Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Cobra's Heart (Penguin Great Journeys)” as Want to Read:
The Cobra's Heart (Penguin Great Journeys)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Cobra's Heart (Penguin Great Journeys)

4.35 of 5 stars 4.35  ·  rating details  ·  5,148 ratings  ·  457 reviews
One of the most brilliant journalists of the postwar world, Kapuscinski (born 1932) spent decades criss-crossing Africa, witnessing the horrors of a continent ravaged by imperialism and its aftershocks. Humane, evocative and magical, The Cobra's Heart makes the case for Kapuscinski as a great writer as well as a great journalist.
Paperback, 112 pages
Published 2007 by Penguin UK (first published 1998)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Cobra's Heart, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Cobra's Heart

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara KingsolverCry, the Beloved Country by Alan PatonKing Solomon's Mines by H. Rider HaggardHalf of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieDie Krallen des Löwen by Alexandra Fuller
Acacia Tree Cover Meme
14th out of 98 books — 10 voters
Snakes with Wings and Gold-digging Ants by HerodotusFrom The Meadows of Gold by Al-MasudiPiracy, Turtles and Flying Foxes by William DampierThe Customs of the Kingdoms of India by Marco PoloSold as a Slave by Olaudah Equiano
Penguin Great Journeys
19th out of 20 books — 2 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Jul 09, 2014 Dolors rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who want to meet the real Africa
Recommended to Dolors by: Peekay
Ryszard Kapuscinski sits under the branchy shade of a solitary acacia and stares at the incommensurable moonlike landscape unfolding in front of him. Plains covered with parched, thorny shrubs and vast extensions of sandy ground seem ablaze in a shimmering haze that refracts on the journalist’s eyes forcing him to squint. “Water and shade, such fluid, inconstant things, and the two most valuable treasures in Africa”, this half-historian, half-journalist recalls while revisiting the thirty years ...more
“The population of Africa was a gigantic, matted, crisscrossing web, spanning the entire continent and in constant motion, endlessly undulating, bunching up in one place and spreading out in another, a rich fabric, a colourful arras.” - Ryszard Kapuscinski, The Shadow of the Sun

A man I’d unfortunately never heard of wrote one of the most engaging historical reflections I've’ve ever read. Ryszard Kapuscinski reported on African events for a Polish newspaper for over 40 years. He was definitely in
This is insightful prose written by a Polish journalist who spent years traveling around Africa (beginning in the 1950s). It is a collection of essays that follow Kapuscinski's time spent in Africa; during coups, wars, racial tensions, hunger, starvation, sickness, and more. Though I didn't love the parts of the book that seemed highly dramatized, what I really liked about this is that Kapuscinski gets into the experience, living it and detailing it. He's not a removed journalist. In fact, this ...more
Dec 12, 2011 Mark rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone and everyone
Recommended to Mark by: my brother Jeremy
A book like this would normally I would have imagined taken me very little time to read because I would devour it in a binge of gulpings and swallowings but it took me a good deal longer. In part, for the simple reason that I was taken up with other things and couldn't find the freedom to absorb myself in his world as I would have liked but also for the equally simple but at the same time profound reason that there was just too much to take in.

I listed it as epistolary and though it is not offic
Kapuściński was a Polish journalist who died in 2007, and who spent time in Africa between the late 1950ies and the 1990ies. Africa was not his only beat, but when he spent time there he spent time with the people and shared their lives when he could. He was the first Polish foreign correspondent to cover Africa and he was always seriously underfunded compared with those representing the big European and American publications and agencies. What he lacked in funds he made up in ingenuity and a wi ...more
Goodreads changed my experience with this book. For much of the time I was reading it, I was mesmerized by the writing, flabbergasted by some of the information about Africa, and convinced I was encountering the continent in a nuanced and subtle and authentic manner. I planned to give a copy to my husband for his birthday and to recommend it to my book group.

