#29 -- "Travels With Herodotus" by Ryszard Kapuściński
It's been a busy few posthumous months for ol' Ryszard -- a new book (his final, I'd presume) is out, and he's been outed as a spy (about which more anon). Considerably more than I've accomplished, and I'm still alive.
"Travels With Herodotus" reads like a coda, a closing -- one suspects that he intended it to be his last book regardless. It's a smattering of tales and anecdotes from his travels over the decades, paralleled by his reading and re-reading of the "Histories" of Herodotus.
Tough as this is for me to say about one of my favorites -- ok, one of my idols -- it's pretty uneven. There's some good spots, and some very inspiring lines. There's also some pieces that just fall flat (his first visit to China -- all the observations are surprisingly cliche), and sometimes it depends far too much on the readings of Herodotus. I understand the device, but it's overused.
It's still not bad, and I'm certainly glad we got it rather than not -- but if you've never read Kapuściński, this shouldn't be your starting place.
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So, those spying claims. I haven't (being kind of sad about it) delved too deeply into what they constitute -- basically I know that from what is said, Kapuściński's extensive travels were allowable due to a deal with the government. I discussed this with my friend (and fellow Kapuściński-fan) Susanne -- who suggested that if it's the only way to do what he ultimately did, perhaps (through his writing) he at least partially made up for any wrongs he committed. Perhaps so.
The story doesn't affect my enjoyment of RK's writing in the least ... but it did hit me hard. I just expect people to be perfect, I guess.