Taking stock of his habit of reporting from dangerous places, Ryszard Kapuscinski once told an interviewer, “Mine is not a vocation, it’s a mission. I wouldn’t subject myself to these dangers if I didn’t feel that there was something overwhelmingly important—about history, about ourselves—that I felt compelled to get across. This is more than journalism.” Kapuscinski’s celebrated chronicles of war and revolution in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and points elsewhere made him a darling of literary circles, and you hear a lot from his admirers about how he transcended the limits of journalism, how he was a practitioner of “a kind of magic journalism,” as fellow journalist Adam Hochschild has put it. Academics and others have questioned his facts and methods, but Kapuscinski , as he freely admitted, was after something different; literalism wasn’t the point.
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