Curious about what other readers thought, I looked at some of the almost 500 reviews of it on goodreads, and it was there that I came acro
Quân Khuê
Gỗ mun là một cuốn sách về châu Phi. Có lẽ chính xác hơn phải nói Gỗ mun là một cuốn sách châu Phi, bởi lẽ nó không phải là dạng sách du ký của một du khách đến nhìn, ngắm, bình luận đôi điều, rồi trèo lên xe đi. Nó là một cuốn sách của một con người ở bên trong châu Phi, sống cùng châu Phi, chứng kiến nhiều, rất nhiều cái chết châu Phi, và trong nhiều dịp khác nhau đã rất gần với cái chết châu Phi: cái chết có thể đến từ một con rắn hổ mang đại tướng nằm ngay dưới tấm phản, có thể đến từ lũ muỗ ...more
La mia patria è dove piove
Si tratta di un viaggio nelle terre africane più lontane e inospitali.
Un viaggio iniziato nel 1958 e durato quarant'anni, attraverso moti di indipendenze e guerre fratricide, genocidi e lotte per il potere.
Un viaggio tra la gente, per conoscere, capire, condividere. Con rispetto, col desiderio puro di informarsi, partecipare, descrivere, sempre in modo semplice e obiettivo; senza enfasi né polemiche, senza autocelebrazione né opportunismo; con curiosità e il desider
Shifting seamlessly from vignettes of daily life to grand excursions into Africa's turbulent political past, Kapuscinski zig-zags across vast expanses of scorching desert and lush greenery in this masterful piece of journalistic travel writing. He describes people, politics and landscape with equal ease. The lioness stalking in the tall grasses is as riveting as the utterly fascinating character study of Idi Amin.

The first chapter was studded with generalisations about Africa and Africans that m
Last fall I read Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski, the Polish journalist. It was his final book (he died in January, 2007) and I enjoyed it very much, having recently read Herodotus' Histories upon which he draws extensively. So it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to reading earlier works by Ryszard Kapuscinski. As an introduction to the mosaic of life that is known as "Africa" The Shadow of the Sun did not disappoint. The book consists of loosely connected essays o ...more
Maria Grazia
I diari africani del grande Kapuściński, come sempre in grado di calarsi in qualsiasi situazione e andare al fondo delle persone e dei fatti con estrema umiltà.
Non giudica mai, non c'è mai superiorità nelle sue descrizioni, ma un continuo chiedersi la ragione delle cose, quella vera, e una naturale e incredibile capacità di guardare dietro le apparenze e trovare l'origine delle colpe.
Nonostante sia datato, credo che Ebano sia tutt'oggi uno dei migliori libri per conoscere le radici del disastro
"The Shadow of the Sun", a set of stories by Ryszard Kapuscinski, a Polish journalist who travelled and lived in Africa numerous times between the 50s and the 90s, has definitely taught me humbleness and almost painfully exposed my ignorance of Africa.

After finishing the book I read that Kapuscinski had lived through 27 coups and revolutions, had been jailed 40 times and had survived 4 death sentences, however in this book you will not find a single hint of pride or a boasting word about his en
This book takes you on an a whirlwind tour of Africa over the span of many years, many countries, and many different types of situations. The essays span the continent and quickly zoom the reader in and then back out of small incidents, large coups, nomadic wanderings, war lords, and everything (and everyone) in between.

I've never been able to get my mind around Africa. Its complexity both geographically and politically make it difficult to understand and internalize. In one respect the book do
Mar 18, 2015 Anna rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: goodreads, npl
"Our world, seemingly global, is in reality a planet of thousands of the most varied and never intersecting provinces. A trip around the world is a journey from backwater to backwater, each of which considers itself, in its isolation, a shining star. For most people, the real world ends on the threshold of their house, at the edge of their village, or, at the very most, on the border of their valley. That, which is beyond is unreal, unimportant, and even useless, whereas that which we have at ou ...more
A fantastic introduction to this mysterious continent. The experiences of over 40 years travelling in and reporting from Africa are beautifully condensed in this small book. Here is a long quote:

