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The Cobra's Heart (Penguin Great Journeys)

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  94 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
One of the most brilliant journalists of the postwar world, Kapuscinski (born 1932) spent decades criss-crossing Africa, witnessing the horrors of a continent ravaged by imperialism and its aftershocks. Humane, evocative and magical, The Cobra's Heart makes the case for Kapuscinski as a great writer as well as a great journalist.
Paperback, 112 pages
Published 2007 by Penguin UK
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This book in the Penguin Great Journeys series is an excerpt (or excerpts) from Kapuscinski's The Shadow of the Sun. It reads more like a number of separate essays rather than a cohesive narrative, but that is likely a result of the excerpt selection.

I was impressed with the writing which I found articulate and insightful - which credits the translation from Polish to English as well as the original writing.

Covering events in the 1950s and 60s in Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and Nigeria, it covers a
Dec 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
Made me want to have the balls to explore Africa.
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A quick read despite its dense text, I basically ate this book for breakfast. Kapuscinski's lush description is both an example of excellent journalism and a lesson on how prose dispenses with the need for photographs entirely. Anyone keen on military history would also have found his analysis of Idi Amin's rule fascinating. In his description of rule by absolute, random and constant terror, and the cynical employment of tribal loyalties to a dark end, I see Kapuscinski's description reflecting ...more
Chavelli Sulikowska
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plibrary
Kapuscinski was so much more than an observant and intrepid international reporter, he was also clearly a very talented story teller with a great capacity to translate the reality of his perceptions into sublime words on a page.

His account of central Africa, at a time of great political upheaval and social unrest is exceptionally pertinent and moving. A transfixing read. It's one of the few African novels I have read that doesn't try too hard to describe the spellbinding "African experience" th
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is the extract of the full book under Penguin's Great Journeys series.

Kapuscinski has described his experiences in Africa and his experiences are authentic and his information about the place and people is very insightful , something which has come by actually going in various inhospitable african terrains and facing extremely harsh conditions. It covers Ghana, Tanjania, Nigeria, Uganda.

It covers the events of late 50's and 60's when many african nations were getting independence from the
Feb 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: africa, travel
Bookcrossing review:

I really enjoyed this book, so it was quite frustrating that it is so short. I've added the book that these extracts are from to my wishlist to remind me to keep my eyes open for the full book.

This one is by a Polish writer, and is about some of his experiences in central Africa - mainly Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania during the 60s. This was a time when a lot of these countries were getting their independance, so there's quite a bit about that. Amin comes up in his own chapter
Sep 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Loved this book. It is a little disjointed, due to the author writing for newspapers in his native Poland, but is provides a fascinating insight into the culture and experiences of African Nations going through the liberating, and for many ultimately failed, process of freedom from the colonial yoke in the 1960's. Its interesting to compare your own views and attitudes (ignorant though mine are) of these countries to that of the author, and the time he lived in. Great for those who like adventur ...more
Dec 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A short extract from The shadow of the sun, it reminded me again how absolutely wonderful Kapuściński's writing is. How he can make everything come alive and put you right in there so that you feel the oppressive heat of the Saharan towns and shiver in the eerie darkness of the African nights.
He is one of my favourite ("The favourite", perhaps) non-fiction writer. And I promise myself that I will reread some of his books in the new year.
Feb 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
The Third World is Kapusciniski's personal "beat". No one writes more effectively of the brutal contingencies, the hilarious and terrifying randomness of events, of the blithe, cruel anarchy of African countries in chaos. But at the same time no one conveys better that seductive allure of the fauna and flora of the continent, the captivating, tenacious fascination for the place that is always present despite the irritation and dismay.
Feb 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is so descriptive, almost paints a picture as you read. I did find the stories/essays seemed unrelated but enjoyed it, despite finding it quite disturbing. I have read little about Africa before and the book was definitely an eye opener. As a Brit I particularly found the essay on Uganda interesting as I remember many Ugandans arriving in the UK at that time. I was a child then and had no idea of what they had endured having to leave the homes, work and loved ones.
Jul 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
more dark madness from the heart of africa - hard to believe he lived through all this.
I'd still recommend "Travels with Heroditus" unless you're really interested in Africa particularly. Much more entertaining.
Fiona Lane
Apr 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-beyond-me
This book gives a few insights in to Africa and the journey to independence. The writing was cleverly engaging considering the number of scenes of Africa covered in the small number of pages. I loved the vivid nature of his accounts.
Jul 31, 2010 rated it liked it
Small book of essays on Africa from the vantage point of a much-travelled European (Polish) writer. Can't say I encountered any challenging new insights into the 'African' - but a please to read small, well-crafted little pieces. The title essay, The Cobra's Hearet particularly exiciting....
Jul 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel-lit
Fantastic so far, really rekindling my desire to travel Africa!
Mar 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Christina
An amazing writer. I loved this.
Mar 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reportage
It's just couple of chapters taken from Polish edition of "Ebony". Full edition of Ebony is recommended.
Nov 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I wish I could give more than 5 stars
Steve Vallis
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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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“The continent is too large to describe. It is a veritable ocean, a separate planet, a varied, immensely rich cosmos. Only with the greatest simplification, for the sake of convenience, can we say 'Africa'. In reality, except as a geographical appellation, Africa does not exist.” 26 likes
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