Prominent Polish writer and journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski dies at 74

Autor:The International Herald Tribune
Źródło:The International Herald Tribune

WARSAW, Poland: Ryszard Kapuscinski, a Polish writer and journalist who
gained international acclaim for his books chronicling wars, coups and
revolutions in Africa, the Middle East and other parts of the world, has
died. He was 74.

Kapuscinski died Tuesday at Warsaw’s Banacha hospital of a heart attack
following an operation, Czeslaw Apiecionek, one of Kapuscinski’s
literary agents, told The Associated Press. He would give no other
details. But a friend of Kapuscinski, Miroslaw Ikonowicz, was quoted by
the news agency PAP as saying Kapuscinski died of a heart attack after
undergoing an operation on a tumor on Friday.

Poland’s parliament honored Kapuscinski with a moment of silence
Wednesday morning, and Speaker Marek Jurek praised him as „a witness of
human suffering and a witness of people’s hopes.”

„There is no one among Poland’s writers to fill in the space left by
him,” said Marek Zakowski, president of the Czytelnik publishing house,
which published several of Kapuscinski’s books and is editing a new one,
„Lappidarium 6.”

Zakowski, who knew the writer for more than 30 years, described
Kapuscinski as „a rare kind of great personality. He was always curious
to learn more about the world, he was curious to meet people.”

In Stockholm, Horace Engdahl, permanent secretary of the Swedish
Academy, which awards the annual Nobel Prize in literature, said
Kapuscinski’s „fundamental theme is really simple people’s ability to
endure and find joy in situations where not even the most elementary
conditions for a decent life appear to be in place.”

„He was an invaluable witness of an era, who gave us Westerners eyes to
see in the dusk beyond the wealthy world’s illuminated patch,” Engdahl
said.

Kapuscinski was often mentioned as a likely contender for the Nobel
Prize in literature by oddsmakers and followers of the prize — though
the Swedish Academy itself is secretive about whom it considers.

Kapuscinski launched a career in the late 1950s and early 1960s that
would see him become a master of reportage. In those years, he served as
the sole Africa correspondent for the Polish Press Agency, or PAP,
reporting on the upheaval across the continent as African nations shook
off colonial rule and declared independence.

He went on to publish books such as „The Emperor,” probably his most
popular book, a chronicle of the decline of Haile Selassie’s regime in
Ethiopia. But the book, published in 1978, was more a reflection on
dictatorships in general, and widely interpreted by Polish readers as a
criticism of Poland’s communist regime.

Kapuscinski once said the book was more about the „mechanism of dictatorial rule.”

Three years later, he published „Shah of Shahs,” a book about the 1979
Islamic revolution that toppled Iran’s Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

„Besides reporting current events, I studied books about Islam,”
Kapuscinski said, according to his official Web site. „I wanted to
describe the people, their mentality, their way of seeing the world. And
experience taught me that from each spot in the world one sees the
planet differently. A person who lives in Europe sees the world
differently than a person who lives in Africa. Without trying to enter
into these other ways of looking and perceiving and describing, we won’t
understand anything of this world.”

Several of Kapuscinski’s books were translated into English. He also
wrote „Another Day of Life,” about the Angolan civil war, „Imperium,”
about the waning days of the Soviet Union, „The Soccer War,” and „The
Shadow of the Sun.”

Kapuscinski was born in March 4, 1932, in Pinsk, a city then in eastern Poland, and now in Belarus.

He is survived by his wife, Alicja, and a daughter who lives in Canada,
Zakowski said.There was no immediate information about funeral
arrangements.

___

Associated Press writer Ryan Lucas in Warsaw contributed to this report.

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