My own thoughts on the Kapuściński “problem” here (from 2007):
I’ll admit that I came to writing about Kapuscinski with the intention of defending him, praising him. I think his writings are unique and that they traverse a ground between fiction and nonfiction that tells us something important about who we are. I think he is right that we need historians who are also storytellers, who understand that mode of human communication. But the more I’ve looked over those passages the more I think it is too complicated for simple praise or blame. If I’m right that Kapuscinski is defending himself in these pages, then it is an odd and troubling defense. It has the flavor of grandiosity to the point of feeling desperate, creepy. I don’t know if it is a healthy thing to think of yourself as someone tasked with interpreting the world and guiding everyone else through it, as the nucleus of human community. In the beginning of Travels with Herodotus, Kapuscinski talks about his youth and the beginning of his fascination with Herodotus. It arose out of the ashes of a nation and a community utterly destroyed. He writes, “We were children of war. High schools were closed during the war years and although in the larger cities clandestine classes were occasionally convened, here, in this lecture hall, sat mostly boys and girls from remote villages and small towns, ill read, uneducated. It was 1951.” 1951 in Poland is a big deal. It is the dazed landscape of civilization in ruins.