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An Advertisement for Toothpaste

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  274 ratings  ·  45 reviews
'Like rotting stakes in a forest clearing'

The great journalist of conflict in the Third World finds an even stranger and more exotic society in his own home of post-War Poland

Penguin Modern: fifty new books celebrating the pioneering spirit of the iconic Penguin Modern Classics series, with each one offering a concentrated hit of its contemporary, international flavour. H
Paperback, 53 pages
Published February 22nd 2018 by Penguin Classics (first published 1963)
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Average rating 3.64  · 
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Jacob Overmark

Hitherto, I knew Ryszard Kapuściński only for his documentary tales from Africa.
Seeing him tell stories from his homeland through a reporter’s eyes is a new and delightful experience.
The things you take for granted, every day occurrences you see but do not observe are painfully clear to you if you have spent some time abroad.

Village life
A dance in the village, the game of natural selection – is the boy mating material, will he move to a bigger city or stay in the farm land., will I be the chosen
A short book from the Penguin Modern collection, it consists of four short reportage pieces from Kapuscinski, taken from his book Nobody Leaves. Kapuscinski spent time in the 1960s in his native Poland, which was post-Stalin, but still communist.

The four stories presented here are -

The title story, An Advertisement for Toothpaste - in which "the reporter" visits a village dance and watches the dynamic of the youths - "There are fifteen girls in the village and only four boys."

Danka which reports
Ronan Mcdonnell
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Astounding book of simple direct language. Now sits next to Barthes' Mythologies on my shelf. The 4 stories combine as a polemic about the power of the choices we make in a changing world. New and flashy trumps long held values, selfish penance ignored others' sacrifices. Every choice we make comes about only because of other factors, yet the decisions are for the here and now.
Michael de Percy
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Ryszard Kapuściński was born in Belarus and grew up in Poland. He is regarded as one of the greatest journalists of the twentieth century for his coverage of revolutions and coups in places including Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. In the 1950s, he began working for the Polish Press Agency (PAP), a communist state-run news service. It is interesting that, since Kapuściński's death, he has been criticised for "making up" the news he reported in order to perpetuate his legend. Yet Kapu ...more
Jul 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Before picking up An Advertisement for Toothpaste, I had not read anything by Ryszard Kapuscinski. The sixteenth Penguin Modern was translated from its original Polish by William R. Brand, and consists of several essays, all of which were written in 1963 and published in 2017. In these essays, states the blurb, 'the great traveller-reporter finds an even stronger and more exotic society in his own home of post-war Poland than in any of the distant lands he has visited.'

An Advertisement for Tooth
Teenu Vijayan
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is my first read by Kapuscinski and this short book kept my attention till the end.
This book is based on Poland and has 4 short stories which are in the form of interviews. It deals with historical events like the Berlin wall and moves into the common man problems like the cost of toothpaste and why people cannot afford it.
It's a quick read and can be finished in a go!
Wouter Janssen
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Four short stories by Kapuscinski on post-WWII Poland; two of which absolutely brilliant. Good ol' four star rating.
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book because a friend recommended Ryszard Kapuściński with a feeling of the author being a near-absolute favourite.

I was not disappointed.

Kapuściński is a Polish traveler-journalist of great repute. This Penguin Modern #16, An Advertisement for Toothpaste presents four essays; including the title essay, Danka, The Taking of Elżbieta, and The Stiff. by him; all of which follow strange stories; about materiality, maternity, religion and the church, death, life, and the lif
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Vividly sketched scenes of life in postwar Poland, about the role there of modernity, the draw of the city, tradition, and religion. Loved the first three selections especially for their focus on women's stories.
Kukasina Kubaha
savage (as in the compliment)
Jul 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Maybe a 3.5? Beautifully written but I didn’t appreciate it and struggled to follow the anecdotes
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Penguin Mini Modern Classics #16 of 50

Finished. This is a collection of four short stories. All the stories are set in Poland. my favourite was 'The Stiff'. I probably shouldn't think it as funny as it's about a dead body, but there were aspects of the story that were hilarious! All the stories are well written. All were complete stories in themselves. I did really enjoy the book. Yes I recommend this book
Jul 24, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: penguin-modern
This is terrible, bland and unreadable.

Unlike the little black classics there seems to be more misses than hits. From the first 16 only two or three have hit the grade.

Shoddy at best.
T P Kennedy
Mar 01, 2018 rated it liked it
A collection of four essays - two of them though provoking and the other two less appealing. It's an interesting taster for his wider writing. These pieces are well observed but with the fall of the Berlin Wall they now feel like historical perspectives rather than contemporary writing.
4 mini essays/travel accounts- not so keen on the first two essays but liked the last two.
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Four pieces of reportage from Poland. I wasn't overly keen on the first, but I thought the other three were great. Danka alone was more than worth the £1 price of the book.

