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Pages: Unknown

Language: English

Publisher: Alfred a Knopf (Sept. 1994)

By: Ryszard Kapuscinski(Author) Klara Glowczewska(Translator)

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Ryszard Kapuscinski's last book, The Soccer War -a revelation of the contemporary experience of war -- prompted John le Carre to call the author "the conjurer extraordinary of modern reportage." Now, in Imperium, Kapuscinski gives us a work of equal emotional force and evocative power: a personal, brilliantly detailed exploration of the almost unfathomably complex Soviet empire in our time.

He begins with his own childhood memories of the postwar Soviet occupation of Pinsk, in what was then Poland's eastern frontier ("something dreadful and incomprehensible...in this world that I enter at seven years of age"), and takes us up to 1967, when, as a journalist just starting out, he traveled across a snow-covered and desolate Siberia, and through the Soviet Union's seven southern and Central Asian republics, territories whose individual histories, cultures, and religions he found thriving even within the "stiff, rigorous corset of Soviet power."

Between 1989 and 1991, Kapuscinski made a series of extended journeys through the disintegrating Soviet empire, and his account of these forms the heart of the book. Bypassing official institutions and itineraries, he traversed the Soviet territory alone, from the border of Poland to the site of the most infamous gulags in far-eastern Siberia (where "nature pals it up with the executioner"), from above the Arctic Circle to the edge of Afghanistan, visiting dozens of cities and towns and outposts, traveling more than 40,000 miles, venturing into the individual lives of men, women, and children in order to Understand the collapsing but still various larger life of the empire.

Bringing the book to a close is a collection of notes which, Kapuscinski writes, "arose in the margins of my journeys" -- reflections on the state of the ex-USSR and on his experience of having watched its fate unfold "on the screen of a television set...as well as on the screen of the country's ordinary, daily reality, which surrounded me during my travels." It is this "schizophrenic perception in two different dimensions" that enabled Kapuscinski to discover and illuminate the most telling features of a society in dire turmoil.

Imperium is a remarkable work from one of the most original and sharply perceptive interpreters of our world -- galvanizing narrative deeply informed by Kapuscinski's limitless curiosity and his passion for truth, and suffused with his vivid sense of the overwhelming importance of history as it is lived, and of our constantly shifting places within it.

" Kapuscinski is a transcendental journalist. . . . He begins with appearances, for which he has uncommon gifts of poetry, irony and paradox, and clambers down them into essences. . . .He is writing about the whale from inside its belly." -- "Los Angeles Times" " Kapuscinski is an enchanting guide, combining boundless stamina, felicitous writing, childish curiosity and the literate authority of a true intellectual. . . . There are treasures in this book. . . .It is a triumphant combination of bleak history and black comedy." -- "The New York Times Book Review" " When our children's children want to study the cruelties of the late twentieth century . . . when they wonder why revolution after revolution betrayed its promises hrough greed, fear and confusion, they should read Ryszard Kapuscinski." -- "Wall Street Journal" " A compelling and convincing narrative that examines the extensive damage done to entire nations, the human psyche and the physical environment....This is a devastating picture of Russia [that] penetrates deeply into the depressing truths of 70 years of Soviet rule, the borders, the fear, the inhumanity.... His portrait of the 'Imperium' is tragic, but ever so true." -- Professor Thomas R. Beyer, Jr., Middlebury College, "The Boston Globe""Kapuscinski is a transcendental journalist. . . . He begins with appearances, for which he has uncommon gifts of poetry, irony and paradox, and clambers down them into essences. . . .He is writing about the whale from inside its belly." "Los Angeles Times" "Kapuscinski is an enchanting guide, combining boundless stamina, felicitous writing, childish curiosity and the literate authority of a true intellectual. . . . There are treasures in this book. . . .It is a triumphant combination of bleak history and black comedy." "The New York Times Book Review" "When our children's children want to study the cruelties of the late twentieth century . . . when they wonder why revolution after revolution betrayed its promises hrough greed, fear and confusion, they should read Ryszard Kapuscinski." "Wall Street Journal" "A compelling and convincing narrative that examines the extensive damage done to entire nations, the human psyche and the physical environment....This is a devastating picture of Russia [that] penetrates deeply into the depressing truths of 70 years of Soviet rule, the borders, the fear, the inhumanity.... His portrait of the 'Imperium' is tragic, but ever so true." Professor Thomas R. Beyer, Jr., Middlebury College, "The Boston Globe""-Kapuscinski is a transcendental journalist. . . . He begins with appearances, for which he has uncommon gifts of poetry, irony and paradox, and clambers down them into essences. . . .He is writing about the whale from inside its belly.---Los Angeles Times -Kapuscinski is an enchanting guide, combining boundless stamina, felicitous writing, childish curiosity and the literate authority of a true intellectual. . . . There are treasures in this book. . . .It is a triumphant combination of bleak history and black comedy.---The New York Times Book Review -When our children's children want to study the cruelties of the late twentieth century . . . when they wonder why revolution after revolution betrayed its promises hrough greed, fear and confusion, they should read Ryszard Kapuscinski.---Wall Street Journal -A compelling and convincing narrative that examines the extensive damage done to entire nations, the human psyche and the physical environment....This is a devastating picture of Russia [that] penetrates deeply into the depressing truths of 70 years of Soviet rule, the borders, the fear, the inhumanity.... His portrait of the 'Imperium' is tragic, but ever so true.---Professor Thomas R. Beyer, Jr., Middlebury College, The Boston Globe --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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  • By Dr. Richard M. Price on 9 December 2012

