For all his efforts to know the world, Kapuscinski seems not to have known many people, at least in the literary sense. I can think of only a handful of memorable characters in all his books. The fawning attendants of Haile Selassie, in awe of the emperor’s power. Carlotta, a daring, doomed soldier who escorts Kapuscinski to the front in Angola. Mahmud Azari, an Iranian translator who returns home from London in the last days of the Shah and ends up participating in the revolution, though not before being forced into superficial collaboration by some sinister men from the ruling party. As Colin Thubron pointed out recently in The New York Review of Books, Azari’s experience of authoritarianism could be taken to stand for Kapuscinski’s own. And it seems to me that, in fact, all of his characters–whether or not they really existed–could be seen the same way, as reflections of the author’s personality. His true journey may have been an inward one.
But what a fascinating trip it was.
more from The Nation here.