” about the rise and fall of Iran’s last monarch; and “Imperium,” an account of his travels through Russia and its neighbors after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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