Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski translated by Klara Glowczewska Knopf, June 2007
From the master of literary reportage, who died in January of 2007, and whose acclaimed books include Shah of Shahs, The Emperor, and The Shadow of the Sun, this is his last book, published posthumously in English – an intimate account of his first youthful forays beyond the Iron Curtain.
Just out of university in 1955, Kapuscinski told his editor that he’d like to go abroad. Dreaming no farther than Czechoslovakia, the young reporter found himself sent to India. Captivated, he discovered his life’s work – to understand and describe the world in all its multiplicity. From the rituals of sunrise at Persepolis to the incongruity of Louis Armstrong performing before a stone-faced crowd in Khartoum, Kapuscinski gives us the non-Western world as he first saw it, through still-virginal Western eyes.
His traveling companion was a copy of the 5th-century B.C. Histories by Herodotus, a gift from his boss. Whether in China, Poland, Iran, or the Congo, the “father of history” – and, as Kapuscinski would realize, of globalism – helped the young correspondent make sense of events and find stories where none was obvious. It was his great forerunner’s spirit – both supremely worldly and innately Occidental – that continued to whet Kapuscinski’s ravenous appetite for the wider world.
Travels with Herodotus is a work of art: so eloquent, so simple, that you find yourself marveling at its prose… And you find yourself applauding such good translation as well. The deeper, tacit message in Travels with Herodotus is surely that journalism now, with its celebrity roving correspondents who jet in and out of conflicts, misses the point. [...] Kapuscinski will be remembered for a kind of writing and a standard seldom present in the reportage we read today; just as he will be remembered for a humility, a selflessness, that touched every word he wrote. – Tahir Shah, The Washington Post's Book World, 2007
Kapucinski saw more, and more clearly, than nearly any writer one can think to name. Few have written more beautifully of unspeakable things. Few have had his courage, almost none his talent. His books changed the way many of us think about nonfiction... When the last page of this book is turned, note how much smaller and colder the world now seems with Kapuscinski gone. – Tom Bissell, New York Times Book Review
Kapuscinski fashions an elegant homage to his literary ancestor, whom he helps us to see as the original foreign correspondent. Educated by the atrocities of his own time, he refuses to let Herodotus’s ancient atrocities become distant and abstract. – Adam Kirsch, The New York Sun
In this dramatic telling by one of modernity’s ablest chroniclers, Herodotus stands for democracy, openness, and tolerance. The same can be said of the equally enigmatic, and certain to be missed, author. – Lawrence Osborne, Men’s Vogue
Personally revealing, Kapuscinski is not often didactic and never triumphalist. His luminous narratives are filled with odd juxtapositions and the ambiguities of real experience. Like Herodotus, Ryszard Kapucinski was a reporter, an historian, an adventurer and, truly, an artist. – Matthew Kaminski, The Wall Street Journal
Ryszard Kapuscinski, Poland’s most celebrated foreign correspondent, was born in 1932 in Pinsk (in what is now Belarus) and spent four decades reporting on Asia, Latin America, and Africa. He is the author of Shah of Shahs, The Emperor, Another Day of Life, and The Soccer War. His books have been translated into twenty-eight languages. Kapuscinski died in 2007.
Klara Glowczewska, one of the most distinguished translators of Polish books into English, including several by Kapuscinski, is Editor-in-Chief of Condé Nast Traveler.