Ryszard Kapuściński: A Life
by Artur Domosławski
Verso, 2012, 464 pp.
Maybe it’s because Ryszard Kapuściński told so many stories about himself that little is actually known about him. We meet him in the alleyways of Dakar and the bazaars of Tehran, the trenches in Angola and the sidestreets of Tegucigalpa, just as the city is being attacked. He doesn’t so much describe these places as invites us to taste them, and we can do so through his perfect vignettes about his interactions with the people and the physical surroundings. Despite all this intimacy, we never know who he is. For he doesn’t write about himself but about “Ryszard Kapuściński,” the hero of his books who has all these revealing encounters.
Now we have a guide who tells us of the man, not the hero, in his context of communist Poland. Artur Domosławski, himself a Polish journalist who modeled himself on Kapuściński—he calls him his “mentor” or “master”—tells us two stories: one about Kapuściński, and one about the Poland that made him.