Ryszard KapuÃ…u203aciÃ…u201eski, Poland’s most distinguished journalist, died yesterday in Warsaw at the age of 74 of a heart attack.
According to Alfred A. Knopf, his American publisher, he wrote 19 books which were translated into more than 20 languages, was witness to 27 coups and revolutions, and was condemned to death four times. He was considered a serious candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005.
Kapuscinski, who came from behind the iron curtain, was a remarkable reporter in the sense that he documented the last days of rotten regimes. He was a prescient observer of things to come. At times he was there for the final fall. As well, he was one of the first reporters and correspondents to venture into conflict zones and parts of the world that were off limits to many of his mainstream colleagues both in the East and West. He covered, analyzed and described happenings few of us would know about in detail today if he had not been there to relate those events.
Born on March 4, 1932, Kapuscinski became, without doubt, one of Poland’s most famed reporters. His international reputation is now legendary. He was one of the only full-time “roving reporters” for the Polish Press Agency; hence, its “world correspondent,” so to say.
In the 1960s, he traveled the world, mostly to the developing regions. He covered wars, conflicts, uprisings and revolutions. He documented the African independent movements, and much later the process of the disintegration of the Soviet Empire (see his personal travelogue titled Imperium). He approached his assignments through meticulous reading and researching books on his subjects or the “target country.” His written works are a unique literary genre, blending “literary journalism” with visual and frequent historical references that “frame” the events within a specific period…
Kapuscinski in his dispatches, essays and articles decried and described the absurdity of absolute power in a tragicomic manner through the use of vivid, colorful language and narrative style.
Whether reporting from Russia or Africa or Latin America, Kapuscinski in his own words said he wrote for “people everywhere still young enough to be curious about the world.” His vivacity, brilliance and inquisitiveness about the world is a memorable legacy for all reporters — citizen or otherwise — to cherish.