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Travels with Herodotus

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  5,978 ratings  ·  530 reviews
From the master of literary reportage whose acclaimed books include Shah of Shahs, The Emperor, and The Shadow of the Sun, an intimate account of his first youthful forays beyond the Iron Curtain.

Just out of university in 1955, Kapuscinski told his editor that he’d like to go abroad. Dreaming no farther than Czechoslovakia, the young reporter found himself sent to India. W
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 5th 2007 by Knopf (first published September 28th 2004)
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Oct 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Richard by: Excellent review in The Economist
(The review in the Economist which recommended this book to me is here, and their obituary of Kapuściński is also available, here.)

I’ve recently been categorizing my reading material into “fast” and “slow”, but after reading Kapuściński’s Travels with Herodotus I think I need to rethink the “slow” category.

Fast books are those that pull you along without any effort — page-turners. Slow books are those that take more time. When I glance at the stack of books waiting their turn on my bedside table
This is part exegesis of The Histories and part memoir of the author's own experiences as he traveled to the places Herodotus visited and wrote about. Kapuściński always carried a copy of Herodotus with him and it's interesting to get his views of Egypt or Lybia or Persia or Scythia more than 2,400 years after those of the 'Father of history.'
Description: From the master of literary reportage whose acclaimed books include Shah of Shahs, The Emperor, and The Shadow of the Sun, an intimate account of his first youthful forays beyond the Iron Curtain.

Just out of university in 1955, Kapuscinski told his editor that he’d like to go abroad. Dreaming no farther than Czechoslovakia, the young reporter found himself sent to India. Wide-eyed and captivated, he would discover in those days his life’s work—to understand and describe the world in
Χαρά Ζ.
Apr 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
_Travels with Herodotus_

What an amazing journey that was <3. I enjoyed this, i loved this and i hoped it would never end. I wanted more of it.
This book was really interesting. Its structure was beautiful following two stories. One was Herodotus' trek to the lenghts of that era's world and the actual author's journey as a reporter and a war correspondent in this era's world.
Some parts of the book are autobiographical. And so, so vivid. He only gives us small glimpses of the places he visited but
This was Ryszard Kapuściński's last book, written shortly before he died in 2007.

It is a work of retrospect - he isn't writing about recent events, or his recent thoughts, but writes about his own past and ties it to a book which inspired him - The Histories, by Herodotus.
It is a book written from a position of knowledge, often about the times where he was far from knowledgeable - a young Polish journalist, sent from the recently opened East to India - a place he had no former knowledge of, and
Nov 22, 2010 rated it liked it
Sometimes here on Goodreads I'll read a review that combines an actual review of the book and a personal narrative (where the reviewer might tell you a story of how they came upon the book, or some experience they had a while ago that has parallels to the book they are reviewing). The strategy has its advantages, and it usually at least makes for an entertaining read.

Reading Travels with Herodotus was like reading such a book review about The Histories by Herodotus. But much longer.

Ryszard Kapus
Lyn Elliott
Curiosity about humanity permeates this book, an interweaving of memoir, readings and reflection. Listening, recording, acute observation, inquiring, wanting to understand what was happening in the present and the past drove both Herodotus and Kapuściński, 2500 years apart.

Ryszard Kapuściński’s career as a Polish reporter posted in foreign countries began in India, followed by China then Africa. India was his first encounter with otherness, the experience of a different world. It was then he re
God, what a charming writer. As I find when I read Sebald, I find that Kapuscinski has a great many of the exact same thoughts that I've written about, but phrases them with an infinitely greater degree of eloquence. Throughout, Kapuscinski alternates between past and present, ratcheting across countries and continents.

I'm only calling it travel writing by process of elimination. Kapuscinski is traveling, and that is the sole common thread. History, art, Cold War tensions, language, and literary
Kobe Bryant
May 12, 2016 rated it liked it
I know its called Travels with Herodotus but there was too much Herodotus
I love travelogues. I love classical antiquity. So I really expected to enjoy Ryszard Kapuscinski's Travels with Herodotus, an attempt to mix modern literary reportage with the writings of one of the greatest travelling reporters of all time, Herodotus. Sadly, however, the book was a bit of letdown. The old and new stuff didn't blend well, so the final result, while occasionally poignant and insightful, was a little underwhelming.

