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The Shadow of the Sun: My African Life

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  11,617 ratings  ·  936 reviews
Polish writer and foreign correspondent Ryszard Kapuscinski may be in the twilight of a golden career spanning more than 40 years but The Shadow of the Sun, an alternative record of his experiences of Africa and its stupefying white heat, is perhaps his finest hour. This for a writer who, to echo the sentiments of Michael Ignatieff, has turned reportage into literature. Dr ...more
Paperback, 325 pages
Published 2001 by Penguin Books (first published 1998)
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Beki I'm still in the middle, but I don't think you need any -- Kapuscinski really makes the historical context of his crhonicles. :)…moreI'm still in the middle, but I don't think you need any -- Kapuscinski really makes the historical context of his crhonicles. :)(less)

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May 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who want to meet the real Africa
Recommended to Dolors by: Peekay
Ryszard Kapuscinski sits under the branchy shade of a solitary acacia and stares at the incommensurable moonlike landscape unfolding in front of him. Plains covered with parched, thorny shrubs and vast extensions of sandy ground seem ablaze in a shimmering haze that refracts on the journalist’s eyes forcing him to squint. “Water and shade, such fluid, inconstant things, and the two most valuable treasures in Africa”, this half-historian, half-journalist recalls while revisiting the thirty years ...more
“The population of Africa was a gigantic, matted, crisscrossing web, spanning the entire continent and in constant motion, endlessly undulating, bunching up in one place and spreading out in another, a rich fabric, a colourful arras.” - Ryszard Kapuscinski, The Shadow of the Sun

A man I’d unfortunately never heard of wrote one of the most engaging historical reflections I've’ve ever read. Ryszard Kapuscinski reported on African events for a Polish newspaper for over 40 years. He was definitely in
Goodreads changed my experience with this book. For much of the time I was reading it, I was mesmerized by the writing, flabbergasted by some of the information about Africa, and convinced I was encountering the continent in a nuanced and subtle and authentic manner. I planned to give a copy to my husband for his birthday and to recommend it to my book group.

Curious about what other readers thought, I looked at some of the almost 500 reviews of it on goodreads, and it was there that I came acro
This is insightful prose written by a Polish journalist who spent years traveling around Africa (beginning in the 1950s). It is a collection of essays that follow Kapuscinski's time spent in Africa; during coups, wars, racial tensions, hunger, starvation, sickness, and more. Though I didn't love the parts of the book that seemed highly dramatized, what I really liked about this is that Kapuscinski gets into the experience, living it and detailing it. He's not a removed journalist. In fact, this ...more
Michael Perkins
Apr 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's interesting to see how few of my GR connections have read this author.

My adult kids and I stumbled on "The Shadow of the Sun" in the famous City Lights bookstore in North Beach, SF. We all read this book and we were hooked. What a find. I just introduced the author to my soon to be son-in-law. He works for USAID and is going to read this book before traveling to West Africa.

The last book I read by the author was Shah of Shahs. I had a friend at the gym, Ali, who was born in Tehran. He beca
Dec 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone and everyone
Recommended to Mark by: my brother Jeremy
A book like this would normally I would have imagined taken me very little time to read because I would devour it in a binge of gulpings and swallowings but it took me a good deal longer. In part, for the simple reason that I was taken up with other things and couldn't find the freedom to absorb myself in his world as I would have liked but also for the equally simple but at the same time profound reason that there was just too much to take in.

I listed it as epistolary and though it is not offic
Dec 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kapuściński was a Polish journalist who died in 2007, and who spent time in Africa between the late 1950ies and the 1990ies. Africa was not his only beat, but when he spent time there he spent time with the people and shared their lives when he could. He was the first Polish foreign correspondent to cover Africa and he was always seriously underfunded compared with those representing the big European and American publications and agencies. What he lacked in funds he made up in ingenuity and a wi ...more
I have only read a few book by Kapuscinski, one of which was a Penguin Great Journeys book The Cobra's Heart, which is an excerpt from this book. I gave that five stars, and reading that book convinced me to buy more of this authors work, including this book, which I have finally made time for from my shelf.

This is probably Kapuscinski's best known book, and is his highest rated book on GR. Not without reason. This is 5 stars for me, and this was confirmed by about a third of the way through.
Lyn Elliott
Kapuściński first went to Africa in 1957 and, over the next forty years, returned whenever he could.