    This is not a systematic study, based on secondary sources, but an account of the author's own experience, largely in travels round the outlying parts of the USSR (Siberia and the now independent states to the south) between 1967 and 1993. The writing is vivid, and a number of important aspects of the Stalinist past and modern conditions are treated with insight and feeling, though it remains a travel-book whose sequence is determined not by the unfolding of an argument, but by the chronology of the writer's movements. The book ends with prognostications of the future - written in 1993. How well do they stand up twenty years later? Kapuscinski's direct experience of the periphery of the country made him sceptical about any rapid improvements in a country so vast and with such poor infrastructure. As for politics, he writes: `The democratic camp, so active during the struggle against communism, has been pushed to the margins of the political stage and finds itself either in disarray or simply forgotten... Forces calling for the consolidation of power (especially of central power) and a strong, might nation are gaining the upper hand. It is a climate that encourages authoritarian methods of government, favorable to various forms of dictatorship.' - This was pretty clear by the late 1990s, even before Putin came to power, but to realize this as early as 1993 was surely exceptional.The translation reads well, though there is some carelessness over the correct English transliteration of Russian names and terms. For example, `nomenclature' is not the right translation of `nomenklatura'.

  • By Easily Me on 21 October 2011

    There are many factors that have mythologised and romanticised Russia in the minds of many: of course, the veil of secrecy that has surrounded the place since before, during and after the establishment of the U.S.S.R. has given it a mystique that cannot fail to arouse one's curiosity; its sheer size and location just beyond the comprehension of European consciousness give it a presence that cannot be ignored; and its cultural influence - in terms of its thinkers, its writers and its politics - serves to support and emphasise that presence. It has been, and will continue to be for a long while yet, the exotic-other on our door-step.Ryszard Kapuscinski, with his typically naturally-flowing, significant-but-not-pretentious style, entertains and educates in equal measure, and shines a light on many of the places that have remained in the shade for far too long and far too easily, simply due to the fact that our eyes have been diverted or that the little is so easily consumed in the large that is Russia and was the U.S.S.R.When I say 'places', it would be more accurate to say 'people' as this is where Kapuscinski's light really shines, and it is people and the human spirit that populate this book. Even in critical accounts of the machinations of whatever state or system, the impact upon the person-in-the-street, like you or me, often gets lost; the critique simply replicates the dehumanising effect the state or system is said to have: people remain statistics and, although to an argument rather than to a system, slaves. As always with Kapuscinski, it is the people first and the system second, yet this approach says so much more about the larger world we inhabit than any cool, detached analysis can ever hope to achieve.I think it also reminds you that all of our thoughts and actions have an equal importance and the potential to have an equal impact: although we may feel powerless in an ever-more globalised world, much as we are affected as individuals, we can also influence as individuals and groups if we choose to do so. We may now feel we serve the systems that were created to serve us, but we did create them and, therefore, have the power to bring them down or change their course.I cannot recommend this book highly enough: it educates, it enlightens and it entertains - what more could you want?

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