Ryszard Kapuscinski should have got a Nobel Prize

The Washington Post reports the death of Ryszard Kapuscinski:

Ryszard Kapuscinski a Polish writer and journalist who gained international acclaim for his books chronicling wars, coups and revolutions in Africa, the Middle East and other parts of the world, died of a heart attack, his literary agent said. He was 74.

His book The Emperor about Haile Selassie is one of the great studies of dictatorship; and the Shadow of the Sun is among the very best accounts of travelling in Africa.

Published by Owen Barder

Owen is Senior Fellow and Director for Europe at the Center for Global Development and a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics. Owen was a civil servant for a quarter of a century, working in Number 10, the Treasury and the Department for International Development. Owen hosts the Development Drums podcast, and is the author Running for Fitness, the book and website. Owen is on Twitter and

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  1. I was lucky enough to meet him a few times while I was in Poland  (1986-88) and to get to know him a little.  He was remarkably modest and unassuming (in my experience anyway) and fascinating to listen to.  A great and extraordinarily perceptive writer and  a great man too.   Polish people have a remarkable capacity for interpreting everything — novels, plays, television soap operas — as a commentary on specifically Polish affairs, even when they are the creations of writers with no obvious experience of or interest in Poland.  But Kapuscinski,  as a Pole himself, could credibly be assumed to have Polish affairs in mind  even when writing about matters with no overt Polish connections — such as the emperor of Ethiopia or football in Latin America.  This gives almost everything he wrote a tantalising extra dimension.  Since much of his work was done when Poland’s deeply unpopular communist regime was capable of severely penalising dissent,  some of Kapuscinski’s output demonstrated real courage.


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