Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Emperor” as Want to Read:
The Emperor
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Emperor

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  6,452 ratings  ·  385 reviews
Haile Selassie, King of Kings, Elect of God, Lion of Judah, His Most Puissant Majesty and Distinguished Highness the Emperor of Ethiopia, reigned from 1930 until he was overthrown by the army in 1974. While the fighting still raged, Ryszard Kapuscinski, Poland's leading foreign correspondent, traveled to Ethiopia to seek out and interview Selassie's servants and closest as ...more
Paperback, 167 pages
Published March 13th 1989 by Vintage (first published 1978)
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 Emperor, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Emperor

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,452 ratings  ·  385 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Emperor
Diane S ☔
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lor-2019, 5000-2019
The author is a Polish journalist and in this book he Chronicles the downfall of Haile Selassie, the longtime ruler of Ethiopia. The book is divided into three sections, and in the first he interviews those who worked in the palace. There is some tongue in cheek humor here as we learn many of the jobs they did and took do seriously were quite strange.a human cuckoo, whose only job was to bow on the hour, a functionary with a collection of pillows, so he could be sure to use the correct size to p ...more
Nov 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: african-lit
A 3.5 star rating perhaps. This book contains accounts from those close to Ethiopia’s last emperor, Haile Selassie. It chronicles Selassie’s opulent lifestyle and his subsequent downfall. It speaks to the undoing of African leaders. I’ve always been intrigued by Selassie and was interested to know more about him.

The Emperor is a very dramatic account of Selassie's and I did get a slightly clearer idea of who Selassie was. He was very progressive in many ways, and he was quite eccentric as well.
Jacob Overmark
By the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Elect of God”
A sovereign, a direct descendant from the Queen of Sheba and the King Salomon of Israel .. by law decree that is.
No wonder such title comes with almighty power –

The Bible isn´t very exact on the homeland of said queen and noting that Solomon allegedly had 700 wives and 300 concubines there would be offspring literally everywhere.
But it fits well into the narrative of an
Apr 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: masterpieces, history
From the waning Gomulka regime forward, Kapuscinski fashioned a journalistic career out of exceedingly subtle swipes at the pretenses and tragicomic self-deception of Soviet-style Communism. The Emperor is aimed at Haile Selassie, who Kapuscinski paints as a vapid, self-important ignoramus.

How much of this is actually Selassie and how much is carefully picked in order to make fun of Stalin or Khrushchev or even Gomulka is up for debate, but that's exactly what makes this book a masterpiece: I ca
May 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone; Anthropologists
Recommended to Tyler by: Goodreads Reviews
Shelves: non-fiction
The Emperor baffles any ready description. A Polish journalist, Ryszard Kapuscinski, renders an account of the last schizophrenic years of Ethiopia’s ancient kingdom and the demise of it emperor, whose ways are not our ways, to say the least. Reviews may not suffice to say exactly why or how the book works, but I’ll add mine anyway to the others that have noted its mystique.

The book's structure takes a straightforward path. The author interviews courtiers, associates and servants of the
Great historical book describing the mood of the palace in Ethiopia under the rule of Haile Selassie. Excellent in its description of mood. You actually see the insanity and chaos that Selassie created and nurtured in his palace and metaphorically throughout his country. And by the end of the book, you understand how the King of Kings was destroyed by the monster he created. The style was unlike any book I'd read in the past. It was really well done. ...more
Mar 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A little lesson in the blurred lines between reportage and fiction - a "detailed account" of the fall of Haile Sellasie given by the ministers and servants who once waited upon him. Not, of course, that you'd ever believe these are direct transcriptions of interviews, or that Kapuscinski hasn't modified and tailored these accounts as he sees fit, unless you believe all of the ministers speak in an identical fantastical ironical language. I suppose if you have narrow ideas of what constitutes non ...more
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a gift to me from a friend who is a former Guardian journalist. During the Communist era Ryszard Kapuściński was foreign correspondent for the Polish Press Agency, and reported on civil wars and revolutions from all over the Third World. The introduction by Neal Ascherson reveals that after reporting on the coup of 1974 that destroyed the Abyssinian Empire, Kapuściński was approached by his publishers to write a book on it, but could not find a way to write it. Suddenly he remember ...more
Adam Dalva
Nov 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Fascinating book - an oral history of the last days of Haile Selassie's empire told by his palace servants. It most reminded me of the second half of Murakami's underground, when the brainwashed former cultists still adhered to the Aum Shinrikyo ethos. There were sections here where I lost interest (mainly as a result of repetition), but what will always stick with me are the little absurdities (the revolution starting at a fashion show; the Swiss calisthenics instructors appearing days before t ...more
César Lasso
My favorite books by Kapuscinski are those where the author travels and explains for the world what other peoples feel. This is just an original biography. It has been contested in its accuracy. The protagonist, Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia, is shown as a surreal personality who controlled a populated African country.

