Ian Kemp's Reviews > The Emperor

The Emperor by Ryszard Kapuściński
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M_50x66
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Aug 02, 11


To most Westerners as well as deluded Rastafarians, Haile Selassie was a humane, gentle, enlightened leader of an unfortunate nation. To those close to him, he was an iron-fisted despot, who surrounded himself with second rate officials readily pitched against each other, who tolerated and positively encouraged corruption; he was the emperor who salted hundreds of millions of dollars into overseas bank accounts while many millions of 'unworthy scrags' in his own domain starved to death.



This book is a collection of first hand accounts, well actually third hand as they are passed from amharic to Polish and finally to English, from the people who surrounded the Emperor in the dying days of the autocracy.



Some of the accounts are barely credible when judged by today's standards, while others display that delightful African balancing act between naivete and hilarious irony. For example the official who condemned the foreign press for suggesting that Selassie had salted away up to four billion dollars. Preposterous! And in any case it was no more than a few hundred million!



Sadly the only participant we could not hear from is the Emperor himself, what a joy it would be to get an honest commentary from the one who fought so hard to maintain a 3000-year oppression. Who sought development only to find himself at the mercy of foreign patrons who insisted on bringing modern ideas of human rights into his domain, and in the process ending it.



A brilliant book!
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