Maybe I went in with the wrong expectations. When I bought the bo
Nov 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Every journey begins with a reckoning, a stocktaking, an analysis of where one is. And each trip consists of two parts: the inner journey and the outer one. This book of travel/reportage/historical commentary/philosophy/anthropology is no different. Only it contains several trips. Or perhaps just one BIG trip. Depends on how you want to look at it, I guess.
In fact, I hesitate to use the word ‘book’ after my motley categorization. This is more a collection of images accompanied by the patchwork m
Oct 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This, the last book by its author, is one of a kind. It is merely by chance that, earlier this month, I re-read Herodotus's Histories, so it is so fresh in my mind that I recognized most of the quotes from the 5th century B.C. Greek historian instantly.

But what if I had not read Herodotus recently? Then this would be a rather boring work, an extended commentary on someone with whom I was not familiar.

Kapuscinski and Herodotus shared many traits in common. Both had traveled the world (as the
James Murphy
Oct 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My copy of the book--Vintage International--labels Travels with Herodotus as memoir/history, and it is, but it touched me more as a simple meditation on Herodotus and his The Histories. Kapuscinski is a Polish journalist and traveler who writes here about his 1st trips outside Poland in the mid-20th century. He was given a copy of Herodotus as a companion on his 1st assignment abroad. It touched him deeply, as his own book touched me.

Kapuscincki uses The Histories as a way to gauge his own sense
Feb 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: rth-lifetime, 2014
I read Herodotus earlier this year, and among other things I thought, "What the hell just happened?" It's a long book, y'know? Everything happens in it. I mean literally everything: Herodotus's goal was to write down everything known about the world, and over 700 pages, that's what he did. It gets mind-boggling.

I needed someone to help me process all that, so I turned to Kapuscinski, the great travel writer and philosopher responsible for The Emperor, a neat oral history of Haile Selassie, as we
Beth Bonini
May 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical, travel
Years ago, I remember reading The English Patient and becoming aware, for the first time, of Herodotus. In that book, the character of Katharine Clifton was reading Herodotus's Histories. I've still not read Herotodus, but after having read this book -- which is full of references and quoted text from what Kapuscinski describes as "world literature's first great work of reportage"-- I fully understand why it was such a apt choice of reading material for an English woman trapped in Cairo during W ...more
Jan 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
The book I wanted this to be was one where, upon reading something from Herodotus such as "According to the stories of the Trachis, the left bank of the Ister is populated by bees," the author is going to place this anecdote on a modern map, go there, write about what became of the Trachis and who they are now, and where this business with bees might have come from.

That is not this book. There is one bit where Kapuściński visits a site from The Histories, Persepolis, but he doesn't see it all be
Oct 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
One of my biggest regrets in life so far is that I never got to take Ryszard Kapuscinski out to dinner. His reportage, such as The Shadow of the Sun and The Emperor catalogues human frailty better than anything since Dante, and like Dante, possesses a moral sense combined with cosmopolitan empathy for nearly everyone he runs into.

This was a thoughtful and moving valediction from a person who truly was a citizen of the world.
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Man, what a book. I picked this up thinking it would be a simple travelogue but it's much, much more. It would have been interesting enough if it was just a straightforward retelling of Kapuscinski's travels through India, China and Africa during the 50s and 60s as a foreign correspondent for a Polish newspaper, but what he does by relating his journey through passages in Herodotus' the Histories puts it on a whole other level. During his travels, he always goes back to his trusty Histories, usi ...more
I'm not the one to deny my high school history teacher's taste in literature, and when he recommends an author to me, I pretty much make sure that I read that author as soon as I can. I not only know that it will be a good read from a literary point of view, but that it will force my analytical side as well and teach me a thing or two. As Kapuscinski did.

Reading history books can get a bit tedious, as times. You get sucked in this whirlwind of names, dates and pointless statistical information,
Mar 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ryszard Kapuściński was one of the strangest yet most charming journalists of the past century. His books are weirdly dreamlike. A foreign correspondent for a Polish newspaper, his writings sometimes feel as though he is passing through great events in a philosophical haze. Despite that he is still able to provide lucid and captivating accounts of what he sees. If a journalist could be accused of being a magical realist, it would be Kapuściński. His dispatches were like the accounts of grand myt ...more
Jul 11, 2011 added it
Shelves: places

Reading Kapuscinski while bed-bound with illness is a blessing and a curse. It offers escape and yet makes my infirmity more pronounced. The vibrancy of the places the author visits and the experiences he has in each is intoxicating. I wanted to pack up my meager belongings and set out again for a new adventure. Exploring the world is intoxicating and addictive. Kapuscinski writes in the book:
“A journey, after all, neither begins in the instant we set out, nor ends when we have reached our doors
Richard Newton
Enjoyable, but slightly disappointing in that I expected it to be a bit better. This is partially autobiography and partially a poem in praise of Herodotus. (And I will go back and read Herodotus as a result). Kapucinski is really comparing his life to that of Herodotus, and the comparison is not unfair.

