Andy's Reviews > Imperium

Imperium by Ryszard Kapuściński
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's review
Jun 20, 2007

really liked it
Recommended for: Historians, Journalists, Commies
Read in February, 2005

"Imperium" was the first Ryszard Kapuscinski book I read. I have since bought and read each of this other books if that tells you anything.

Kapuscinski was (he died early this year) a Polish Journalist extraordinaire who spent his life (he nearly died numerous times in the field) covering Coups, Wars and any other havoc he could fly into.

Imperium is about his travels, by plane, train, car, horse, whatever through the Soviet Union...more specifically: Siberia. The heartbreak he describes in these remote mining and Gulag towns is overwhelming. Maybe it's my morbid curiosity with the brutality of the Soviet Union that made me love it...or maybe it's because RK's descriptions read like a novel. His account of the far-reaching areas of Soviet Union are bleak, harrowing and full of life. His description of the 'Stans (for spelling's sake) are also excellent. Not only are they lively and detailed, he traces the history behind the ethnic areas in each, including Chechnya, which I found particularly fascinating.

"I thought about the terrible uselessness of suffering. Love leaves behind its creation-the next generation coming into the world; the continuation of humanity. But suffering? Such a great part of human experience, the most difficult and painful, passes leaving no trace. If one were to collect the energy of suffering emitted by the millions of people here [Magadan, Russia] and transform it into the power of creation, one could turn our planet into a flowering garden. But what would remain?

Rusty carcasses of ships, rotting watchtowers, deep holes which some kind of ore was once extracted. A dismal, lifeless emptiness. Not a soul anywhere, for the exhausted columns have already passed and vanished in the cold eternal fog."
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