He says ‘I travelled extensively, avoiding official routes, palaces, important personages, and high-level politics. Instead, I opted to hitch rides on passing trucks, wander with nomads through the desert, be the guest of peasants of the tropical savannah. Their life is endless toil, a torment they endure with astonishing patience and good humor.

‘This is therefore not a book about Africa, but rat
Aug 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, africa
Shifting seamlessly from vignettes of daily life to grand excursions into Africa's turbulent political past, Kapuscinski zig-zags across vast expanses of scorching desert and lush greenery in this masterful piece of journalistic travel writing. He describes people, politics and landscape with equal ease. The lioness stalking in the tall grasses is as riveting as the utterly fascinating character study of Idi Amin.

The first chapter was studded with generalisations about Africa and Africans that m
Ryszard Kapuscinski was the foreign correspondent par excellence, someone who could simultaneously travel rough, report the story, appreciate and approach the local people on their own terms, and weave his experiences into a narrative of uncommon breadth and intelligence. And it's even more impressive when you realize he's covering Africa for the presumably shoestring Polish communist press. Books like these up the ante for book-length journalism, and show what an absolute shit job the puppets e ...more
Noemi Kuban
The book reads as a collection of snapshots and stories from some of African subsaharan countries after the formal independance. It’s quite educational and provides an overview of the historical and social context of the time. I appreciate how Kapuscinski smoothly shifts from vignettes of daily life, food, fauna and flora to elaborate naratives of Africa’s turbulent political past, while neither judging nor idealizing the societies.
However, there’s something disturbing about reading on Africa f
James Henderson
Last fall I read Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski, the Polish journalist. It was his final book (he died in January, 2007) and I enjoyed it very much, having recently read Herodotus' Histories upon which he draws extensively. So it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to reading earlier works by Ryszard Kapuscinski. As an introduction to the mosaic of life that is known as "Africa" The Shadow of the Sun did not disappoint. The book consists of loosely connected essays o ...more
Rajat Ubhaykar
This book came as a revelation to me! It enlightened me about the history, spirit and psyche of Africa (a meaningless appellation), and made me acutely aware of my smug ignorance about this vast, endlessly diverse continent. Kapuscinski, who’s covered dozens of coups and revolutions as a conflict reporter in the era of decolonization, writes about the continent and its people with empathy, never exoticizing it. I would go as far as to say that The Shadow of the Sun is probably the best work of t ...more
Dec 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Giedre by: Fernando Dameto
"The Shadow of the Sun", a set of stories by Ryszard Kapuscinski, a Polish journalist who travelled and lived in Africa numerous times between the 50s and the 90s, has definitely taught me humbleness and almost painfully exposed my ignorance of Africa.

After finishing the book I read that Kapuscinski had lived through 27 coups and revolutions, had been jailed 40 times and had survived 4 death sentences, however in this book you will not find a single hint of pride or a boasting word about his en
Jan 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa
The book offers an introduction to the underlying politics of a vast continent that was constantly in turmoil in the post colonial period with a confused hierarchy, a mass famine and endless war. However, Kapuściński does a brilliant job in maintaining a balance in his writing speckled with his own introspection, the facts and the reality of people surviving against all the odds with their belief systems aimed to carry on an ancestral legacy. Kapuściński not only visits the well known cities and ...more
Oct 29, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
"This is therefore not a book about Africa, but rather about some people from there (...) The continent is too large to describe. (...) Only with the greatest simplification, for the sake of convenience, can we say "Africa". In reality, except as geographical appellation, Africa does not exist."
So the foreword reads, and I was eager for an account that is described by Sunday Times as having been "written with love and longing, as sharp and life enhancing as the sun that rises on an African morni
Dec 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book takes you on an a whirlwind tour of Africa over the span of many years, many countries, and many different types of situations. The essays span the continent and quickly zoom the reader in and then back out of small incidents, large coups, nomadic wanderings, war lords, and everything (and everyone) in between.

I've never been able to get my mind around Africa. Its complexity both geographically and politically make it difficult to understand and internalize. In one respect the book do
Africa and Kapuscinski. Kapuscinski's Africa.