"The European and the African have an entirely different concept of time. In the European worldview, time exists outside man, exists objectively, and has measurable and linear characteristics. According to Newton, time is absolute: “Absolute, true, mathematical time of itself and from its own nature, it
Ryszard Kapuscinski was the foreign correspondent par excellence, someone who could simultaneously travel rough, report the story, appreciate and approach the local people on their own terms, and weave his experiences into a narrative of uncommon breadth and intelligence. And it's even more impressive when you realize he's covering Africa for the presumably shoestring Polish communist press. Books like these up the ante for book-length journalism, and show what an absolute shit job the puppets e ...more
Greg Coyle
Mr. K is the sort of intrepid traveler we're used to reading about in tales of an earlier generation, the Burtons, Humboldts and Spekes of the world. He marks his year by the number of coups he witnesses and the number of death sentences rendered against him. In Shadow of the Sun, a collection of dispatches from around Africa, he manages to relate, in language worthy of Conrad and Maugham, both the beauty and the horror of Africa. It's a stunning, enlightening and occasinally frightening smorgas ...more
Terri Jacobson
This is a tremendous book about Africa. The author is a Polish journalist who covered Africa from the 1960s to the 1990s. He was in various parts of the continent, and reported on the climate, the wars and tribal conflicts, and the terrible poverty. I feel this book really educated me on the state of Africa, and why it is the way it is. The continent is an extreme environment for humans. Kapusicinski describes the climate as "murderous", with a "frenzy" of tropical growth. At midday, almost all ...more
I have just added a new favorite author, Ryszard Kapuscinski. His work is completely amazing.

Kapuscinski was a Polish journalist who arrived in Ghana in 1957 as the first African correspondent of Poland's state newspaper. The career which would follow constituted of almost 50 years of covering the Dark Continent. Kapuscinski is a not just a journalist, an explorer or cultural scientist. He is an artist of words. His reporting is the height of what the writer and journalist can hope to achieve w
I've read Theroux and Naipaul on Africa and the relatively unknown Ryszard Kapuscinski is every bit as good, and in some ways better.

As a correspondent for a Polish news organization that can't afford a correspondent, Kapuscinski brings a different perspective to his travels. While Theroux visits his old college pals, Kapuscinski lives and travels with the masses. In Africa, this puts him in situations where he can die of dehydration, thuggery, a stampede, TB or a malarial sweat.

The the brief hi
Africa and Kapuscinski. Kapuscinski's Africa.

Burning hot continent, swept by waves of revolution, war, man slaughter but also of unbearable beauty. A place of utmost complex diversity there's no generalization can capture it.

Honestly, Africa had been outside my radar before reading this. But the gift and curse of Kapuscinski's writing is that it drew me in, dragged me to the unknown and made me pause to think. My world is getting larger, vaster and richer. I am a bit relieved that he had writte
Though I enjoy travel journals of Africa, I found this book to be way overgeneralized and romantic. Yes, he has seen a great deal of Africa, but why must authors continue to try and describe such a diverse continent as a whole in generalities? I suppose this criticism only applies to the opening and concluding portions, but the last chapter was particularly bad.
If you've ever lived in Africa, or even been there, this collections of journalistic articles from Mr. Kapuszinski's career in Africa will NOT disappoint. He brings up things you always thought of but never knew how to say. Its genius, and the best book, and truthful book, on Africa I've ever read.
Nov 18, 2011 Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michael by: A Polish postcrosser (moniabk)
This is the second book by Ryszard Kapuściński I've read and I am quickly becoming a fan of his writing.

This book is a collection of anecdotal narratives of the events he saw while covering revolutions, coups, and wars in Africa for the Polish news service from the late-1950s through the early 1990s.

Westerners generally tend to think of Africa as a rather homogenous lot, but we're wrong. There is an incredible amount of cultural diversity and long history of warring tribes and nations.

