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Il Negus: Splendori e miserie di un autocrate
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Il Negus: Splendori e miserie di un autocrate

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  2,992 ratings  ·  177 reviews
Ras Tafari (1892-1975), ultimo imperatore d’Etiopia dal 1930 con il nome di Hailè Selassiè I, viene deposto da un colpo di stato il 12 settembre 1974. Kapuściński si reca ad Addis Abeba per capire cosa fosse davvero la monarchia assoluta del Negus, il Re dei Re, e perché sia caduta. Riesce a incontrare i rappresentanti dell’entourage imperiale e ne raccoglie i racconti, ac ...more
Paperback, Universale economica, 168 pages
Published April 2003 by Feltrinelli (first published 1978)
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A 3.5 star rating perhaps. This book contains accounts from those close to Ethiopia’s last emperor, Haile Selassie. It chronicles Selassie’s opulent lifestyle and his subsequent downfall. It speaks to the undoing of African leaders. I’ve always been intrigued by Selassie and was interested to know more about him.

The Emperor is a very dramatic account of Selassie's and I did get a slightly clearer idea of who Selassie was. He was very progressive in many ways, and he was quite eccentric as well.
From the waning Gomulka regime forward, Kapuscinski fashioned a journalistic career out of exceedingly subtle swipes at the pretenses and tragicomic self-deception of Soviet-style Communism. The Emperor is aimed at Haile Selassie, who Kapuscinski paints as a vapid, self-important ignoramus.

How much of this is actually Selassie and how much is carefully picked in order to make fun of Stalin or Khrushchev or even Gomulka is up for debate, but that's exactly what makes this book a masterpiece: I ca
May 21, 2009 Tyler rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone; Anthropologists
Recommended to Tyler by: Goodreads Reviews
Shelves: non-fiction, unusual
The Emperor baffles any ready description. A Polish journalist, Ryszard Kapuscinski, renders an account of the last schizophrenic years of Ethiopia’s ancient kingdom and the demise of it emperor, whose ways are not our ways, to say the least. Reviews may not suffice to say exactly why or how the book works, but I’ll add mine anyway to the others that have noted its mystique.

The book's structure takes a straightforward path. The author interviews courtiers, associates and servants of the Emperor
A little lesson in the blurred lines between reportage and fiction - a "detailed account" of the fall of Haile Sellasie given by the ministers and servants who once waited upon him. Not, of course, that you'd ever believe these are direct transcriptions of interviews, or that Kapuscinski hasn't modified and tailored these accounts as he sees fit, unless you believe all of the ministers speak in an identical fantastical ironical language. I suppose if you have narrow ideas of what constitutes non ...more
The Emperor is a bizarre and at time grotesquely comic portrait of the last Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie. It is also a detail and evocative exploration of tyranny. Kapuscinki in a much more impressionistic mood details the rule and fall of another tyrant the last Shah of Iran in the Shah of Shahs. By focusing on tyrants of U.S. client states he uses a trick employed by other Iron Curtain writers (Ex. Kadare) to critique autocracy in genera,l as in general most dictatorships are the same wh ...more
I suppose the American frame of reference for The Emperor is probably the "new journalism" stuff from the '60s-- Truman Capote, Tom Wolfe, Hunter Thompson, all that. So I liked all those guys a grip when I was in high school, and now that I'm a bit more grown-up, I can appreciated Ryszard Kapuscinski. Rather than writing about kids dropping acid, he writes about the utter insanity of the court of King Haile Selassie at the twilight of the Ethiopian Empire.

And rather than being strict reportage,
The most penetrating, compelling book on the nature of power and the inevitability of it's dissolution within the framework of human nature, Kapuscinski's book should be taught -before- Maciavelli in any self-respecting Political Science class.
Cynthia Haggard
The Emperor is so powerful that when he elevates someone to a new position, he changes their body language completely:

First, the whole figure of a man changes. What had been slender and trim-waisted now starts to become a square silhouette. It is a massive and solemn square: a symbol of the solemnity and weight of power. We can already see that this is not just anybody’s silhouette, but that of visible dignity and responsibility. A slowing down of movements accompanies this change in the figure.
kapuscinski is one of the best journalists of all time, and the story of haile selassie, king of kings, as told by using the anecdotes of servants, civil and personal, closest to the failed emperor (a man, for instance, whose job it was for decades to place a pillow under haile selassie's short legs so his feet wouldn't dangle in an undignified manner). superlatives are best underused, so i'll just provide a bit of his writing. from when the edges of the empire first begin to fray:

"P.M. (the ano
For years I had heard what a wonderful writer Kapuscinski was but to me this book was a let down. It read more like a tell-all scandal rag rather than the superior journalistic account it was touted to be. Additionally the book, reflective of the journalistic nature, just did not have the depth needed on the topic. Sadly, there just is not another account available on the background of the end of Haile Salassie and the rise of the Marxists in Ethiopia.