Burning hot continent, swept by waves of revolution, war, man slaughter but also of unbearable beauty. A place of utmost complex diversity there's no generalization can capture it.

Honestly, Africa had been outside my radar before reading this. But the gift and curse of Kapuscinski's writing is that it drew me in, dragged me to the unknown and made me pause to think. My world is getting larger, vaster and richer. I am a bit relieved that he had writte
Berit Lundqvist
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
”Only with the greatest of simplifications, for the sake of convenience, can we say Africa. In reality, except as a geographical term, Africa doesn't exist.”

Ryszard Kapuściński crossed the African continent (and pretty much the rest of the world as well) several times. By living like a local, eating like a local, and getting malaria as a local, he got a unique perspective of everyday life.

The book consists of a number of articles set in different African countries at different time periods, fro
(More of a note than a real review)

As always with Kapuscinski's books, the writing is fantastic, and the narrative gripping. But something didn't seem right about it to me, for books purporting to be factual accounts... My belief was being increasingly suspended and I was suspicious.. I increasingly felt like this must be the work of a fantasist, or a hybrid at least: a hybrid of fantasy and travelogue.

I did a little research and very quickly it turned out that other people suspect the same. A
Mar 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic introduction to this mysterious continent. The experiences of over 40 years travelling in and reporting from Africa are beautifully condensed in this small book. Here is a long quote:

"The European and the African have an entirely different concept of time. In the European worldview, time exists outside man, exists objectively, and has measurable and linear characteristics. According to Newton, time is absolute: “Absolute, true, mathematical time of itself and from its own nature, it
Sep 18, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic, other-lit
This is the rather more well-known work of Kapuscinski. For me, however, the charm seems to fade. Suddenly I'm disenchanted. Well, on the bright side, I've read his better books. Or else, I could have missed "Another day of life" or "Imperium."

It appears to me that Kapuscinski's later works touches too close the border of fact and fiction. There is this romanticism, this exaggeration that seems beautiful and effective at first in seducing readers but then just becomes so blatant that it pushes m
Dec 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Bettie by: spotted on Mark's profile
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“The spirit of Africa always appears in the guise of an elephant. Because no other animal can vanquish an elephant. Not a lion, not a buffalo, not a snake.”

This book was excellent. The author chronicled his years as a journalist in Africa with deep understanding, historical relevance, and an immersive commitment to learning. This was the first book that I have read chronicling the history of Africa that provided both context and sociology within personal anecdotes, making the wealth of informati
Greg Coyle
Sep 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mr. K is the sort of intrepid traveler we're used to reading about in tales of an earlier generation, the Burtons, Humboldts and Spekes of the world. He marks his year by the number of coups he witnesses and the number of death sentences rendered against him. In Shadow of the Sun, a collection of dispatches from around Africa, he manages to relate, in language worthy of Conrad and Maugham, both the beauty and the horror of Africa. It's a stunning, enlightening and occasinally frightening smorgas ...more
Sep 03, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Though I enjoy travel journals of Africa, I found this book to be way overgeneralized and romantic. Yes, he has seen a great deal of Africa, but why must authors continue to try and describe such a diverse continent as a whole in generalities? I suppose this criticism only applies to the opening and concluding portions, but the last chapter was particularly bad.
Aug 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you've ever lived in Africa, or even been there, this collections of journalistic articles from Mr. Kapuszinski's career in Africa will NOT disappoint. He brings up things you always thought of but never knew how to say. Its genius, and the best book, and truthful book, on Africa I've ever read. ...more
This is a series of articles written by a Polish journalist in his various travels through Africa starting in 1957 and covering 40 years. He describes independence, then coups, then more disillusionment, then tribal, clan and caste wars. His writing is quite stunning as is his dices with malaria, TB, snakes, robbers, ambushes, corrupt officials and eccentric ex pats. It is his writing of the people where the book rocks and through his empathy he is able to reach some astute observations into the ...more
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
beginning with the jubilation surrounding Independence in Ghana and ending in Hell scapes of 90s Liberia and Eritrea, this is a fairly grim journalists travelogue in which most major countries of Africa are somewhat poetically described from the sixties through the mid-90s, notably absent being Congo and South Africa. good enough that I would read his other books
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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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