The book itself is a thing of beauty, and the perfect size for slipping in a pocket so you have something to read while mobile without needing to carry a bag.

The only downside of reading extracts of something this good is that you wish you had the rest too.
Fabrizio Ciatti
Aug 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
First time I have ever read anything by Kapuscinsky, which most people probably remember for his notable and widely acclaimed work as a journalist across the "Third World".

It is often depicted as a traveller-reporter, whose curiosity and interest in the lives of the oppressed brought in Asia, South America, Africa, reporting on wars and revolutions.

This collection of short stories shows another side of the literary work by the Polish writer.
All the stories, most notably, are set in his native
Khalidha Zia
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
This is my first read in the @penguinclassics Modern mini Classics series and I absolutely loved it! This is the best 50 bucks I have spent this month 😂

The book consists of a set of 4 short stories/essays - all based in post war Poland. Written from a journalist's perspective, the book is quite an interesting read. The last two essays are examples of some really good writing - the tone and the simplicity of words make it more of a conversation than a narration.
The author addresses some seemingl
2019: 19

#worldfullofstories~ Poland ✔️
. 🍁
An Advertisement for Toothpaste
Ryszard Kapuscinski "Grandmothers, and teeth.
Apparently two different matters, but not quite entirely." Even though I had something different in mind while picking this one up, Ryszard Kapuscinski surprised me. The author has quite an approach, which is not just different from what you usually read, but appealing.
Kapuscinski has my attention now, and he'll be one of the names I'll be looking for in bookstores now!

Mr Siegal
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Post War Poland

Kapuściński had a peculiar way of writing, one that it took me a while to get used to; it is quite conversational, and a lot of he said she said is going on. However, I really enjoyed this little book, especially the two last stories ‘The Taking of Elzieta’ and ‘The Stiff’. The first depicting the sacrifices parents make for their children and that children don’t always play suit, while the second was a story about transferring a dead body from place A to place B. Simple stories,
Adrian J.
Feb 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, fiction
Yes, I've shelved this as both fiction and non-fiction. Because while I believe one of the tales is entirely true, the others are made up - or at best fictionalised, exaggerated retellings of possibly-real events.

Kaspuscinski does have a way with words. The stories are very compelling. But it is supposed to be journalism - we're supposed to be getting the facts (the plot), not a story. It reads more like someone's personal blog than journalism for a mass audience, and that leaves me confused abo
Jonas Pihl
Jun 21, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
An Advertisement for Toothpaste contains four short stories from the author's time in post-war Poland.

The stories are messy, confusing and poorly written. The last one (The Stiff) was interesting and had been enjoyable as a longer story, but it was alright at best. The other three I did not like. Can't recommend it.
A single star from me.
Filip Olšovský
Jul 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Another example of how the younger generation or Polish reporters is able to go further and write more interesting stories than their role model.
Kapuściński often just exaggerates a simple story into a piece of art by using slightly different optics and language. It is interesting because it is different but it just does not make the story a better one.
Apr 15, 2020 rated it did not like it
Despite it's intriguing name, "An Advertisement for Toothpaste" really isn't a book I can recommend. I didn't understand a lot of it and felt confused until the final story. I'm sure this will be enjoyed by many, but sadly it's not for me - 1 star.

My full review:
David Milne
Oct 13, 2019 rated it liked it
A strong beginning and end. The middle two stories did not make all that much sense to me, and were not strong Kapuscinski works in my opinion, when bearing in mind the timeless 'Another day of Life' and 'Shadow of the Sun'
Nov 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Brilliant penmanship from the master of Polish reportage. This is a wonderful short introduction to his work, unusually looking at his own country and not the more "exotic" settings of his other works.
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Two very good and two less good essays: the latter two are great, especially The Stiff.
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
See currently reading review.
Dane Cobain
May 12, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is actually tricky to categorise because it’s basically like a series of little essays that may or may not be based on fiction. Either way, it’s a Polish writer’s homecoming after the war.
Jenny Cooke (Bookish Shenanigans)
3.5 stars, some sections of this are really beautifully written, especially the last section The Stiff.
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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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“And when we pushed away that other, bad vision, we felt good again and everything was a joy to us: the fire, the smell of trampled grass, that our shirts had dried, the sleep of the earth, the taste of cigarettes, the forest, our rested legs, the stardust, life - life most of all.

In the end, we went on. The dawn met us. The sun warmed us. We kept walking. Our legs buckled, our shoulders went numb, our hands swelled, but we managed to carry it to the cemetery - to the grave - our last harbour on earth, at which we put in only once, never again to sail forth - this Stefan Kanik, eighteen, killed in a tragic accident, during blasting, by a block of coal.”
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