The book consists of three parts: Part I: T
César Lasso
My favorite books by Kapuscinski are those where the author travels and explains for the world what other peoples feel. This is just an original biography. It has been contested in its accuracy. The protagonist, Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia, is shown as a surreal personality who controlled a populated African country.

The book tries to introduce you into the history of the man who, on the other hand, Rastafarians chose as the reincarnation of Jah. This is the portrait of a naïve man who t
Despite being a non-fiction work and a series of interviews, this reminds me of novels like Marquez's "The Autumn of the Patriarch" and Miguel Angel Asturias' "The President", both of which are biting, surrealist fictional accounts of dictatorship in Latin America. Those works were intentionally surrealist; I find that "The Emperor" is surrealist because the reality of dictatorship is surreal. It is strange to me how fiction seeks to criminalize that surrealist characteristic by making it obtuse ...more
Haile Selassie reigned in Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. Polish journalist Kapuscinski interviewed servants and associates and tells the story of his downfall as if it were a novel. Those who read CUTTING FOR STONE will recognize the events of the early failed rebellion. The luxurious life of the Palace contrasted starkly with the starvation of the people who were invisible to a man who wanted to construct modern buildings and introduce development at the highest levels. This slim volume gives the ...more
This novelized report by Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuściński gives a brilliant insight in the workings of a declining empire, the ignorance of its leaders, and the inevitable collapse that ensues. A unique portrait of Haile Selassie, unyielding king of kings, is painted through the accounts of his last loyal court members. Unsettling to read, in a way it reminded me of Orwell's 1984. Readers may also be interested in Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians.
Slightly surreal and haunting, at times, in its depiction of the final years of Haile Selassie's rule, there is a lot to admire in both the writing and in the presentation of a far from universal view of a complex individual.
The impression that I got of Selassie, from this, was of a man rather divorced from reality. Given his advanced years, by the period covered within the book, I couldn't help wondering (if the content is to be believed)about what his mental state might have been by that time.
I was confused wrt the genre of this book: fiction/non-fiction/allusion to communist rule in Poland, etc. As Mary Kay said, the supposed interviewees all spoke with one voice (the author's) which made it hard to believe that it was real reportage. This genre confusion really distracted me. Don't know why, am normally not such a stickler for categories, but I really didn't know how to "read" this book.
I found the writing almost trance-like. I’m not sure whether that was the writer's intention or whether it mutated through three translations, from local language to Polish and then to English. Either way very interesting and well written and translated. Quite extraordinary how the Courtier system maintained itself. My main frustration with a lot of history books of say the Tudor era is that we get the power plays and the personalities but little to none of the underlying economics. How did Henr ...more
Glenn Robinson
A fascinating eyewitness account of life in the palace of the Emperor of Ethiopia from the early days until his death. During the time, the Emperor joined the League of Nations, Italy invaded and was defeated, telephones, air transport and tv appeared. The Emperor tried to modernize the country by creating new industries and sending the most promising youths abroad for education. In 1960, some of those students tried to take over the country while the Emperor was abroad, which started the slow e ...more
Donna Kirk
Feb 22, 2011 Donna Kirk marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Salman Rushdie wrote about him: "One Kapuściński is worth more than a thousand whimpering and fantasizing scribblers. His exceptional combination of journalism and art allows us to feel so close to what Kapuściński calls the inexpressible true image of war".
Mai Bui
People know the names of Napoleon and Churchill and Hitler, but not many are familiar with Kwame Nkrumah, Idi Amin and Haile Selassie. Unless it involves decorated New World discoverers, historians aren't generally interested in history of the Third World. Too much of it is peppered with fictitious oral accounts and mythologies, governments change hands too frequently and too many constitutions written and rewritten. This book is so alive precisely for that reason - it is nothing more than oral ...more
May 30, 2010 Tinea rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tinea by: American boss in Ethiopia
Haunting, novelesque story of the fall of Ethiopian Emperor
Haile Selassie and his court in 1974, as recounted to a Polish journalist by 'lowly' palace servants, who of course saw all.
Amy Robinson
I read this while travelling around Ethiopia; the aspects and characteristics of the country under Haile Selassie that are highlighted in the book continue to run strong in the modern day. The personal accounts of life in and around the autocrat's regime gave a strong and very human sense of every day life with added political context. Ryszard Kapuściński brings the numerous narratives of varying integrity together to tell a hidden story in a very challenging environment.