The book tries to introduce you into the history of the man who, on the other hand, Rastafarians chose as the reincarnation of Jah. This is the portrait of a naïve man who t
Donna Kirk
Feb 22, 2011 marked it as to-read
Salman Rushdie wrote about him: "One Kapuściński is worth more than a thousand whimpering and fantasizing scribblers. His exceptional combination of journalism and art allows us to feel so close to what Kapuściński calls the inexpressible true image of war". ...more
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
His Majesty, His Venerable Highness, His Revered Highness, His Peerless Majesty, His Most Exalted Majesty, Our Distinguished Monarch, His Venerable Majesty, His Most Virtuous Highness, His Distinguished Majesty, His Supreme Majesty, the King of Kings, His Magnanimous Highness, the Supreme Benefactor, …, everyone appearing in Mr. Kapuściński’s work seems to have a different form of address for Haile Selassie. Mr. Kapuściński’s excellent work is noteworthy, offering us a glimpse into the experienc ...more
Terpsichore Savvala
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Kapuscinski wrote the Emperor immediately after Selassie’s fall by the Dergue (the military committee that took over Ethiopia from 1974 to 1991), so all the facts he mentions are not yet diluted by Selassie’s posthumous, Africa-unionist legacy.
He was a king that abandoned his country when it was invaded by Mussolini, he punished those who fought and helped Ethiopia escape colonialism, he misused the country’s funds for his own gain - he has allegedly a Swiss account with over half billion dolla
The Emperor is a bizarre and at time grotesquely comic portrait of the last Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie. It is also a detail and evocative exploration of tyranny. Kapuscinki in a much more impressionistic mood details the rule and fall of another tyrant the last Shah of Iran in the Shah of Shahs. By focusing on tyrants of U.S. client states he uses a trick employed by other Iron Curtain writers (Ex. Kadare) to critique autocracy in genera,l as in general most dictatorships are the same wh ...more
I suppose the American frame of reference for The Emperor is probably the "new journalism" stuff from the '60s-- Truman Capote, Tom Wolfe, Hunter Thompson, all that. So I liked all those guys a grip when I was in high school, and now that I'm a bit more grown-up, I can appreciated Ryszard Kapuscinski. Rather than writing about kids dropping acid, he writes about the utter insanity of the court of King Haile Selassie at the twilight of the Ethiopian Empire.

And rather than being strict reportage,
R.M. Tafari
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I often wondered what the atmosphere would have been like in Selassie's final years as Emperor of Ethiopia, what factors led to the decay of his empire and the methods taken to depose him. If these interviews are credible then Ryszard Kapuscinski has shed light on the matter. 'The Emperor' portrays the human side of Haile Selassie - as a creaky and venerable old man with both faults and weaknesses - which is a stark contrast to the symbol of humility in power and all-conquering lion, that he usu ...more
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book disappointed me because it is quite short on facts and very long on rhetoric. What I was looking for was an account of the reign and calamitous fall of Emperor Sélassié. What I got was an indictment of the Emperor and his ultra-corrupt régime used as a kind of parable. Kapuscinski presents Sélassié as an almost illiterate ruler who, like Louis XIV, controlled his court by forcing them to remain permanently in and around the palace for fear of being stripped of all their privileges. The ...more
Feb 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing

When I was in highschool, my best friend went through a rasta phase. It was goofy from the get-go, of course- dreads, incense, ganja, Jah this and Jah that....

But two things were worth hanging on to:

the music (not just Bob Marley, either, understand)

and the fact that I found out about Haile Selassie, real figure of veneration for dem Rastas ("almighty God is a living man") only to discover years later while reading this eloquent, vivid, closely researched book that he was, in actuality, a putz
Kamila Jast
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have read most of his books. I love his journalistic writing style and amazing way of portraying people and situations, his observant assessments of situations, presenting historic backgrounds, analytical way of breaking it all down to pieces for readers and leaving them to draw conclusions and formulate their own final evaluation.
May 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The most penetrating, compelling book on the nature of power and the inevitability of it's dissolution within the framework of human nature, Kapuscinski's book should be taught -before- Maciavelli in any self-respecting Political Science class. ...more
Shantanoo Desai
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A concise capture of a crumbling Empire. Kapuściński's work is fantastic. He decided to make a Trifecta for the end of colonialism (Haile Selasie, Shah of Iran, Idi Amin) sadly the Amin book was never completed.

