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The Cobra's Heart (Penguin Great Journeys)
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The Cobra's Heart (Penguin Great Journeys)

4.35 of 5 stars 4.35  ·  rating details  ·  4,667 ratings  ·  420 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 by Penguin UK (first published January 1st 1998)
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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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
Benoît Rivard
For anyone who has ever been to this beautiful continent, or has dreamed of it, this is 100% a must-read. Kapuscinski is poetic at times in his story-telling, always capturing the humanistic undertones that others (myself included) may have overlooked.

Each chapter is a unique story that resonates with different parts of the human spirit: laughter, admiration, wonder; the list goes on.

Read this book, you will not regret it. If anything, it will give a much-needed injection of what we need most in
Without hesitation I will say that Shadow of the Sun was the best book I’ve read on Africa, and I’ve read many. In the late 50s Kapuscinski was the first reporter the Polish national news agency sent abroad, to Ghana, where he witnessed the independence of the first African nation. For the next 40 years he criss-crossed the continent, witessing coups, wars, despots in action and famine. Shadow is the compilation of decades of writing about Africa. What makes it so good is first his writing--he’s ...more
The Shadow of the Sun recounts the Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuściński's during the several decades he spent in Africa. The book is a powerful and gripping introduction to the past and current political climate in Africa. However, Kapuściński's approach to the subject makes the book highly readable. Interspersed amongst the journalistic accounts are Kapuściński's personal experiences with various individuals and various tribes within the nations he spent time in.

Overall, the book can be diffi
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All About Books: Group Read (April/May) - The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuscinski 16 58 May 06, 2014 11:15AM  
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Kapuscinski 3 50 Jun 01, 2013 03:23AM  
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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
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“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.” 16 likes
“When World War II erupted, colonialism was at its apogee. The courde of the war, however, its symbolic undertones, would sow the seeds of the system's defeat and demise. [...] The central subject, the essence, the core relations between Europeans and Africans during the colonial era, was the difference of race, of skin color. Everything-each eaxchange, connection, conflict-was translated into the language of black and white. [...] Into the African was inculcated the notion that the white man was untouchable, unconquerable, that whites constitute a homogenous, cohesive force. [...] Then, suddenly, Africans recruited into the British and French armies in Europe observed that the white men were fighting one another, shooting one another, destroying one another's cities. It was revelation, a surprise, a shock.” 3 likes
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