The Emperor by Richard Kapuscinski - review by Philip Knightly

Philip Knightly

Parable of Power

The Emperor


Quartet 164pp £7.95 order from our bookshop

The author of this marvelous book is a Polish journalist and it so happens that I know him. We met in Mexico in 1972 when he was correspondent there for the Polish Press Agency. I found him a remarkably well-informed reporter with a deep sympathy for the ordinary people of Latin America.

Two years later Kapuscinski went to Ethiopia. Haile Selassie had just been deposed after forty years as absolute ruler. The revolution was over. The world’s press had packed their tents and departed, believing that there was nothing left to write. But, of course, there was. Kapuscinski set out to track the surviving members of the Imperial Court and to persuade them to tell him what life had been like under Haile Selassie and to describe what had led his subjects to boot him out.

Heavens knows how Kapuscinski did it. Most of the former courtiers were in hiding from the new rulers. Many were old and infirm. It is not clear in what language the interviews were conducted; Kapuscinski eventually wrote them up in his native Polish. But, in the end, these details are

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