Ever sinc
4.5 stars. Kapuscinski, a Polish reporter, writes about his first-hand experiences in many African countries around the end of colonialism. I was struck by some of the less dramatic things... like in a coup d'etat, how he describes the darkness and silence. I never thought of darkness and silence. How could I not have thought of darkness and silence? Here we are trying to escape the country, and I never thought of darkness and silence!
The darkness was so profound that his silhouette ahead of us
Julia Boechat Machado
Como Kapuściński diz no prefácio, a África não existe, a não ser em um sentido geográfico. Infelizmente, para muitos leitores ela também existe como estereótipo, como um lugar exótico e atrasado.
Ébano - que pode ser lido como um conjunto de ensaios ou como um romance - não tenta falar do imenso continente com preconceito ou com idealismo. Kapuściński nos explica a situação de Ruanda, vê o vídeo da tortura do ex-presidente da Libéria, mora na periferia de uma cidade em Gana (evitando o bairro eur
Really great overview of post-colonial Africa, from entries set at or immediately after independence to decades later. Moreover, Kapuscinski often ventures to areas few whites would fid themselves to give a portrait of the "real" Africa. Of particular note, were the entries on Liberia and Eritrea.

I rarely rave about a translator, but here I would have to consciously remind myself that the essays were translated from Polish ... and even then I was still stunned by the outstanding way the English
David Bales
Highest possible recommendation for this book, one of many, by Ryszard Kapuscinski, who over the course of nearly 50 years was the Polish state news agency's correspondent to Africa, arriving first in 1955 as European colonial powers were beginning to leave. He was there at the birth of independent modern African states like Ghana and Algeria. This book has him all over the continent, from Niger, Zanzibar and Mali to Tanzania and Kenya, to Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and more. Because he was Poli ...more
Stunning. Horrifying. Beautiful.
Kapuscinski notes several times that "Africa" as most of us think of it, doesn't exist - it's a construct. In this book he offers a collage of scenes which mirror the diversity of experiences one could have in different places, with different people, in different political milieux. All of them together clearly don't begin to represent "Africa."
Even though some of the pieces date back to the 1950s, this book is very worth reading because it gives a great insight i
Great reporting by a writer who adores Africa and who introduces the reader to life in places which Western languages often fail to describe with clarity. This book and John Reader's "Africa" are the books that best describe Africa for me, a "place" I've only been to once and whose people remain a mystery. "The Shadow of the Sun" clarifies with stories about everyday life, customs of people interacting in communities, and rules of engagement in many ways foreign to our own here in the West. Much ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
All About Books: Group Read (April/May) - The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuscinski 16 63 May 06, 2014 11:15AM  
Hội Thích Đọc Sách: Gỗ mun 16 210 Dec 03, 2013 08:39AM  
Kapuscinski 3 51 Jun 01, 2013 03:23AM  
  • In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu's Congo
  • The Zanzibar Chest
  • Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles
  • Africa: A Biography of the Continent
  • Zrób sobie raj
  • No Mercy: A Journey to the Heart of the Congo
  • The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence
  • Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town
  • Inny świat
  • Wałkowanie Ameryki
  • The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe
  • Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa
  • The Tree Where Man Was Born
  • Kapuściński non-fiction
  • Modlitwa o deszcz
  • Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart
  • The White Nile
  • Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir
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...
The Emperor Travels with Herodotus Imperium Shah of Shahs The Soccer War

Share This Book

“The continent is too large to describe. It is a veritable ocean, a separate planet, a varied, immensely rich cosmos. Only with the greatest simplification, for the sake of convenience, can we say 'Africa'. In reality, except as a geographical appellation, Africa does not exist.” 18 likes
“We are here among people who don't contemplate transience and the existence of the soul, the meaning of life and the nature of being. We are in a world in which man, crawling on the earth, tries to dig a few grains of wheat out of the mud just to survive another day.” 4 likes
More quotes…