Travels with Herodotus

Rajiv Chandrasekaran in The Wilson Quarterly:

Book_2 Foreign correspondents often haul around something that reminds them of home and serves as a talisman in chaotic places. Long before the days of iPods, a colleague at the Washington Post lugged a separate attaché case containing a phonograph and speakers so that, wherever he went, he could listen to opera while he wrote. A friend at the New York Times packs a Scrabble board in his bag. When I was reporting from overseas, I carried a bottle of wine from my native California. It was thoroughly impractical to do so as I trekked through Borneo or arrived in Pakistan, where my libations were smashed by customs inspectors, but my Napa Valley cabernet comforted me on long journeys.

Ryszard Kapuściński, the indomitable Polish correspondent and author who died in January at age 74, traveled the world with a copy of Herodotus’s Histories, a grand and sprawling account of the first great war between East and West. Herodotus (484–425 B.C.), the Greek historian who became known as the Father of History, wore out his shoe leather traveling throughout the Middle East to produce his account of the fifth-century B.C. conflict between the Greeks and the Persians.

More here.