The Shah of Shahs should also be great from Ryszard.
Praveen SR
Sep 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Chronicling the last days of Haile Selasie, the Emperor of Ethiopia, who ruled from 1930, until he was overthrown in 1974. I first heard of Polish journalist Kapuscinski through his writings in some old issues of Granta. This story is told mostly through the people who used to serve the emperor, people who used to spend most of their time around him, like the door opener, who mastered the art of opening the door at the right time (reminded me of the two men who open the doors for the assembly sp ...more
Jul 01, 2020 marked it as dnf
This seems like an awefully long book, considering that it only has 170 pages. So, on one hand it is very fascinating to read first-hand accounts about the court of the Ethiopian Emperor. On the other hand, these first hand accounts are not exactly readable. Thus I think I gained enough by reading the first 70 pages and intend to watch some documentary on it to get the full picture.
Eden Takele

a very honest portrayal of the greedy, self-serving and delusional vultures that made up the Imperial Court. I loved the framing of their sycophancy as normal: really drove home how outrageous and perplexing it was to the thieves that the people did not want to be stolen from. A clear indictment of Imperial Ethiopia and King Vulture himself.
Daniel Frank
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this while traveling in Ethiopia to better understand the country. In terms of information about Ethiopia, this book warrants only a 2 or 3 / 5. However, this is an amazing insight into power, institutions and corruption and for that reason, a 5/5. A must read for anyone interested in the idea of power.
Matheus de Abreu
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
----------------English Review----------------
The book is, in fact, a valuable document produced by Ryszard Kapuściński on the history of the Ethiopian Empire until the military coup of the 1970s. Despite the bias of those interviewed throughout the work, who, for the most part , were loyalists, the documentary and informative value of the work is irrefutable for any scholar or interested in the history of Ethiopia or the great emperor Haile Selassie. However, the structure of "interviews" is
Sep 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
The decline of Haile Selassie and his regime, as detailed through the words of witnesses from his circle. A sad and shocking, and I think archetypal, tale of a pre-20th "kingdom" played out in a 20th century country. ...more
Bob Newman
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ethiopia
Army Stings Clinging King

You can read a lot of books about Ethiopia, many very good. Similarly, you can read many studies of tyranny, studies of the worst of that ilk like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Idi Amin, Franco, Pol Pot, Trujillo, Duvalier,and dozens more. Perhaps you've read Garcia-Marquez' "The Autumn of the Patriarch". Kapuscinski's amazing, deeply ironic book on Haile Selassie, last emperor of Ethiopia, bears more than a little resemblance to that latter volume. In fact, it's hard to believe
Michael Clark
Jun 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: own
After reading this book, I am thoroughly displeased with Mr. Kapuściński's writing style. The book does not mention is earnest Emperor Haile Selassie I's accomplishments. Rather, it seems like a postmortem smear campaign of a beloved world leader. There is only one side to this story, and that is the "fact" that His Imperial Majesty was a poor leader and a power hungry despot. Almost all other sources will indicate otherwise.

Here are a few things to think about before and while reading this book
I recently asked my friends from all over the world to recommend some books/authors from their own countries that I could read since I realized the literature I read was painfully limited to products of a handful of countries. I was very interested in hearing voices from other cultures.

Among all the recommendations I received, it was Kapuscinski and his body of work that intrigued me the most. As a big fan of Orwell’s more journalistic books and given my own background(journalism and a love of
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Same book? 3 24 Aug 13, 2015 09:41PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Kapuściński non-fiction
  • 27 śmierci Toby'ego Obeda
  • Ferdydurke
  • Gottland
  • Nie ma
  • Rzeczy, których nie wyrzuciłem
  • Morfina
  • Król
  • Zdążyć przed Panem Bogiem
  • Stramer
  • Ludzie bezdomni
  • Trans-Atlantyk
  • Witajcie w raju. Reportaże o przemyśle turystycznym
  • Inny świat
  • Zabójca z miasta moreli. Reportaże z Turcji
  • Primeval and Other Times
  • Powrót z Bambuko
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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

Related Articles

Juneteenth, observed on June 19th each year, is an American holiday commemorating the day in 1865 when the last enslaved people in Galveston,...
135 likes · 19 comments
“Two lusts breed in the soul of man: the lust for aggresion, and the lust for telling lies. If one will not allow himself to wrong others, he will wrong himself. If he doesn't come across anyone to lie to, he will lie to himself in his own thoughts.” 13 likes
“His August Majesty chided the bureaucrats for failing to understand a simple principle: the principle of the second bag. Because the people never revolt just because they have to carry a heavy load, or because of exploitation. They don't know life without exploitation, they don't even know that such a life exists. How can they desire what they cannot imagine? The people will rvolt only when, in a single movement, someone tries to throw a second burden, a second heavy bag, onto their backs. The peasant will fall face down into the mud - and then spring up and grab an ax. He'll grab an ax, my gracious sir, not because he simply can't sustain this new burden - he could carry it - he will rise because he feels that, in throwing the second burden onto his back suddenly and stealthily, you have tried to cheat him, you have treated him like an unthinking animal, you have trampled what remains of his already strangled dignity, taken him for an idiot who doesn't see, feel, or understand. A man doesn't seize an ax in defense of his wallet, but in defense of his dignity, and that, dear sir, is why His Majesty scolded the clerks. For their own convenience and vanity, instead of adding the burden bit by bit, in little bags, they tried to heave a whole big sack on at once.” 8 likes
More quotes…