The first chapter is marvellous - in a few pages capturing post war Poland, the feeling of living under communism, and the sense of being at that age when one is deciding what to do with ones li
Jan 18, 2009 rated it it was ok
This book disappointed. I like the author's other work and this idea (interweaving Herodotus with his own explorations) seemed promising. Sadly, his observations were banal, his judgments sometimes simplistic or plain wrong, and the writing was pedestrian. Some of the passages lifted from Herodotus were fascinating, although at times unlikely to be real. Even that, then, was telling.
Jul 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel, reportage
There is an old cliché that "a picture is worth a thousand words" and it's very often true, but not when the words are set down by the late Ryszard Kapuściński, a writer and reporter capable of conjuring up images that stay with the reader for decades. A number of his previous books, "Another Day of Life", "The Emperor", "The Soccer War", "Shah of Shahs", and "The Shadow of the Sun", are amongst my all time favourites. This book is however different in feel from those mentioned above, focusing m ...more
Jan 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From the title page: “Ryszard Kapuscinski, Poland’s most celebrated foreign correspondent, was born in 1932 in Pinsk (in what is now Belarus) and spent four decades reporting on Asia, Latin America, and Africa. He died in 2007.” This remarkable book is the account of Kapuscinski’s years in the field, traveling for the first time beyond the Iron Curtain to India, China, Ethiopia, and other interesting locales. But, it is more than an interesting travelogue. He travels with a copy of Herodotus’s “ ...more
Omer Aziz
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
A whirlwind tour of the world that finds Ryszard Kapucinski, considered the greatest foreign correspondent of the twentieth century, in India, China, the Congo, Kenya, and elsewhere during revolutions, civil wars, and social tumults of the post-WWII period. Kapucinski's travel companion is the great Herodotus, himself considered the "Father of History." The writer goes back and forth between reportage, observation, social criticism, and Herodotus' own ideas preserved in his "Histories." At times ...more
Apr 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was my first exposure to the travel writings of Kapuscinski, who was a journalist for the Communist government in Poland. The hook here is that during his initial travels in the middle east, he was so poor and poorly equipped that he only brought he copy of Herodotus with him as he travelled to many of the places specified in the Histories - so it is a travel memoir with an historical edge. It was very entertaining and prompted me to read Herodotus later that summer. He is a fantastic write ...more
Apr 11, 2010 rated it did not like it
Deeply frustrating experience of completely mis-marketed book. What intimate account of travels? Certainly not Kaupscinski. The whole thing is his retelling of Herodotus' travels and anecdotes, without much reflection to how they are relevant to K's experience. If I wanted Herodotus, I would've read Herodotus.
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great mix of a travel book, historical analysis and meaningful philosophy. I love Kapuscinski and his careful and sensitive observing style.
Alexander McAuliffe

Travels with Herodotus is a lovely travelogue, memoir, and literary exploration. As Ryszard Kapuściński recounts the beginning of his career as an international correspondent, he retraces his contemporaneous relationship with Herodotus’s Histories. Herodotus was, in a sense, the first great reporter of the Western world. He was a Greek from Halicarnassus and left us a vast set of stories, facts, and remembrances, which he must have spent the majority of hi
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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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Kate Stayman-London has watched the reality dating show The Bachelor (and its eventual Bachelorette spin-off) since it first started airing in 2002...
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“A journey, after all, neither begins in the instant we set out, nor ends when we have reached our door step once again. It starts much earlier and is really never over, because the film of memory continues running on inside of us long after we have come to a physical standstill. Indeed, there exists something like a contagion of travel, and the disease is essentially incurable.” 205 likes
“There aren't many such enthusiasts born. The average person is not especially curious about the world. He is alive, and being somehow obliged to deal with this condition, feels the less effort it requires, the better. Whereas learning about the world is labor, and a great all-consuming one at that. Most people develop quite antithetical talents, in fact - to look without seeing, to listen without hearing, mainly to preserve onself within oneself.” 43 likes
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