I would strongly recomm
نظر بزرگ علوي در مورد كتاب:
مرد بي سرو پايي در خيابان به مقام شامخ خانواده سلطنتي توهين ميكرد و بد و بيراه ميگفت: خودش كارهاي بد بد ميكند، خواهرش فاسق طاق و جفت دارد و مادرش ... فحش هايي كه بنده نميتوانم روي كاغذ بياورم.
پاسبان كه اين ياوه ها را شنيد گفت: به كي داري فحش ميدي؟
جواب داد: من منظورم خانواده سلطنتي انگليس است.
آژان بي حيا گفت: نه، نه، اين نشانه هايي كه ميدهي مال خودمان است.
يه راستي كه چقدر حوادث و توصيفات با وضع ما در اين چهل ساله جور در ميايد و بيچاره هيلاسلاسي بايد جور بكشد.
گاهي به خود
A fast and engrossing read. This was my first Kapuscinski book and I was not disappointed. The insider accounts of the palace were incredible for their detail and reverence for the Emperor.

That said, I had to doubt their complete veracity, since they were translated (most likely) three times before they reached this printing (and Kapuscinski was able to take his own liberties when transcribing). Still, the mysticism of the account is part of what makes it so readable, though I could do without h
Really enjoyed reading about a part of history I knew nothing about other than the Emperor's name.
Bart Louwers
Interesting because Kapuchinski managed to get a glance into the court of emperor Haile Selassie through the eyes of
several members of the emperors entourage. Most striking to me was the quote at the beginning of the book about the way dolphins (allegedly) sleep. This is an ongoing proces of sinking to the bottom while sleeping, hitting the bottom and re-emerging. While constantly in motion the dolphin rests. Reading the book this quote fell into place. The way the emperor was able to retain abs
I recently asked my friends from all over the world to recommend some books/authors from their own countries that I could read since I realized the literature I read was painfully limited to products of a handful of countries. I was very interested in hearing voices from other cultures.

Among all the recommendations I received, it was Kapuscinski and his body of work that intrigued me the most. As a big fan of Orwell’s more journalistic books and given my own background(journalism and a love of
The Emperor is the perfect complement to Kapuscinski's Shah of Shahs-- both being slim yet potent volumes providing firsthand insights into the last days of long-lived autocratic regimes that fell during the 1970s. The first key difference between the two books is the nature of their subjects: whereas Shah Pahlavi's Iran was a state based on terror and repression, Haile Selassie's Ethiopia was a state based on tragicomic levels of corruption, ignorance, and ineptitude. The second key difference ...more
I picked up this volume along with Shah of Shahs on the share shelf in the lounge of a hotel I worked at in China in the mid-1980s. I was entranced by Kapuściński's seemingly aloof but actually terribly sharp eye for the damning details of the emperor's life as reported by his courtiers. This second-handedness is very effective in capturing both the pretense and prerogatives of Haile Selassie and the alternately craven and brazen antics of those who served him, acted as his henchmen, or simply w ...more
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Ryszard Kapuściński debuted as a poet in Dziś i jutro at the age of 17 and has been a journalist, writer, and publicist. In 1964 he was appointed to the Polish Press Agency and began traveling around the developing world and reporting on wars, coups and revolutions in Asia, the Americas, and Europe; he lived through twenty-seven revolutions and coups, was jailed forty times, and survived four deat ...more
More about Ryszard Kapuściński...
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“Two lusts breed in the soul of man: the lust for aggresion, and the lust for telling lies. If one will not allow himself to wrong others, he will wrong himself. If he doesn't come across anyone to lie to, he will lie to himself in his own thoughts.” 8 likes
“His August Majesty chided the bureaucrats for failing to understand a simple principle: the principle of the second bag. Because the people never revolt just because they have to carry a heavy load, or because of exploitation. They don't know life without exploitation, they don't even know that such a life exists. How can they desire what they cannot imagine? The people will rvolt only when, in a single movement, someone tries to throw a second burden, a second heavy bag, onto their backs. The peasant will fall face down into the mud - and then spring up and grab an ax. He'll grab an ax, my gracious sir, not because he simply can't sustain this new burden - he could carry it - he will rise because he feels that, in throwing the second burden onto his back suddenly and stealthily, you have tried to cheat him, you have treated him like an unthinking animal, you have trampled what remains of his already strangled dignity, taken him for an idiot who doesn't see, feel, or understand. A man doesn't seize an ax in defense of his wallet, but in defense of his dignity, and that, dear sir, is why His Majesty scolded the clerks. For their own convenience and vanity, instead of adding the burden bit by bit, in little bags, they tried to heave a whole big sack on at once.” 5 likes
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