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Book 7: Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuściński (reading notes)

-This reads like fiction - prose more beautiful than one has come to expect from non-fiction and many of the chapters are structured like fiction stories. There is little continuity between most of the chapters, although some of the narratives or stories spread over more than one chapter. This is therefore more a collection of short narratives than a cohesive entirety. You could pick it up and read the chapters at random and still get a good sense of what is going on.

-Here is an author who is not trying to find himself, recover from a broken heart, set a record, visit 30 countries in 3 weeks or build a perfectly enviable home in a perfectly enviable location, which is a rarity within travel literature, but of course Kapuściński was in Africa to work, and not to travel for spiritual, mental or entertainment purposes (he was the Polish Press Agency's Africa correspondent for nearly 30 years).

-I have no way of knowing how well Kapuściński knew Africa - I have never been there and it is low on my list of places I want to visit - but I suspect he probably knew it as well as any non-African non-resident could. He does, however, occasionally fall into the trap of generalising, e.g. when describing certain things as if they were true of all Africans, like how Africans' ways of thinking differ from those of Europeans, and I find that a bit hard to swallow considering the size of the continent.

-The portrayal of Africa is unsentimental and matter of fact, whether he is describing nearly getting caught in a riot, trying not to get killed while fleeing from Zanzibar during the revolution, or trying to find his way through the Serengeti.

-The chapter on Rwanda is an interesting potted history of the Tutsi-Hutu conflict and its origins, and the way he tells it makes the 1994 genocide seem almost inevitable.


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